Mitchell Signs New Contract Extension Through 2019
May 3, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. – After leading the Kentucky women's basketball team to three straight NCAA tournaments for the first time in school history, including two Elite Eight appearances, UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell has been awarded a new seven-year contract worth approximately $7.95 million with the opportunity for performance-based incentives through the 2019 season, UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart announced Thursday. See attachments for the actual contract along with details of the seven-year deal.
“I’ve been here for 10 years and in that 10-year period of time we’ve watched the growth of our program in women’s basketball in a variety of ways,” Barnhart said. “Matthew was a part of that original growth under the staff of Mickie DeMoss. Then he went and spread his wings a little bit at Morehead State for a couple years before we brought him back. For the past five years he’s led our program and moved us to a spot where arguably we’re talked about on a regular basis as one of the top programs in the country. That’s in large part to his efforts and the efforts of his staff.
“… He has an unbelievable passion for life that is infectious. We’ve seen that in a variety of ways. People can say (he has a) great sense of humor, but it goes beyond that. He appreciates and enjoys being a part of our program and he helps everybody else enjoy it. I had an old boss one day who would say you want to hire people that you want to see come through the door every day and enjoy going to work with them. This is a guy we all enjoy coming to work with every day. We enjoy spending time with him and he makes it better for all of us. We’re very, very blessed to have him in our department from that perspective. … And he and his staff have proven themselves to be top-10 caliber coaches and staff on a national level in a variety of ways. They’ve beaten an awful lot of folks and have proven that it’s not just a one-hit wonder. They have done it over some time here and they have proven they belong. The (SEC) championship for the first time in 30 years at Kentucky in women’s basketball is very, very special to us.”
In five seasons at the helm, Mitchell has led UK to five-straight postseason tournaments, including three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in UK history. He already ranks No. 3 in all-time wins at Kentucky with 114. Mitchell is just the third coach in UK Hoops history to record 100 wins and he earned the milestone in 151 games, becoming the second fastest coach in UK Hoops history to reach 100 victories. His winning percentage of 67.4 percent (114-56) is second best in program history.
The Wildcats ended the 2011-12 season ranked No. 12 in the final AP poll and No. 8 in the final USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll. It marked the highest final AP ranking since finishing 11th in 1983 and the highest final ranking in the coaches’ poll in school history. Mitchell led his team to one of the most successful seasons in school history last year with a 28-7 overall record, including an 18-0 mark at home, and an appearance in the Elite Eight for the second time in three years. The Wildcats won their first Southeastern Conference regular season championship since 1982 with a school-record 13-3 mark in league play. Its 28 wins tied the school record set in 2009-10 and UK has now won 25-plus games for three consecutive seasons for the first time ever.
Mitchell did not go unrecognized for his success, as he was named SEC Coach of the Year by the AP. It was his second SEC Coach of the Year award. He also earned the honor in 2010 by the AP and league coaches.
Ten different players have received SEC accolades in his five seasons, including this year’s SEC Player of the Year A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.), SEC Freshman of the Year Bria Goss (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Co-SEC 6th Woman of the Year Keyla Snowden (Lexington, Ky.).
His players also excel in the classroom as 10 Wildcats have been SEC Academic Honor Roll members and 100 percent of his players (13) in their final season of eligibility have received their degree. Senior Crystal Riley (Memphis, Tenn.) is set to graduate in May 2013 and will be a student coach for the upcoming season.
“This is a very, very happy day for Jenna and me to have a chance to continue as the coach here and for us to have a chance to be a member of this university and to continue to try and serve this university we are very grateful for,” Mitchell said. “What the opportunity really provides us, is to do what we love, which is work with players. That’s the most important thing at Kentucky and that’s the most important part of what we do. Today wouldn’t have been possible without a bunch of kids really, really working hard and giving everything that they’ve had. I just want to thank every player that’s played here in the last five years. … It’s just a complete honor to sign this contract to be here, and for Jenna and I to continue to lead this program and we are real grateful for that.”
UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and UK Hoops Head Coach Matthew Mitchell – May 3, 2012
UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart’s opening statement…
“There are many times we have chances to visit, postgame or in different atmospheres at different times. This is one of the special times and things that we get to enjoy and celebrate a little bit. It’s been a really nice year in UK athletics in terms of some of the championship performances that we’ve had by some of our teams. Not the least of which has been the championship performance and the run made by our women’s basketball program this year and what Coach (Matthew) Mitchell and his staff have done. We are here to talk about that and celebrate that a little bit in a way that hopefully gives us an opportunity to do that for many years to come.
“I’ve been here for 10 years and in that 10-year period of time we’ve watched the growth of our program in women’s basketball in a variety of ways. Matthew was a part of that original growth under the staff of Mickie DeMoss. Then he went and spread his wings a little bit at Morehead State for a couple years there before we brought him back. For the past five years he’s led our program and moved us to a spot where arguably we’re talked about on a regular basis as one of the top programs in the country. That’s in large part to his efforts and the efforts of his staff. I’m sure he’ll talk about that a little as we go forward.
“Just to reiterate a couple of the things he has accomplished: In the five seasons at Kentucky, he has led us to five straight postseason tournaments, including three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in Kentucky history. He already ranks No. 3 all-time in wins at Kentucky with 114, and is the third coach in (Kentucky) history to earn 100 wins and he has earned the milestone in 151 games, making him the second fastest coach in the history of the program to do that. His 67 percent winning percentage is the second highest in school history at this point. The Wildcats ended the 2011-12 season 12th in the AP poll and eighth in the USA Today Coaches’ poll which is the highest finish in (UK’s) history of the coaches’ poll and the second highest in the AP poll. Obviously we’ve had two Elite Eight appearances in the last three years, 18-0 home mark this year and in the last two years we’re 48-2 at home. I’m not sure there are a lot of folks who have done a whole lot better than that anywhere in the country. If you’ve been coming to women’s basketball games at Kentucky the last few years, you’ve been highly entertained, it’s been fun to watch and (there have been) a lot of victories. So we’re excited about that. In the last three seasons the Wildcats have defeated 16 nationally ranked opponents, including four in the top 10. They’ve been ranked in the top 25 in all of the national polls, garnered top 25 rankings in average attendance and recorded a remarkable 48-2 record at home. I would go on and list all of the players who have earned All-SEC honors, we could go through that but I think you’ve got all that.
“As importantly, it’s what he’s done with the kids. We’re 100 percent during his tenure with kids who have completed their eligibility of graduating them in the classroom.
“Those are the things that are factual and that you know. The thing for us, as a university and as an administration (that) is probably more important than those things we just listed. The beautiful thing about Matthew is that he and his wife, Jenna, and Saylor and Lacy; it is a family. We’re fortunate because they have found a way to weave themselves into the fabric of this women’s basketball program, into the University of Kentucky, into the city of Lexington and the Commonwealth. They’ve become a part of us. That has made it fun. It’s more than women’s basketball. And I appreciate what they have done competitively for us. Clearly, that’s what he gets paid to do. We all understand that piece. What the other thing does is he’s become an ambassador for this university in some very, very unique ways. Some of the things that you don’t see away from the game, the things that he does to support that, is remarkable, it’s enjoyable, and appreciated by so many people in this community. He has high expectations for everybody and not the least of which himself. He expects great things. That’s why you want him leading your program and that’s why we’re fortunate. I think he has an extremely special desire to help young people, and specifically young women, pursue greatness. And he expects them to pursue greatness. It isn’t about being satisfied with OK. He expects greatness. So, we have a few of our women’s basketball players over here and I will tell you, expectations are high. And he expects that of our players and that’s a great thing for us. But he expects them to be great students and he expects them to be really, really good people. We’re fortunate in that.
“And then, a couple other things I will close with before I turn it over to him. He has an unbelievable passion for life that is infectious. We’ve seen that in a variety of ways. People can say (he has a) great sense of humor, but it goes beyond that. He appreciates and enjoys being a part of our program and he helps everybody else enjoy it. I had an old boss one day who would say you want to hire people that you want to see come through the door every day and enjoy going to work with them. This is a guy we all enjoy coming to work with every day. We enjoy spending time with him and he makes it better for all of us. We’re very, very blessed to have him in our department from that perspective. He’s become a very great friend. I enjoy his friendship very, very much. And he and his staff have proven themselves to be top-10 caliber coaches and staff on a national level in a variety of ways. They’ve beaten an awful lot of folks and have proven that it’s not just a one-hit wonder. They have done it over some time here and they have proven they belong. The (SEC) championship for the first time in 30 years at Kentucky in women’s basketball is very, very special to us. Jenna is a huge piece of that and we would like to thank her for all that she’s done for us, and Saylor, keep doing what you’re doing kid. We’re very, very appreciative.
“With having said all that, we’ve put together a seven-year contract for him to be at Kentucky and to continue to lead our program; the details of which you can get in the contract as we get it to you here. He and I both signed off on it and we’re in good shape on that. We’ll get that to you, but we’re really, really proud of what this guy has done for Kentucky – not just women’s basketball. So, without any further adu I will turn it over to the head basketball coach and thank him for what he’s done for us and congratulate him on a job well done and for seven more years we look forward to spending a lot of good time in Memorial Coliseum and postseason play. So, thank you Matthew and congrats.”
UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell opening statement…
“Thanks, Mitch. I really appreciate it and this is a very, very happy day for Jenna and me to have a chance to continue as the coach here and for us to have a chance to be a member of this university and to continue to try and serve this university we are very grateful for.
“We are really grateful for a lot of things today and one of the first places I want to express our gratitude is to God. There have been so many times over the five years where you wonder if it’s going to work out and you wonder if you can make tough decisions and we’ve really gained a lot of strength from God in those times. I just really give God all the glory and the praise today that we’re in this position and I want to make it clear that our faith is a real big part of our life and I just want to extend our gratitude in that way to start things off.
“This administration has made women’s basketball important at Kentucky. It started with Dr. Lee Todd. I just can’t tell you how grateful Jenna and I are to Dr. Todd for giving us this chance and setting us on this course. He has just been such an inspiration to both of us. He has been such great support and he is a great friend. We’ll always been indebted to Dr. Todd that he gave us a chance here at Kentucky and we appreciate that.
“We’re excited about Dr. Capilouto’s leadership. I just think he has an amazing vision for the university and I’m really, really appreciative to work for such a great leader and visionary. So we’re excited about the future there.
“And then the man to my left, Mitch Barnhart. It’s really, really hard – we could spend all afternoon talking about how I feel about him. But I would sum it up with this: There’s no one who I’ve ever been around in this business of college athletics who cares more about people than Mitch Barnhart. That’s somebody that I want to be involved with. That’s somebody that I want to work for. He, in a more sincere way than I’ve ever seen in college athletics, cares about these student-athletes and their experience. He cares about coaches, he cares about support staff and I am very fortunate to call him a friend. And Jenna and I are very, very grateful to Mitch that he is allowing us to continue here as the coach.
“What the opportunity really provides us is to do what we love, which is work with players. That’s the most important thing at Kentucky and that’s the most important part of what we do. Today wouldn’t have been possible without a bunch of kids really, really working hard and giving everything that they’ve had. I just want to thank every player that’s played here in the last five years.
“I just want to make a special mention of that 2009-10 team. That group was picked 11th out of 12 (in the SEC). They, against all odds, really turned this program around and I think if we’re ever able to enjoy sustained success here – and we’re working like heck to get that done – I think you’ll look back on that 2009-10 team as really being a catalyst for change. I wanted to specially mention that group of players.
“Our current players, I am just really privileged to coach. We have a terrific group and we have a terrific group of players that’s coming back. We’re excited for the future and they are giving an awful lot to the university and I want to thank them.
“There’s a lot of support staff here today, a lot of people that are behind the scenes and I appreciate everything that everybody does. We have had some great assistant coaches here. Niya Butts, Vonn Read, Wendy Palmer, I want to especially thank Kyra Elzy, who’s not with us anymore but we accomplished a lot together and I want to thank her for her contributions. It would be impossible for me not to thank Pam Stackhouse today. She served and gave a lot to this program and we would not be in the current place we are without her contributions. I wanted to mention her today, and she’s been real, real important to Kentucky women’s basketball.
“And that leads me to our current staff. Matt Insell, Shalon Pillow, Ukari Figgs, I can’t think of a group of people that I would rather move into the future with than those coaches and support staff. They are high-quality people, high-character people and they are going to help us be very successful.
“The last thing that I will tell you – before I answer questions – is about being at Kentucky are the people that support this university and they are the Big Blue Nation. I go around this town, go in grocery stores, go in restaurants, anywhere in Lexington and out in the Commonwealth, and people have always said to me, ‘Coach, I hope you’re going to stay at Kentucky.’ And they often say that with a tone like they would think there is somewhere better for me to go. That always kind of struck me as funny, because what Mitch Barnhart has done, what the players have done, is for any coach in America, any coach, Kentucky would be a great job. But for Matthew Mitchell, for Jenna Mitchell, and our family, it is the best job; the best job in the country to have. We are so grateful and fortunate to be a part of this and to be a part of this university and this city and to raise our family here.
“Our hearts are full of gratitude. We want to be good citizens here. I called Dr. Capilouto this morning, told him I was grateful for the opportunity and wanted him to know Jenna and I want to give back $100,000 to the university for academic purposes for however Dr. Capilouto sees fit to use those resources. We just want him to know we are partners here, we want to be great servants to the university, and it’s just a complete honor to sign this contract to be here, and for Jenna and I to continue to lead this program and we are real grateful for that.”
On if he was trying to send a message with this contract that may make him the highest paid coach in the SEC…
[Mitch Barnhart] “I don’t think there’s any message being sent other than we’re committed to this family for the long term. When I came here 10 years ago, I answered a lot of questions like what Matthew was asking, every time we get a coach who had any success it was always, ‘How quickly are they going to leave? Where will they go that’s better than Kentucky’ And our goal from day one, and you guys that have been around here for awhile, I used the term, I want to change this from a transition school to a destination school – a place that people wanted to stay. And that’s been our goal all along. Well, if we truly want to do that and we truly start having success, then we truly better start taking care of our people to a spot where they understand there are two pieces, there’s a component from a family perspective – that people want to stay around and be a part of our family, and two, we reward that success for what they’ve given this place. You are not always going to be able to measure those things up. You’re asking if women’s basketball is producing profit in the black, no, but that’s not the point. Our commitment is to women’s athletics and our commitment to women’s basketball and our commitment to him. So, I don’t worry a whole lot about the rankings in term of him. I think some get more excited about that than others. What it says is that he has done a remarkable job, recruiting continues to go well, things on the court continue to go well, he’s absolutely been committed to the growth of our young women and he’s been an incredible citizen our community so you reward that and you say lets continue to build around that. There’s good things that keep bringing people back to the University of Kentucky because of those things, not just women’s basketball. Again, you guys would know the stats as much as I would, he’ll be towards the top and I’m glad of that. I’m happy we are taking care of our people in respect to that.”
On assistant coaching changes …
[Mitch Barnhart] “We are working with the changes of Kyra leaving. Obviously we have some adjustments on our staff. As soon as that’s settled we will move on with that.”
On justifying this size contract on a program that doesn’t operate in the black …
[Mitch Barnhart] “We only have two programs here that make money. The rest of them are all working there way there. I take as much pride in the ones that don’t make money, as the one’s that do. I have two daughters, they both had opportunities to play athletics, I want opportunities for them to play. I want them to have a chance to play at a high level, a chance to play in front of fans and on TV. In order to do that, and play at a high level, we will invest in that. I think there has been some awful important people come through women’s athletics and doing wonderful things in our country and fill some leadership positions and I think anything we can do to augment that is a great thing. There are a lot of things at this university that we invest in that don’t make money. Yet, we seem to say that a good thing. Yet, we seem to think that since it’s a round ball it’s not important. The music department has some wonderfully talented people but they’re probably not functioning in the black in terms of every area. But, we cheer their accomplishments and look forward to them doing incredible things in life and I would say the same about the people we bring into this program. It’s about developing people and that’s what he does well.”
On whether Mr. Barnhart sees a time when women’s basketball operated in the black …
[Mitch Barnhart] “I think part of that will have to come out of marketing and television as it continues to grow. It is gaining some speed, which is a good thing.”
On the ease of the negotiating process …
[Matthew Mitchell] “I don’t know if you would ever term something like that as easy, but it was a very comfortable process. Mitch is a very fair person and somebody I want to work for. He knew I wanted to be here, I felt like he wanted me to be here so maybe the urgency wasn’t there with all that happened after the season. Maybe we could have gotten it done a littler faster but we were certain of our course. It was not a difficult negotiation. It was not a difficult time period.”
On possibilities for new assistant coaches …
[Matthew Mitchell] “Well, the job closes today so I am kind of limited by the regulations we have here at the university. I can assure you we are moving forward in that area and hopefully you will have something very soon in that area. We couldn’t offer a job until the end of today so that’s where we are on that.”
On the possibility of cynical response by the public to coaches signing and leaving contracts …
[Matthew Mitchell] “I could understand that totally. I think probably where some of the questions came from was that we just haven’t had a real long history of success in women’s basketball. The perception is that this isn’t a place to stay. I’m trying to get the point across that we have been to two Elite Eights in the past three years, we are recruiting at the highest level in the country, we have some of the best players in the country interested in Kentucky and we have some of the most talent assistant coaches in the country. This is an incredible thing that is happening and when you look around, there are not many places better than this. For me, at a young age I got an incredible opportunity to come to a place where we knew we had a chance to get it to this spot so now Jenna and I don’t have any desire to bounce around the country. This has been an unbelievable city to live in and grow a family in. Those are the reasons I love this place. We can compete at the highest level, you can win a national championship, win an SEC championship and all the competitive things that a coach wants to do is available then you have this added bonus of being around such special people and such a special community. There may be some coaches out there chasing some different things but that’s how I would answer anyone who was cynical and asking whether we want to be here. It’s really important the relationship I have with Mitch, too. We are just thrilled.”
On the longevity bonus in the contract …
[Mitch Barnhart] “It’s something that is happening in our business a little bit. There’s lots of way to incentivize people and there’s a lot of ways you can discourage them. I’d rather encourage people than discourage. Obviously we want to pay Matthew and his family well for coaching our women’s basketball program – he deserves that. On the other hand, you have family to take care of and I understand that. We want it to be a something other hanging out there that excites him to stay here. In the grand scheme of the contract that’s not a big deal. It another way to say we are encouraging rather than discouraging. I’ve watched this thing for 30 years and have been an A.D. for 15 years and I’ve seen people who want to discourage people from something. That bothers me; I’d rather encourage people to do things. There’s always going to be that piece of the contract of things you can’t do and things you don’t want to do. I mean our contracts are 22 to 23 pages long for pete sake. I don’t even know what’s in mine half the time. There’s more things that you can’t do than you can do. I want him to understand at the end of the day that we do love him and appreciate him being here and his family. It’s a cool deal when you get to enjoy success with people that you love. I’m not shy of saying that I love our coaches and our athletics. It is important to me. If it gets away from that then I don’t want to be apart of it. I do think it’s important to encourage people in this business and I think sometime we get into, with all due respect, state and university systems and we miss that piece somewhere along the way. I think that where people end of leaving because they feel wanted and they don’t feel appreciated. You can say, ‘this is a big contract,’ and yes it is but for a very good reason.”
On whether the success of both the men’s and women’s basketball program is contagious …
[Mathew Mitchell] “I’ve always thought that John [Calipari] added tremendous value to our athletic department for one reason and that’s because of his energy and positive attitude. I would be lying if I told you I don’t feed off of that and that he hasn’t encourage me and inspired me. I think that he is been a person of great value for me because he is so accessible. We can walk across the hall to each other’s offices and talk. He has been a tremendously positive influence on me and I think many people in this athletic department. I think when someone raises the bar and competitively raises the level, I think if you’re competitive at all it spurs you on. I would not discredit one bit what he’s done for our athletic department.”
On the progression from his salary in 2007 to now and Morehead to this echelon in coaching …
[Matthew Mitchell] “It is remarkable and it is something that we are so grateful. That’s what I was eluding to earlier. When I got into coaching, very quickly as a high school coach you learn that that is not the way to make a lot of money so you don’t do it for the money. You’re dumb if you think you’re doing it for the money. I’ve never put a lot of thought to that. Its just kind of happened the way that it has happened. The focus has been trying to add value to kids lives and trying to teach them and trying to show them how to be great basketball players and people and so now I think that’s where the focus needs to remain. I thank God that I am in this position and I am grateful our family can reap these benefit and we understand this is a real blessing to have resources like this. One thing we have to make certain is that there’s a reason we have been successful here and we need to remain focused on them and try to repeat them.
On the portion of the contract calling for the last three years to be negotiated …
[Mitch Barnhart] “ Yeah, I think it’s an incentive both ways. I think it’s an incentive to make sure we are where we want to be and we need to be competitive in the marketplace. The marketplace may change. If it changes to the benefit of Matthew and his family, so be it. Let’s look at that and make sure we are competitive in that marketplace. A lot of times in our business some want to advantage themselves above others. That’s not the goal here. The goal here is to try to encourage, to reward and to sustain. Again, I’m proud of the way Matthew and his team represents this institution. I don’t watch a lot of coaches’ shows, but I watch his. I’m trying to figure out what we are having for dinner some nights. I watch it. Why? I don’t really know – its fun. It’s more than basketball. Now that’s not the reason we got this new deal. It’s about community and that’s what we are doing. This is not a tenure job. It’s not about getting to a certain spot and saying your done for the rest of your career, your in. I’m planning on this being a lot longer than seven years. I’m planning on them ending their career here but the way this works it can change. In six to seven years he doesn’t want to be looking for a new place to raise his family and I don’t want to be looking for a new basketball coach. Our goal is to create a community where we can grow this thing and sustain it because there is not long-term security on this side of the fence.
On what he plans to buy next with the increased salary …
[Matthew Mitchell] “I tell you what, I think it’s time to start saving for some college tuition. We have one done and have one to get started on. I’ve been too busy recruiting to think about it but we’ll figure something out for sure. New pots and pans for ‘The coach’s kitchen, no doubt about it.