Coach Kyra Elzy Signs Long-Term Contract with Kentucky
LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky director of athletics Mitch Barnhart has removed the interim tag and officially named Kyra Elzy, a Kentucky native who has spent nearly a decade on the UK staff, as the program’s eighth head coach. Elzy has signed a contract, which will be made available here, keeping her at the helm of the program through the 2025-26 season.
“A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of introducing Kyra Elzy as our interim head women’s basketball coach,” Barnhart said. “Circumstances at that point in time were turning quick and had not allowed Kyra and I to talk about her plans, her style and her leadership of our program. Although I thought we would get there, I wanted to have a little more conversation for both of our benefit to make sure there was some alignment and that we both had the University of Kentucky women’s basketball program in the right spot as we thought about it together. Kyra has earned and deserves the opportunity to lead this program into the future. With that, it is my pleasure and my honor to introduce and take away the interim title to announce Kyra Elzy as the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Kentucky.”
“I really appreciate the opportunity to be the new head coach at the University of Kentucky,” Elzy said. “Extremely appreciative to you Mr. Barnhart, President Capilouto, the UK administration and all the UK personnel for the encouragement and support I have received thus far. I want to give a big shoutout to our staff – Niya Butts, Amber Smith, Lin Dunn, Daniel Boice and all of our support staff – you all are amazing. It is the people that make Kentucky special. Our job as a staff is to make sure our players have the best college experience possible. Our motto, we will inspire, impact and influence to make sure our players are ready for life after Kentucky. This is a big responsibility and I am ready for the moment. Thank you to Coach Mitchell for empowering me and giving me the confidence and wings to soar. We hope to make you proud, this year is for you coach. Our players and staff will continue to live by the core values of this program which will be family, hardwork, discipline, accountability and servant leadership. We will put a team on the floor that you will be proud of. Big Blue Nation, I have said it before, I will give you my all along with this staff.”
Elzy received the interim head coach tag from Barnhart on Nov. 12 after Matthew Mitchell retired from coaching. Elzy has led the ninth-ranked Wildcats to a 6-0 start, including a win against top-15 ranked Indiana last weekend. The six straight wins to start the year are the second most in program history for a first-year head coach.
The success of Kentucky women’s basketball the last decade has been a direct reflection of Elzy’s leadership. In her two years as assistant coach and six years as the associate head coach at Kentucky, Elzy has helped the Wildcats to six NCAA Tournaments, including two Elite Eight appearances. In 2012, Elzy helped guide Kentucky to the 2012 Southeastern Conference Championship, which was the program’s first since 1982. All told in Elzy’s nine years on the Kentucky sideline, including the still-young 2020-21 campaign, the Wildcats have won 187 games, including 78 league games and 24 victories over ranked opponents. Six times Elzy has helped Kentucky to a 20-win season, including 28 wins in 2010 and 2012.
At Kentucky, Elzy has coached three SEC Players of the Year (Victoria Dunlap, A’dia Mathies, Rhyne Howard), three SEC Freshmen of the Year (A’dia Mathies, Bria Goss, Rhyne Howard), one SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Victoria Dunlap), two SEC 6th Women of the Year (Keyla Snowden, Chasity Patterson), two SEC Scholar-Athletes of the Year (Alyssa Rice, Maci Morris) and her players have earned 39 All-SEC honors overall.
The 2020-21 season is year five in her most recent stint at Kentucky. Elzy’s first stint at Kentucky was from 2009-2012 and included some of the most successful seasons in program history. She returned to Lexington in the summer of 2016 and has served as associate head coach the past four seasons before being promoted to interim head coach earlier this season. In-between her two stints at UK, Elzy spent four years as assistant coach and associate head coach at her alma mater Tennessee. With the Lady Vols, she won two SEC regular-season titles and one SEC tournament title, helping Tennessee to three NCAA Elite Eights.
Elite recruiting and top-notch player development have been obvious at all of Elzy’s stops. Since 2007, Elzy has signed eight top-20 recruiting classes, including four top-10 classes. In the last four years at Kentucky, Elzy has signed three top-20 classes and brought in some of the highest profile transfers in the game in 2019 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Dre’una Edwards and five-star recruits Chasity Patterson, Olivia Owens, Robyn Benton and Jazmine Massengill.
Elzy has also developed some of the SEC’s best over the last decade at both Kentucky and Tennessee. Most recently, Elzy has helped UK guard Rhyne Howard become a unanimous national freshman of the year while she followed that with a sensational sophomore season that included three All-America honors. In 2017, Elzy helped Evelyn Akhator and Makayla Epps become WNBA Draft picks as Akhator went third overall with Epps 33rd. It was the first time UK has had two players selected in the same draft as both Akhator and Epps were All-SEC performers and earned All-America honors.
At Tennessee, Elzy had three WNBA Draft selections in Diamond DeShields going third overall in 2018 while Mercedes Russell went 22nd overall the same year. Meighan Simmons went 26th overall and was the SEC Player of the Year under Elzy’s tutelage. In her first stint at Kentucky, Elzy helped A’dia Mathies and Victoria Dunlap earn SEC Player of the Year and All-America honors. Both Mathies and Dunlap were selected in the WNBA Draft with Mathies going 10th overall in 2013 and Dunlap 11th overall in 2011.
Elzy started her coaching career as an administrative assistant at Virginia Tech from 2001-02 before she was the recruiting coordinator and assistant coach at WKU from 2002-04. Her last stop before coming to Lexington in 2008 was a successful stint at Kansas from 2004-08.
Elzy, who was born and raised in nearby Oldham County, Kentucky, is the second head coach in program history to be a Kentucky native and the first since Sue Feamster brought the program back to varsity status in the early 1970s. Elzy was a star at Oldham County High School as a two-time All-American and was recently inducted into the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame.
After scoring over 3,000 points with 1,700 rebounds in high school, Elzy continued her basketball career at Tennessee under legendary head coach Pat Summitt. A four-year letterwinner, Elzy was a member of two national championship teams in 1997 and 1998 and a national runner-up squad in 2000. She won four SEC regular-season championships and three SEC Tournament titles at Tennessee. Elzy was just the fifth freshman in Tennessee history to start her first game as a Lady Vol.
Elzy owns two degrees from Tennessee, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1999 and followed with a master’s degree in cultural studies and education with an emphasis in sports psychology in 2001. She was the first Tennessee player to earn a master’s degree while still playing.
Elzy married Dexter Lander – also a Kentucky native – in August 2012 and the couple has one son Jackson.