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Is Matthew Mitchell the John Calipari of UK Hoops?


Something that is occasionally lost in all the hoopla surrounding John Calipari Land is that UK has another top-10 basketball program on campus.  UK Hoops is currently ranked #8 in the nation and is coming off a dominating win over Samford (that sounds mighty familiar).

What also sounds familiar is a story of a charismatic coach who “gets it” leading a Kentucky basketball program to success.  Although the Lady Cats’ Matthew Mitchell may not match Calipari’s star power just yet, it’s also true that Calipari has had a whole extra decade of experience (he’s 52, as opposed to Mitchell’s 41).

So what exactly makes me say these guys are pretty similar?

Recruiting Success

While i’m not saying that Mitchell’s recruiting classes in the past couple of years match up to a Cousins/Wall/Bledsoe or Davis/Kidd-Gilchrist/Teague kind of class, there still has been some serious success in women’s basketball recruiting recently.  Whether it’s been stealing transfers (Keyla Snowden) or collecting top-notch high school players (Adia Mathies), Mitchell has been building quite the talent pool here at UK.  This year’s team is considered by many to be perhaps the deepest team in recent memory, with legitimate talent on the roster from top to bottom.  More talent only breeds more potential for success, and Mitchell has increased both recently.

More buzz/fan excitement

Although UK fans have always been relatively supportive of the women’s team (Kentucky has eight straight seasons of being in the top 25 nationally for average attendance in women’s basketball), there is just a certain buzz that has been created in the past couple of years.  That attendance ranking jumped from 23rd nationally after the 2007-08 season to 11th after 2010-11.  Last year, the team also set a school record for number of times it was shown on TV with 16 regular season appearances.  I can’t say that this is all Matthew Mitchell, but I will give him some credit – he has worked tirelessly to promote his team in every way possible.  From beginning a preseason “Fan Day” during his first year as head coach to showing up at the men’s games to promote a particularly exciting upcoming match-up for his team, Mitchell has been everywhere, and it shows.  While he hasn’t been dragging in Drake or Mike Tomlin to his games (a la Calipari), I still think that people are starting to take much more notice of the women’s team than they were before he arrived.

Exciting Basketball

One of the biggest complaints on the men’s side of the spectrum, especially during Tubby’s years here, was that UK didn’t play a brand of basketball that was “exciting” enough for the average Kentucky fan – a complaint that quickly disappeared once Calipari took hold of the reins.  Although this was never necessarily a criticism of the women’s team, excitement is now certainly a crowning jewel of this year’s group.  If you can watch a game in which UK Hoops forced 49 (FORTY-nine…Four. Nine.) turnovers and not be excited about that, I’d like to know if you have a heartbeat.  Mitchell’s recent teams, especially this year’s, have been in-your-face kind of defenders, with quick guards that are just downright fun to watch.  Even though there are differences between the men’s and women’s game, I couldn’t even imagine what kind of exhilaration there would be if a men’s team ever forced that many turnovers in one game.

The X-Factor

With Calipari comes a factor that can’t exactly be pinpointed or labeled – the subtle jabs at Pitino, the pizza delivery to Memorial Coliseum campers, the friendship with LeBron (love him or hate him).  That X-factor is what makes him such a great fit at the University of Kentucky.  With Mitchell comes an X-factor that is quite different, yet equally as efficient.  We all saw the Thriller routine at Big Blue Madness this year and we see how much fun Mitchell’s team has around him.  With women’s basketball at UK, there is less to “get” than with the men’s program – those are just the facts.  But Matthew Mitchell has been very successful with striking a balance between showing his personality and putting focus on his team as a whole.  Calipari has done much the same thing on the men’s side.

So what does the BBN think about this comparison?  I definitely know that Mitchell isn’t collecting the kind of recruits that Calipari does, and the women’s team hasn’t had as much historical success as the men, so it could be a bit of a stretch.  But with what Mitchell has done in the last few years, can we say that he compares favorably with our favorite men’s coach?

Article written by Ashley Scoby

65 Comments for Is Matthew Mitchell the John Calipari of UK Hoops?

  1. BPsycho
    9:09 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Shabazz Muhammad

  2. CA
    9:09 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    I love Coach Mitchell – he has done a great job with the women’s team. They are really fun to watch. I have watched his show and it is really a hoot! Especially the guitar portion.

    He and Coach Cal are just a great fit for both the men’s and women’s teams. Go CATS!

  3. lldjr
    9:10 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Is Joker the black Bill Curry of UK football ?

  4. GummyBear
    9:12 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    What I like about MM is that he is smart enough to piggyback off of Cal’s success. I agree with you that MM truly “gets it”.

  5. Carolina Blue is past tense for CAROLINA BLOWS
    9:12 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Nice post. Good to see the Lady Cats get some love. In years past they have been an afterthought but because of their success I now pay attention. That is due to the brand, style and winning ways; which has a lot to do with Coach.

  6. ATLCatfan
    9:13 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    I think Mitchell does a tremendous job at UK. He was just as charismatic and effective when he was at Morehead State. I hope he is leading UK Hoops for a long time!

  7. jaxcats8503
    9:14 am December 22, 2011 Permalink


  8. Tim Miller
    9:17 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    I thought John Calipari was the John Calipari of UK Hoops.

  9. Bastard Yak
    9:21 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    8) Not sure if you are aware but women’s basketball team is called UK Hoops, not UK Women’s Basketball. Hence, John Calipari is not the John Calipari of UK Hoops.

  10. rick
    9:22 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Yes, Yes, Yes. This team is fun to watch.

  11. Skeels
    9:23 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Is John Robic the male Bernadette Maddox?

  12. MS CAT
    9:23 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Proud of my SAE pledge brother Matthew Mitchell!
    #hail state
    Go Cats! On on UK

  13. echo 1
    9:24 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Dude is money. Whatever it takes, UK better hang on to this guy. He is like Gino at UCONN, except he isn’t a complete ass like Gino. With Mitchell, the UK women’s team will be in the top 10 every year.

  14. fiddlestix
    9:26 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Matthew Mitchell’s bringing in McD AAm’s at a pretty good clip now. It’s great to see the Hoops girls mixing it up with the best in the nation…AND WINNING~ Go UK Hoops!!!!

  15. Ukbigdaddy
    9:26 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Good post, just a poor title. Fix that and you”ll have A material.

  16. kbrenn
    9:27 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    i like how he always looks so slick in his suit on game days. SWAGGER!

  17. Terry
    9:27 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Matt Jones is the letter writing stalking banker.

  18. UK Wildcat
    9:27 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    The only worthwhile 9:00 post this week. What Mitchell has done with UK’s womens team is amazing. We have a good shot at a title in mens and womens basketball this season, and on the women’s team they’re only losing 3 seniors who total 22% of the scoring. The womens team next year is going to be sick too.

  19. Kernel Sanders
    9:27 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    It will be interesting to see if UT makes a run at Mitchell when Pat Summit’s career eventually winds down (sooner rather that later?). And if they do come after Mitchell, can he resist the call of 1 of the 2 or 3 historically dominant women’s programs? Hope he makes UK his permanent home.

  20. Nerd
    9:30 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Mitchell is kind of like the Billy Donovan of UK Hoops more than the Coach Cal. Winning where there wasn’t success previously. He’s having to lay the foundation.

  21. RichieFarmer'sMustache
    9:32 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Got to throw some love to assistant coach and Oldham County Alum, Kyra Elzy. She won a national championship with Tennessee in ’98, and she’s a big part of recruiting.

  22. Tommy
    9:32 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Matt doing a great job proud he our coach

  23. blueblooded
    9:34 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Good post! It was actually a Billy Jean routine. I don’t remember him dancing around with a bunch in make-up with a bunch of monsters! Not that I’m a big Michael Jackson fan, but I’m just saying!

  24. BPsycho
    9:34 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    #19 “(sooner rather that later?)”

    She has no idea.


  25. Timprp
    9:35 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    The difference is no one cares about women’s basketball.

  26. Walden Schmidt
    9:35 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Can Cal dance ?

  27. BPsycho
    9:37 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    #26 Truffle Shuffle?

    Lol even I’ll take that set up.

  28. Nerd
    9:37 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    25, speak for yourself. I’ll bet these ladies could beat you in a game.

  29. The Big Dog
    9:39 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    They play at a frantic pace and keep throwing new players at you all the time (sometimes five at a time). Full court in-your-face defense from start to finish. I hate to say it, but it reminds me of Pitino in the mid-90’s. They have had two all-americans on the bench for most of the season so far. I was puzzled about why we didn’t go after Hammond from Rockcastle County- after seeing Drake and Walker I know why: everyone must run the floor. I realize that most people don’t care about women’s sports, but they are fun to watch. Good luck.

  30. Brando11
    9:39 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Good comparison. I’ve never really followed women’s basketball but the last few years I’ve started keeping up with it. I love their style of play.

  31. Ned Chase
    9:40 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Great job Ashley! Go FemCayts!

  32. oneukfan
    9:41 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Call me sexist all you want, but I will have to say. Even if the women were ranked #1 and the men were unranked, I would still not watch the women, and only watch the men. It’s just that women’s is not exciting at all for me. Don’t get me wrong, I will support ANY UK team. Whether it be football, volleyball, whatever. I just don’t like watching the WNBA or women’s college basketball.

  33. Biglaw Dawgin'
    9:42 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    8 – ha. You took my line. Nice story Ashley. You may want to change the title to “of Women’S Hoops” instead of “UK Hoops.”

  34. Brew Crew
    9:44 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Coach Mitchell is great. He is a good coach, an incredible recruiter, and has the charisma to bring attention to the program in a positive way. He has the chance to make UK Hoops a perennial title threat. The girls seem to love him, and the recruits definitely do (see all the McDonald’s All Americans coming in). After DeMoss left and they just gave the job to her assistant, I was a little skeptical. But coach Mitchell has impressed at every turn. Go UK Hoops!

  35. bluesince66
    9:45 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    It’s preety cool when they get ready to introduce coach Mitchell they play the song My Town, just seems to fit. Coach Mitchell and his entire staff are all class and it shows. I also must agree this is the best post of the week from the student writers.

  36. give em hell cats
    9:46 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    I dont think you can compare the two. Cal deals with, lets just say, about a million times the pressure that Mitchell deals with and always delivers.

  37. Corn Flakes Keep Me Regular
    9:47 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    If he is the Cal of women’s hoops I guess we can expect multiple vacated seasons..

  38. kittyfan
    9:49 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Matthew Mitchell is our guy. The women love to play for him and it shows. Mr. Barnhart, please, please don’t let Tennessee recruit him away from the Kentucky fanbase. No matter what it costs to keep him!!! He can build a women’s dynasty here!

  39. bluesince66
    9:50 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    37’s a moron and UK Hoops is womens basketball, not UK womens hoops.

  40. UKGirl
    9:50 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    First, very good article Ashley. Second, Mitchell is great for the women’s program. What he has done in his tenure here is very similar to what Calipari has done. Mitchell is bringing in top notch recruits, he is a great defensive coach, and he ‘connects’ with his players and the fans. Great guy all around. I hope they can keep him here for a long time.

  41. Breakfast Cat
    9:52 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    While the women’s program has previously seen some success (80s), Mitchell brings a confidence and swaggar and program leadership that compares very favorably with Cal. He also has the essential charisma and PR capabilities which enamor BBN. Mitchell isn’t leaving anytime soon. He and his wife love it here and they’re too smart to think there’s any opportunity better than basketball in Lexington.

  42. Mr Schwump
    9:54 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Because of Title IX he’s been given a blank check. He’s parlayed that blank check into losing a million bucks a year, that’s a million bucks of the football program’s money. OPM, Other People’s Money. Next time you piss and moan about the football program, keep that in mind.

  43. wilDCat
    10:07 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    42 – I’d rather watch Mitchell lose a million bucks in his charismatic, awesome, entertaining way than see Joker just piss it away

    I love Mitchell, he’s just like Cal but with the UK Hoops team, he has the energy and the charisma and the flash, and makes me excited about women’s basketball. If I’m home and have access to one of their games, I definitely put it on. We’ve got a good team, and he’s the perfect coach for it. You can tell the players love him, it’s just a good all around team.

  44. Michael Kidd-Langford
    10:32 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    We’ve all been pretty harsh on the 9am posts lately, myself included, but this one was very impressive. Great job Ashley! Keep it up and I look forward to reading your next one.

  45. Corn Flakes Keep Me Regular
    10:45 am December 22, 2011 Permalink


  46. Big E
    10:45 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Can we go back to calling them the “Ladycats”? Who came up with UK hoops??? What a d-bag and a horrible name for our women’s college basketball team. Stupid stupid stupid. When the board meeting was held about what to call the women’s program, and all the big shots were sitting around the big long board meeting table, the person who stood up and said, “I have an idea…” and came up with “UK Hoops”, should have been rudely and quickly escorted out of the meeting, and so should any of the board members who agreed with that decision. Had to be one of the worst marketing decisions in history!!!

  47. GO CATS
    10:51 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    #32. You are missing out with Coach Mitchell’s teams. I have never been much of a women’s basketball fan either, but this guy’s teams are FUN TO WATCH. They press the entire game, run the floor, etc. It’s very exciting basketball!

  48. Catfan 50
    11:06 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Great post. We are extremely fortunate to have 2 great coaches at BBN. MM ha put UK Hoops on the national stage and I think he will b able to stay there.

  49. Catfan 50
    11:09 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    32. I used to have the same perspective until I watched the UK Hopps team in the NCAA tourney last year. MM brings a style of play to the womens game that is very entertaining. If you give it a shot I promise you that you won’t be disapointed.

  50. BSHEP
    11:16 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    If you’ve never gone, go……If you’ve gone, go back…..these girls are fun to watch!!

  51. nawlij
    11:17 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    “womens basketball” and “exciting” in the same sentence? Where is the “not”?

    I had much rather the $ the university is losing on title ix and olympic sports be funneled back into FB

  52. lee
    11:24 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    I think KSR needs to report all the happenings of the hoops team as well.There would be a lot more interest in the hoops team if we got to know them in everyday reports like we do the mens team.Get off your can Matt Jones and report on them.

  53. Cats Fan
    11:24 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Its only a matter of time until he moves to a bigger program I fear. I hope the admin. will step up when it comes time to pay MM.

  54. Ben
    11:26 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    CRUSH! MUST CRUSH 9AM POST! NOM NOM! WHAT DO YOU MEAN WOMENS BASKETBALL IS EXCITING?! Also, how can you compare Calipari’s teams to Mitchell’s? I mean, I would assume that Mr. Mitchell’s team makes free throws. Thus proving the two are nothing alike. #Iwin

  55. BigBlueLush
    11:45 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    I vote that we drop the women’s team totally and invest all the $ into football.

  56. Kernel Sanders
    11:55 am December 22, 2011 Permalink

    #55 Avail yourself of knowledge. Title IX. And #46, the nickname LadyKats (yes, with a “K”) is far more stupid than “UK Hoops”. I am a lifelong UK men’s season ticketholder and supporter, and yes there is a huge difference in athleticism men v. women, but I actually find the women’s style of play more exciting the last couple years. Instead of one and doners playing for a future NBA paycheck, these girls give it their all for the name on the front of the jersey, their coach, and each other. Fun to watch.

  57. green river 46
    12:32 pm December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Go Cats ! love to watch the lady Cats.

  58. bigbluelush
    1:51 pm December 22, 2011 Permalink

    56 – you don’t have to pay some shmuck millions (600K/yr for 5 yrs) to coach girly basketball to meet title IX. Hire a cheaper schmuck and check the block. Build the football program, we SUCK at football.

  59. chamnasty
    4:10 pm December 22, 2011 Permalink

    More posts like this please! And can we get a little more info on the players and the team and get to know them more? It’d be nice to get half the post game post the men’s team get after a game. Thanks Ashley!

  60. BigBlueFan31
    4:14 pm December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Ashley Scoby, very nice article! I have a degree in journalism and can see some nice work here. I understand that this is not a popular peice with those who do not enjoy women’s basketball, but there is nice creativity here. I liked the way you used the similarities in the two coaches to keep the attention of the audience. Nice work.

    I don’t know why these folks are being so hard on you. Sure, there is no comparison to the men’s and women’s teams. Their just both top 10 teams in their respective groups (men’s/women’s). They are both very talented and fun to watch as you mentioned. The problem is the casual fan, or a-hole male, does not want to admit it!

    And for those yapping about title iX, give me a break. It sure doesn’t hurt Bama, LSU, Boise, Oklahoma, or Texas’ football budgets since they have to fund women’s sports. That’s just plain dumb!

  61. MusicCityCat
    4:57 pm December 22, 2011 Permalink

    If you haven’t watched coach Mitchell’s TV program, you are missing one of my favorite shows. It comes on right after coach Cal’s show. He has a great personality, and his interaction with the team is amazing. The show is a combination of serious basketball, and some of the funniest things you will see on a sports show. He has a segment on teaching fundamentals, which I use for my sixth grade grandson. His “cooking tip of the week” with his wife is a riot. She is cute as a tack, and is probably the only women in the world that could put up with his crazy personality.

    Do yourself a favor and watch his show. You will become a Matthew Mitchell fan.

  62. Bledsoe's Biceps
    5:38 pm December 22, 2011 Permalink

    Great post Ashley. Like the majority who have commented, I find MM’s team exiting to watch. You can’t compare their athleticism to the men, but they are fun to watch. It is non-stop defensive pressure and fast breaks from start to finish. He has done a great job attracting high caliber players and transfers. I had a daughter playing b’ball and started taking her to the women’s games during the Locke-Mattox era. Coach Mitchell and staff have taken it a long way since then. He has built a top tier program. I think the comments to this post demonstrate there is enough interest to give them more time on KSR. At least a run down after each game, with stats and some comments on the players and highlights. They have earned some attention.

  63. Areweinthe9thgrade?
    8:37 pm December 22, 2011 Permalink

    It’s funny that every time someone talks women’s basketball somebody feels the need to compare it to men’s basketball. In case it isn’t obvious, they don’t suit up and play each other.

    Nice post. Coach Mitchell definitely has an entertaining brand of basketball. It’s one thing to play hard, but to ask the team to be willing to full-court press for a solid 35 minutes of the game means they’ve got your back if they actually buy in.
    Hopefully we keep him. He’s got a pretty stacked team for the next few years, so maybe that will help.

  64. CatManDo
    10:05 am December 23, 2011 Permalink

    51, throwing money at football would be no more effective than throwing money at public education.

  65. UK Rifle > WVU Rifle
    8:58 am December 24, 2011 Permalink

    I am old enough to remember Rupp when he was still coaching and hanging out at Brookings. I am old enough to remember the early history of modern WBB with Still, Wise, and Hedges. I watched us fall and Tennessee rise in our place. All the haters can kiss my BigBlueAss if they call themselves fans of the university and slam on UK teams other than UK football and MBB. These ladies are tough, fast, and fun to watch. Either get on the BBN bus and enjoy the ride, or get in your gooney goo goo go go mobile and go cheer for Dook or the Tards.