WNBA assistant brings 27 years of basketball coaching experience to the Bluegrass
Senior guard is the highest draft pick in school history
Cats first-half cold streak too much to overcome
Cats looking for first trip to the Final Four in school history
O'Neill scores 19; Mathies adds 16 points, nine rebounds as Kentucky makes third Elite 8 in four years
Kentucky women's basketball head coach Matthew Mitchell previews the Sweet 16 and matchup with Delaware.
Mitchell Previews Miami (Ohio)
UK Hoops will take on Morehead State at 4 p.m. on Friday in Memorial Coliseum.
UK Hoops rebounded from its first loss of the season with a win over High Point on Saturday.
Matthew Mitchell previews the game with No. 1 Baylor at a press conference at the Wildcat Den
The UK women's basketball falls to UConn in the regional finals.
The UK women's basketball team defeats Delaware, 69-62, to advance to the Elite Eight
Kentucky vs. Delaware - 03/30/13 - NCAA Tournament
The UK women's basketball defeats Dayton to advance to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament
Kentucky vs Dayton
Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell's teams are known for using three "winning tools" for success: honesty, hard work and discipline. So it's no surprise that in just five seasons at the helm, he has used those winning tools to turn Kentucky into one of the premier programs in the country and one that most opponents dread facing.
Under his leadership, the Wildcats have advanced to five consecutive postseason tournaments, including three straight NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in school history. UK has finished in the top three in the Southeastern Conference race three consecutive seasons, including winning the 2012 SEC regular season championship, the school's first in 30 years. The Wildcats have also charted over 25 wins in three consecutive seasons, including a school-record 28 victories in 2009-10 and 2011-12.
Mitchell's defensive philosophy, implemented at the beginning of the 2009-10 season, is a big reason for Kentucky's success. The Wildcats use a full-court, trapping, pressure style of defense that has been dubbed by many as "40 minutes of dread." Since introducing this signature style of play, the Wildcats have compiled an 81-24 (77.1 percent) overall record, a 34-13 (72.3 percent) mark in SEC play and advanced to two SEC Tournament championship games. UK has also defeated 16 nationally-ranked opponents, including four in the top 10. Over the last three seasons, Mitchell's teams have ranked in the top 25 of the national polls, garnered top-25 rankings in average attendance and recorded a remarkable 48-2 record at home.
Under Mitchell, 10 different players have received SEC accolades, including 2012 SEC Player of the Year A'dia Mathies, 2012 SEC Freshman of the Year Bria Goss and 2012 Co-SEC 6th Woman of the Year Keyla Snowden.
Mitchell also helped two Wildcats (Victoria Dunlap and A'dia Mathies) receive All-America honors and Dunlap was chosen as the school's first-ever WNBA first round draft pick in 2011.
His players excel not only on the hardwood but in the classroom as well. Ten different Wildcats have been SEC Academic Honor Roll members and 100 percent of his players (13) in their final seasons of eligibility have received their degrees.
Mitchell led Kentucky to one of the most successful seasons in school history in 2011-12 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 SEC regular season championship since 1982 with a school-record 13-3 mark in league play. The Cats finished No. 12 in the final AP poll & No. 8 in final USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll, marking the highest final AP ranking since finishing 11th in 1983 and the highest final ranking in the coaches' poll in school history. He was named SEC Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons by the AP.
In 2010-11, he led the Wildcats to an outstanding season with a 25-9 overall record and 11 wins (11-5) in the SEC. UK took a second-place finish in the league standings for the second consecutive year and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament as the No. 4 seed.
Year three (2009-10) was a pivotal season, as Mitchell was named SEC Coach of the Year for his remarkable job in turning around a team that went 16-16 overall, 5-9 in conference play a year prior, to an impressive 28-8 overall record in 2009-10. The Cats' 28 overall wins, including 11 in SEC play, represented a school record. UK finished second in the league despite being picked to finish 11th in the preseason polls.
Mitchell became Kentucky's head coach on April 23, 2007, when he was hired by Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart. A whirlwind salesman, Mitchell presented a vision of UK Hoops as a powerhouse program; and a warm and loving family.
In his first season at UK, the Wildcats went 17-16 overall and finished fourth in the SEC with an 8-6 mark, just one win shy of the school record. The eight league wins were the most by a first-year head coach in UK Hoops history. Mitchell also became the first head coach in UK Hoops history to lead his team to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament in his/her debut season. The Wildcats earned a first-round bye and upset No. 23/21 Georgia in the quarterfinals (57-50) before falling to NCAA Final Four participant LSU in the semis. UK went on to defeat Middle Tennessee and James Madison in the postseason WNIT before falling to eventual champion Marquette in the quarterfinals, 69-64.
Despite another tough schedule and injuries to key players throughout the season, the Wildcats again advanced to postseason play with a second-round finish in the WNIT in his second season. It marked their school-record fifth consecutive postseason tournament appearance. Mitchell became the first head coach since Terry Hall in the 1980-81 and 1981-82 seasons to advance to postseason play in his first two seasons as head coach.
The Cats finished 16-16 overall, 5-9 in the SEC and defeated No. 13/19 Tennessee 66-56, their first win over the Lady Vols in Memorial Coliseum in 23 years. Mitchell also captured his 30th win at UK on Feb. 5, 2009, vs. South Carolina. He did it in only 56 games, becoming the second-fastest coach to reach 30 wins behind Hall who earned it in only 38 games during her first two seasons in 1980 and 1981.Mitchell came to Kentucky in the spring of 2007 when Mickie DeMoss resigned as head coach after four seasons. So when Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart went about the daunting task of finding a coach whose skills, personality and charisma could build on the success and excitement that DeMoss had brought to the program, he immediately thought of Mitchell, who had played a key role in UK Hoops landing four brilliant prep performers in the fall of 2004 - a class ranked No. 6 by the All-Star Girls Report.
In his first season as an assistant coach under DeMoss at UK, Mitchell helped lure former Wildcats Chanté Bowman, Samantha Mahoney and Eleia Roddy away from Big Ten powers Michigan State and Ohio State while convincing 6-6 center Sarah Elliott, a Kentucky high school legend, to stay at home.
Mitchell then became a key factor in the development and improvement of UK's young post players. Elliott ranked in the top 10 in two SEC statistical categories and was named to the 2004-05 SEC All-Freshman team. Forward Jennifer Humphrey - then a sophomore - also flourished under Mitchell's direction, leading the team in rebounding and ranking 15th in that category in the SEC in 2004-2005. She finished her college career as UK's second all-time leading rebounder.
When DeMoss resigned and buzz around the Bluegrass quickly shifted to her replacement, Barnhart needed to look no further than 60 miles east on Interstate 64, where Mitchell already had established himself as an up-and-coming head coach at in-state Ohio Valley Conference school Morehead State.
When Barnhart interviewed Mitchell, Morehead State was fresh off two exciting campaigns in which he had revived a declining Lady Eagles women's basketball program with a 30-29 record (.508) - the third-highest coach's winning percentage in school history. The Lady Eagles were coming off a 5-22 record a year prior to Mitchell's arrival and earned a 16-13 overall mark and 11-9 league record in his first season. The Lady Eagles also reached the semifinals of the OVC Tournament.
In his second season, Mitchell guided Morehead to a third-place finish in the league with a school-record 13 conference wins. During the season, the Lady Eagles strung together a nine-game winning streak, the program's longest in 20 seasons.
Mitchell's two-year MSU conference record of 24-16 (.600) marks the second-highest OVC winning percentage in school history. He was only the third coach in the program's history to post an overall winning record during his tenure.
Barnhart also was impressed with Mitchell's coaching pedigree. He had served as an assistant coach and recruiter at Florida under Carol Ross beginning in 2000. He helped the Gators compile a 51-36 record, and during his first two seasons the Gators recorded a 19-9 league record en route to two NCAA Tournament appearances (2001 and 2002). With Mitchell's help, the Gators had a program-tying 24 wins and tied the school record with 11 SEC wins in 2001. He stayed at Florida to serve under then-new UF Coach Carolyn Peck during the 2002-03 season. As the primary recruiter at UF, Mitchell brought in the nation's ninth-ranked recruiting class in 2002 and the No. 2-ranked class by All-Star Girls Report in 2003.
The Louisville, Miss., native began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant at Tennessee under Hall of Fame Coach Pat Summitt during the Lady Vols' run to the Final Four in 2000. UT advanced to the national championship game before losing to top-ranked Connecticut. The Lady Vols finished No. 2 in the national polls with a 33-4 overall record and a 13-1 mark in the SEC.
Prior to his stint at Tennessee, Mitchell spent one year in Yazoo City, Miss., as a coach and teacher at Manchester Academy. He taught American history and served as both the boys' and girls' head basketball coach.
A 1995 graduate of Mississippi State, Mitchell's first head-coaching experience came in 1996 at Central Holmes Academy High School in Lexington, Miss. Mitchell performed multiple duties at the school, including head coach of both basketball teams as well as the track and golf teams. He also served as the defensive coordinator for the football team.
Mitchell, 41, is married to Jenna Ramsey Mitchell of Amelia Island, Fla., and has two daughters, Lacy Mitchell, of Madison, Miss., and one-year-old Saylor Rose Mitchell. The couple are active in community service as Jenna serves on the board of the Children's Advocacy Center and Matthew volunteers his time for several area charities and organizations. Matthew also is an honorary Rotarian in the Lexington chapter.