LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kyra Elzy, a native Kentuckian who previously spent four seasons on Matthew Mitchell’s Kentucky staff as an assistant coach and associate head coach, will return to the Bluegrass State and serve as associate head coach for the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team, it was announced by Mitchell on Wednesday, April 27.
“There are few people in this profession that I respect and admire more than Kyra Elzy and I am overjoyed to welcome her and her husband, Dexter, back to our program,” Mitchell said. “Kyra’s passion for teaching and mentoring young women is unmatched and when you couple that with her tireless work ethic and leadership skills, I just don’t think we could have a better person for this position. I am looking forward to working with her again as we try to get this program to where we all want it – Final Fours and national championships.”
A native of LaGrange, Ky., and star player for Oldham County High School, Elzy (pictured) is very familiar with the Kentucky program having helped the Wildcats to a successful stretch from 2008-2012. Elzy started her time in Lexington as an assistant coach before being promoted to associate head coach, when she ran Kentucky’s recruiting operation and produced unmatched results with three straight top-10 recruiting classes and four McDonald’s High School All-Americans.
“I am enthusiastic to be returning to the University of Kentucky,” Elzy said. “I had the honor to be here earlier in my career for four great seasons and those years were some of the most rewarding years for me as a coach. I fully believe in Coach Mitchell and this program and look forward to continuing this program’s national pedigree. Coach Mitchell and I have a great chemistry on and off the court. I know together we can spread that throughout the program and give current and future players the experience of what Kentucky basketball is all about.”
During her four years with the Wildcats, Elzy helped Kentucky earn three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including two Elite Eight showings. Her final season, Elzy helped the Wildcats win a school-record 13 league games en route to the 2012 Southeastern Conference regular season championship – the first for the program in 30 years. In her final three years with the program, Kentucky won 81 games, including 35 SEC wins and 12 wins against ranked opponents.
Elzy was in charge of coaching Kentucky’s guards in her first stint, helping lead A’dia Mathies to the SEC Freshman of the Year award in 2010 and USBWA and Associated Press All-America honors in 2012. Elzy also helped coach one of the best players in program history in Victoria Dunlap, who was named an All-American and SEC Player of the Year in 2011 before being selected 11th overall in the 2011 WNBA Draft by the Washington Mystics – the highest draft pick at the time in program history.
The momentum Elzy helped build has continued since her departure. Kentucky has won at least 24 games in each of the last seven seasons. In addition, the Wildcats have advanced to the NCAA Tournament all seven of those years, including three trips to the Elite Eight, two additional appearances in the Sweet 16, and two more berths in the second round.
Elzy returns to the Commonwealth after a four-year stint with her alma mater at Tennessee, where she served as assistant coach for three seasons and associate head coach her final year. During her four seasons in Knoxville, the Lady Vols won over 100 games, two SEC regular season championships, one SEC Tournament title and three Elite Eight finishes. As the UT recruiting coordinator, Elzy helped bring in the No. 3 recruiting class in the country in 2013 and the nation’s No. 6 signing class in 2014 and 2015. Off the court, Elzy was selected as the 2013 keynote speaker for UT’s fifth-annual Multicultural Student Symposium.
Prior to her first stop in Lexington, Elzy was an assistant coach at Kansas for four seasons, helping KU 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’s first college coaching stop was at Western Kentucky University for two seasons under head coach Mary Taylor Cowles. While in Bowling Green, Elzy coordinated WKU’s recruiting effort and also worked with the team’s guards. 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 played under Hall of Famer Pat Summitt at Tennessee. The four-year letterwinner, who actually spent five seasons in a Lady Vols 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, 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.
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.
A 1996 graduate of Oldham County High School, Elzy 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, while she will be inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame on June 2.
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. Elzy married Dexter Lander in August 2012.
University of Tennessee Athletics Photo