Bernadette Mattox is known first and foremost as a hard-working coach who has enjoyed great success not only as a head women’s basketball coach at Kentucky, but also as an assistant coach at the international level as well as at Division I men’s and women’s programs. She is also one of the all-time great players in University of Georgia basketball history. But recognition as a player and coach is complemented greatly by many other achievements in her storied career.
Mattox was an outstanding player and student in college. For one year she was an innovative and popular collegiate athletics administrator. She proved herself in the business sector and as a color commentator for college basketball. She has long been an ambassador for college athletics and a sought-after speaker at civic, business and athletics functions. She is a wife. And she is a mother.
Mattox’s work ethic and positive attitude are glowing qualities that have helped her touch the lives of athletes, administrators, fans, media, community leaders, family, friends and colleagues. But in college basketball circles, she remains - first and foremost - a coach.
Mattox, who enters her eighth season at the helm of the Wildcats basketball program, began her coaching career at her alma mater, national power Georgia, where for two years she was a graduate assistant and for five more an assistant and top recruiter to Coach Andy Landers.
But it was after she accepted a position on Coach Rick Pitino’s coaching staff at Kentucky in 1990 that Mattox became a household name in Kentucky and received acclaim in the NCAA basketball world. As the first female Division I assistant “bench” coach for a men’s team, she gained valuable experience working with the Wildcats players in daily individual instructional sessions and in supervising their academic affairs while also fulfilling her game assignments. The Wildcats’ record while she was a men’s assistant at UK from 1990-1994 was 108 wins and 24 losses.
She was then promoted to assistant athletics director at Kentucky for one year, but she missed coaching and teaching. Returning to her true career passion, she took over the UK women’s program in 1995. With lofty goals for her newly inherited program — primarily she wanted to see the women’s team return to its success in the early 1980s — Mattox implemented the running, pressing style of play for which Kentucky basketball had become synonymous.
Mattox’s early tenure at Kentucky was marked by inexperience and youth - and tempered with patience. In her fourth season at the reins, Mattox’s perseverance paid off as a superb recruiting class helped the 1998-99 UK women’s program capture its first 20-plus win season and its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in nearly a decade. The Cats won their first NCAA Tournament game in 17 years, coming back from a 10-point deficit late in the first half to defeat Nebraska 98-92 before falling to nationally-ranked UCLA in the second round. The Cats finished with a 21-11 overall record and captured seven wins in the SEC, the most conference wins in school history. Because of the record-breaking season, Mattox received the 1999 Outstanding Female College Coach of the Year award from the Citizens for Sports Equity and the 1999 Woman of Achievement award presented by the YWCA.
After a second-consecutive winning season in 1999-2000 fell short of an NCAA berth, the Wildcats squad was hit hard by the loss of eight veterans, including five seniors, two of whom went on to play in the WNBA. With eight freshmen, four that started much of the season, the 2000-01 squad struggled against the second-toughest schedule in the nation. In 2001-02, Kentucky improved its record by three wins and advanced to the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Mattox’s basketball journey began as a collegiate player at powerhouse Georgia, where she led her team to the 1981 National Women’s Invitational Tournament title and became UGA’s first All-American.
She led her team in scoring during the 1979-80 season, averaging 20.6 points per game. She also led the team in steals and assists in her junior and senior seasons. Mattox still ranks on Georgia’s top-10 list in career assists and steals.
Playing only two seasons under Coach Andy Landers at Georgia after transferring from Roane State Community College, Mattox still holds single-season records at UGA for field goals attempted (555 in 1979-80) and for steals per game (4.2 average in 1979-80). She ranks seventh overall in career steals with 218, quite a feat for a two-year player.
In her first season as a Lady Bulldog, Mattox scored 556 points, ranking her third on the school’s all-time list. She also charted 114 steals, the most ever for a junior at Georgia. Her 185 assists as a senior ranks third on the all-time list and her 104 steals is the second on the all-time list for seniors.
After graduating in 1981 as an Academic All-American with a degree in education, Mattox served as a graduate assistant under Coach Landers from 1982-84 and, after leaving coaching for a short time to working for Xerox Corporation, became a full-time assistant to Landers. As an assistant from 1985-90 she recruited two of the best female basketball players in the history of women’s basketball - Olympians and current professionals, Teresa Edwards and Katrina McClain. She also helped guide the Lady Bulldogs to national rankings, NCAA Tournament berths and many SEC honors.
Mattox was chosen to become one of three assistant coaches for the 1998 USA Women’s World Championship Team that won its third gold medal by defeating Russia, 71-65. The win automatically qualified the team to compete in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Along with Anne Donovan of East Carolina and Deb Patterson of Kansas State, the trio assisted Women’s National Team head coach Nell Fortner during the ‘98 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Women’s World Championships in Germany and during the squad’s two-month training period prior to the competition.
While traveling from Japan to Germany in 1998, she juggled being a collegiate head coach, an assistant coach of the best women’s basketball team in the world and most importantly, being a wife and mother. Mattox still serves (since 1997) as a member of the USA Basketball Women’s Select Team Committee, which identifies players and coaches for USA squads including the World University Games, R. Williams Jones Cup and USA Select teams.
Mattox is highly regarded in community circles as well. She is a frequent speaker at various business, community and sports-related functions and she volunteers her spare time to local organizations such as the American Heart Association, the Children’s Miracle Network and the UK Hospital. Mattox has also worked in television broadcasting, serving as a television color commentator for UK men’s basketball and SEC women’s basketball games. In addition, she has done national television and radio commercials throughout her coaching career.
Mattox and husband Vince reside in Lexington with their seven-year old son, Vincent Alexander.
Mattox versus all opponents
Charting the Upsets
Year-By-Year Coaching Record
Year School Position Record Postseason 1982-83 Georgia Graduate Assistant 27-7 NCAA Final Four 1983-84 Georgia Graduate Assistant 30-3 NCAA Quarterfinals 1985-86 Georgia Assistant 30-2 NCAA Round of 16 1986-87 Georgia Assistant 27-5 NCAA Round of 16 1987-88 Georgia Assistant 21-10 NCAA Round of 16 1988-89 Georgia Assistant 23-7 NCAA Second Round 1989-90 Georgia Assistant 25-7 NCAA First Round 1990-91 Kentucky Men’s Assistant 22-6 — 1991-92 Kentucky Men’s Assistant 29-7 NCAA Quarterfinals 1992-93 Kentucky Men’s Assistant 30-4 NCAA Final Four 1993-94 Kentucky Men’s Assistant 27-7 NCAA Second Round 1995-96 Kentucky Head Coach 8-19 (2-9 SEC) — 1996-97 Kentucky Head Coach 8-19 (2-10 SEC) — 1997-98 Kentucky Head Coach 13-15 (5-9 SEC) — 1998-99 Kentucky Head Coach 21-11 (7-7 SEC) NCAA Second Round 1999-00 Kentucky Head Coach 15-14 (5-9 SEC) — 2000-01 Kentucky Head Coach 6-21 (2-12 SEC) — 2001-02 Kentucky Head Coach 9-20 (1-13 SEC) —Mattox’s head coaching record: 80-119 - .402 (7 years)