Elzy Promoted to Associate Head Coach

Aug. 19, 2010

Video of Mitchell announcing Elzy's promotion | Cat Scratches: UK Hoops' Smith not ruled out for season quite yet

LEXINGTON, Ky. - University of Kentucky head women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell announced Thursday that Kyra Elzyhas been promoted to associate head coach.

"I'm excited to announce that Kyra Elzy has been promoted to associate head coach," Mitchell said "She is such a good fit here (at UK) because she has a tremendous passion for teaching and being involved with our players. That is the first thing I want for anyone involved in any level of our organization. We want to make certain our players are being lead but we want to lead with a servant's heart and Kyra is the epitome of that. She works extremely hard and she is always first and foremost concerned about the players. From a talent stand point and where it really impacts recruiting, she is extremely creative. She is a tireless worker, unbelievably organized, has great leadership skills and just keeps everyone moving forward in recruiting. On the court, she has very good knowledge of the game and is not afraid to make suggestions. I just couldn't have a better person in this position. I think she's one of the most talented people I've ever been around. We're really fortunate to have her here."

Elzy, a LaGrange, Ky., native, has almost 10 years of experience as a collegiate basketball coach, including the last two seasons as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Kentucky. With her assistance, UK has garnered some of the top recruits in the country, including the No. 5 recruiting class for the upcoming season, according to Blue Star Basketball.

"It was a real honor for Coach Mitchell to ask me to be his associate head coach because I have a lot of respect for him personally and professionally," Elzy said. "UK is a phenomenal place to be and working with this staff everyday really doesn't feel like work to me. I love what I do and our staff has great chemistry. Not everyone is blessed to work in an environment where the goal is winning a national championship and developing young ladies into women.

"I can't wait for the season to start and heading into this year, we have a different challenge on our hands which makes it very exciting. Last year, not many people gave us a chance but now, people are taking notice of Kentucky women's basketball. They want to know how we are going to prepare our team to be successful this year and we are excited for the challenge."

In addition to her recruiting responsibilities, Elzy also coaches UK's guards. Under her tutelage, freshman guard A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) was named SEC Freshman of the Year last season and was named to the Full-Court Press Freshman All-America team, UK's first freshman All-American since 1980.

Prior to Kentucky, Elzy spent four years as an assistant coach at Kansas. As the recruiting coordinator, she helped the Jayhawks land its first top-20 signing class in 2007 under head coach Bonnie Henrickson. She also helped KU earn two postseason bids in her four seasons. In 2006-07, KU finished 17-16 overall and advanced to the third round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament while guard Danielle McCray was named Big 12 honorable mention.

Elzy also coached at Western Kentucky for two seasons under head coach Mary Taylor Cowles. She coordinated the recruiting efforts for the Lady Toppers and also worked with the guards and handled individual workouts. The Lady Toppers posted 20-plus wins in both of her seasons at WKU, winning the Sun Belt Conference championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament during the 2002-03 season. Elzy helped coach Sun Belt Player of the Year Shala Reese and Newcomer of the Year Tiffany Porter-Talbert. In 2003-04, WKU was the Sun Belt runner-up and advanced to the quarterfinals of the WNIT.

Before coaching, Elzy spent one year as an administrative assistant under Henrickson at Virginia Tech. She was responsible for team travel, scheduling community service events and working with the women's basketball summer camps.

As a student-athlete, Elzy tutored under the nation's all-time winningest coach in Hall of Famer Pat Summitt at Tennessee. The four-year letterwinner, who actually spent five seasons in a Lady Vol uniform after missing the 1998-99 season with an injury, was a member of two national championship teams (1997 and 1998) and a national runner-up squad (2000). During her time in Knoxville, Tenn., she played in 126 games and earned the Holly Warlick Defensive Player of the Year award in 1997 and the Unsung Hero Award in 1998. 

Elzy became just the fifth freshman in Tennessee history to start her first game as a Lady Vol when she started at guard in the 1996-97 season opener against Austin Peay. She also earned another distinction during her playing career, becoming the first Tennessee player to earn her master's degree while still playing. 

Also excelling in the classroom, Elzy was named to the 2000 and 2001 SEC All-Academic teams. She was a three-time Lady Vol Academic Achiever, a distinction given to student-athletes who maintain a 3.0 grade point average for the year and earned Tennessee's Dean's List honors each semester while in graduate school. 

The 31-year-old is a 1996 graduate of Oldham County High School where she guided the Lady Colonels to four district championships, two regional titles and a state semifinals appearance during her prep career. Her outstanding prep career earned her induction into the Kentucky Lions Club Hall of Fame in 2009.

Elzy holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in cultural studies in education with an emphasis in sports psychology from Tennessee.

Quotes from Media Opportunity

Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

On the 2010-11 schedule…
“It’s clearly the most challenging we’ve had since I’ve been the head coach here. We feel like we have the opportunity to have a good team so we, as always, want to get ready and gear the nonconference portion of it toward SEC play. So I feel like we’ve done that and I’m just really excited about the quality of our nonconference schedule. Our conference schedule is tough again and will be a real challenge. We feel like it’s where it needs to be and we’re really excited about it.”

On his familiarity with the Kentucky-Duke rivalry…
“Well, I’ve been here in eight years and I’ve been alive for 40 so I am pretty familiar with it.
“I was going to say when I was back at Florida as an assistant, John (Pelphrey) was the assistant on Billy (Donovan’s) men’s staff and he threatened my life more than a couple times when they would show that clip. We would just ask him why wouldn’t he guard the guy and get a hand up or something. I mean, it’s really not that difficult. He didn’t think it was that funny like you guys do. He gets very upset at that to this day and I don’t blame him. They show it so many times. But I think that for us in the women’s game, Duke has done a great job of doing what we’re attempting to do. They’ve built a very strong women’s program over the last 15 years and I think they tapped into some of the positive momentum of the men’s program. And they’ve had a really good run the last several years and I’ve always felt like we’ve had that opportunity here at Kentucky, just the way that people in the Commonwealth value the game. The Kentucky brand as far as basketball goes is so valuable. It’s interesting for us as we progress and try to build this program to where we think we can end up. I think this will be a great game, an interesting game. They ought to be awfully good so it’ll be tough for us as we enter conference play.”

On how the point guard role will play out in Amber Smith’s absence…
“Some of my thoughts are that Crystal Riley has had a good summer and is progressing health-wise and if she comes back full speed and is healthy that gives you a very good option at point guard. (She is) a player that that has experience and has just done a tremendous job for us developing as a leader. I’m really, really proud of Crystal Riley and the progress that she’s made since she’s arrived here. It’s a big difference than the first day she stepped on campus. And we signed one of the best high school point guards in the country last year, Jennifer O’Neill. So we’ll see. She’s extremely talented, I do know that. We don’t know how she will adjust to the college game but I’m anticipating that she will make a smooth adjustment and be available there. It’s awfully good to have A’dia Mathies on your basketball team because she can fill in, in a lot of areas. If Victoria (Dunlap), heaven forbid, went down, I would look at A’dia as an option there. That’s just how good A’dia is. A’dia can play them all. She can run the point or she can post up. So that’s a good feeling and that’s sort of the way we’ll have to do it. Whenever you lose someone as valuable as Amber (Smith) everyone just has to rise to the occasion and chip in and elevate their game a little bit. Hopefully everybody doing a little extra can somewhat soften that blow. It’ll be awfully hard to replace her just because she’s a senior and coming off such a fine year, but we’ll do everything we can to get that figured out.”

On what is most missed with the absence of Amber Smith…
“That’s going to be the big challenge for the team and for Amber because Amber has been working hard to take strides in the area of being a consistent leader and not letting her emotions get to her. Her freshman and sophomore year she and I just had terrible times – we were sort of on an emotional roller coaster. She would get really down on herself. So we’ve been working hard to level that out so this is a tremendous test for her now to see how much growth she actually has because I do think her team will need for her to be strong through this, and need for her to be positive, and need for her to quickly transition from the disappointment into determination and ‘we need to move forward and you all can do it while I get well.’ That’s the kind of attitude I’ll be looking for from Amber. And listen, that’s very difficult. You just probably couldn’t have a more disappointing situation. You work so hard to get ready for your senior season. You’re coming off an unbelievable year. You feel like you’re kind of hitting your stride and then boom this happens. So I’m not saying what I just described to you is going to be easy for her, but that’s what I think needs to happen and that’s how I’ll encourage her to operate around the team. I think that will be important for the team.”

On if the team’s outlook is going to be different from last year because now they aren’t under the radar…

“I think it’s going to be a similar situation for us as we go into the season. It’s just the externals are different so we need to approach it the same way. Last year, the externals said we weren’t going to do anything. Did that help us? I don’t know. Maybe it did. I don’t know where we’re going to be picked and I don’t know how Amber’s injury is going to play into it. It won’t be the same but for us, we need to do the same thing every year. This is what I am going to tell them. ‘This is the only shot this team has, it’s a new year. It’s a year in itself and this is the only season we have control over. I think every team in the country has the opportunity to be great.’ The huge key for this group of young women is will they become a team and commit and become a team? You’re not a team because you wear the same uniform. I really believe that. What I love about the last experience we had and why I’m not afraid to talk about it is because it’s over and in the record books. That group became a team when the group’s goal became more important than any one’s individual goals. To me, that’s when you have a chance to maximize your potential.”

On Kyra Elzy being named associate head coach …
“She is such a good fit here because she has a tremendous passion for teaching and being involved with our players and that is the first thing I want anyone involved in at any level of our organization. We want to make certain our players are being lead but we want to lead with a servant’s heart and she is the epitome of that. She works extremely hard and she is always first and foremost concerned about the players and has a passion for that and that’s not something everyone possesses. From a talent stand point and where it really impacts recruiting, she is extremely creative. She thinks about recruiting a lot and how we can get an edge. She is a tireless worker, unbelievably organized, great leadership skills and just keeps everyone moving forward in recruiting. On the court, she has very good knowledge of the game and is not afraid to make suggestions. I just couldn’t have a better person in this position. I think she’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever been around. We’re really fortunate to have her here.”

Associate Head Coach Kyra Elzy

On being from Kentucky and helping build Kentucky women’s program …
“It’s definitely an honor for me to be at the University of Kentucky. Being a Kentucky girl I think you take pride in wanting to see this university be successful. We have so much tradition and resources I think we can definitely win a national championship.”

On what do you say when a recruit asks you why you went to Tennessee …
“Sometime you have to smile and say you understand but at the University of Kentucky we are making a difference. You have a chance to put us on the map and get to the caliber that Tennessee is right now.”

On being described as the team mom…
“It’s funny because people ask me all the time, ‘Do you have kids?’ Yes, I have 15 of them running around and it is something I’m comfortable with. I take pride in trying to help them on and off the court, along with our staff. It’s our job and mission to turn them from young ladies to young women by the time they leave here.”