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Matthew Mitchell announces surprise retirement from coaching

Matthew Mitchell stepped down from his job as the head coach of Kentucky’s Women’s Basketball. The news is a shock to Big Blue Nation as the 49-year-old Mitchell announced his retirement only weeks before his 11th-ranked Wildcats tip off a potentially special season.

Mitchell gave this statement Thursday night:

“After much conversation with my family and Mr. Barnhart, I have decided to retire from coaching and effectively have resigned as head coach at Kentucky. This was a difficult decision and I know the timing is not ideal, but I do not feel I can give the job what it requires at this time.

As has been much publicized, I have had an eventful offseason with my injury and subsequent surgery. I have been open about the fact that the surgery and recovery process has been life-altering for me and my family. Through that, my priorities towards my family and my faith has grown even larger than before and that has led me to make this decision. Although so much about today is sad because I will greatly miss the relationships and people that have constantly lifted up my family and me the last 13 years, I am resolute in my decision and comfortable with beginning the next chapter of my life.

To the current players, thank you for all the support and love you have shown me, not only this year, but in years past. Each one of you has truly left a lasting impact on me and I will cherish our time together.

To my former players, assistant coaches and support staff – each one of you has made me a better person and I will always extend a listening ear and encouraging word whenever you need it.

I would be remiss if I also did not thank Mr. Barnhart, Lee T. Todd and Eli Capilouto for their commitment and support to women’s basketball at Kentucky and giving me a chance many years ago to be a part of this great university.

To Big Blue Nation, 13 years ago you welcomed me and my family with open arms and Jenna and I are forever grateful. Kentucky is our home and this university and community are beautifully unique and special and we are so blessed to have this place in our lives.

Finally, I want to thank Kyra Elzy, Niya Butts, Amber Smith, Amy Tilley and everyone in our current support staff for all of their hard work this offseason and preseason as the program navigated uncharted waters. I believe with every ounce of my heart that the greatest place for a young woman to go to college and become a better person ready to face what society has in store is at the University of Kentucky. I am steadfast in that belief because I know the people in this program spend every second of every day focused on how to make other’s lives better. Kyra has done an amazing job leading the program these past few months. She is one of the best coaches in college basketball and has displayed that throughout her career as a top-notch tactician, elite recruiter, and most of all, she is of the highest character. I have the utmost confidence in her to lead Kentucky women’s basketball into future success.”

Mitch Barnhart said:

“As our all-time winningest coach, Matthew Mitchell led us through so many of the great moments in the history of Kentucky basketball, with more than 300 wins, an SEC championship and numerous NCAA Tournament appearances. He has been a great ambassador for the University of Kentucky, on and off the court, bringing an energy and style of play that made it fun for players and fans alike. In addition, Matthew and Jenna have woven themselves into the fabric of the community with a tremendous generosity of time, treasure and spirit. Matthew, Jenna and their children always will be part of the Wildcat family and we wish them the very best as they enter the next stage of their lives.”

Barnhart and new interim head coach Kyra Elzy will hold a news conference Friday at 9:30 a.m. ET.

UPDATE: Tom Hart asked John Calipari about Mitchell’s retirement at the end of tonight’s Pro Day broadcast.

“Matthew Mitchell is one of the great guys of all time. During my time here, there are many times I was going into his gym watching them press and do stuff or going in to his office and we talked or he’d come into my office and we talked. The two teams were close. There was none of that, well, they get this, we get that.

“Look, every program here is treated first class and our women are and it’s because Matthew Mitchell took everything to another level. What he did here, how he did it, the kind of girls we have, the kind of women that are playing here. When he got hurt and I heard how kind of serious it was, I was really worried about him. He and I text back and forth and I texted him today and I knew this afternoon he was thinking about it and stuff. He’s — I just wish — I don’t know all the health stuff but I want him to be healthy and have fun. That’s what we trying to do.”

UPDATE 2: The women’s program just released this video honoring Mitchell.


Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

33 Comments for Matthew Mitchell announces surprise retirement from coaching

  1. UKBigBlueForever
    8:08 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Holy crap. Wish you best of luck Me Mitchell. Craziness

  2. shepdog3720
    8:09 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Thanks for the ride, and best of luck to you and your family

  3. Bo T'Load
    8:11 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    This is horrible news. First thought is blessings for his health. Second, for his family. Wow. Just wow. Smart coach. And, I am quite certain he has set up his staff to pick the ball up and move forward. Move forward. Carry on. Go CATS!

  4. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
    8:13 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Tough week to be a CATS fan.

  5. Urincatland
    8:17 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    We thank you Coach for bringing the Kentucky women’s Basketball program where it is today. We wish you the very best, God Bless you and your family, you’re in our hearts forever!

  6. mashman 93
    8:20 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    This sucks for the #BBN. Mathew Mitchell is a hell of a basketball coach and I know this is a “cliche” but he’s an even better human being. God bless you coach and thanks for all the great memories. We love you Coach Mitchell and continued good health. GO CATS!!!

  7. KYJelly
    8:25 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    I know this may be bad form considering his medical situation, but I think this is an extremely bad move on his part. I understand that family comes first, but there should also be a “family-like” dedication to your players as a coach on a national level. These kids put their trust in you to foster and mold them, and when you are coming up on an exciting season, leaving this soon to tip-off is very deflating for those kids. Just like Cal when he shot down the chance to coach the Cavs & LeBron because of the Harrison Twins returning, sometimes your loyalty to your team and their families that put their trust in you should be weighed evenly to what’s best for you and your family.

    Just to be clear, I would have 0 issues with this if it was at the conclusion or last season or this one.

    • UKinIN
      8:33 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

      I feel the same way. I also wondered if he couldn’t wait until tomorrow because of the news about Coach Schlarman. But! I’m going to give Coach Mitchel the benefit of the doubt that he recognized that he wasn’t giving his players what they needed because he didn’t have it in him anymore.

    • wild horses
      8:37 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

      Coach Shlarman’s death very well could have put everything in perspective for him. The timing makes me wonder.

    • wild horses
      8:34 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

      In a way, I think he is putting his players first. He said as much. If he thinks he can’t perform the way he needs to for the players, I think it’s an admirable decision. I do believe he’s earned the right to do what he needs to do.

    • IndianaSucks
      8:48 am November 13, 2020 Permalink

      Idiot. No one can judge what a person is going thru mentally and physically after what he dealt with. If you were set for life financially and you had a life threatening event, wouldn’t you quit your job and spend time with the ones you love dearly? It puts things in perspective like he said, nothing wrong with that at all. Wish him health and happiness and move on. The players will be just fine. True family comes first.

    • KYJelly
      12:37 pm November 13, 2020 Permalink

      Calm down, there’s no reason to bring name-calling into differing opinions. As I said, I would have 0 issues with the decision if it was at the end of the season or the previous one. I have a lot of sympathy for his situation and I completely understand the decision he made, the timing was the only thing I didn’t agree with. He should have made the call from the beginning. I’m sure he wanted to give it a chance before hanging them up, but request the upcoming season off to recover and make that decision following your surgery, don’t lead the charge up until weeks before the season and bail. That doesn’t do anybody any good. He could do what’s best for for him and his family by taking a leave (if Barnhart wto recover and see where he is

    • KYJelly
      12:40 pm November 13, 2020 Permalink

      *if Barnhart was willing) to recover and see where he is, that also wouldn’t leave players high-and-dry. He could step back into a support role while having an interim coach for the season or step away all together. Point being, again, that I didn’t agree with the timing of his decision, i can have that opinion while being sympathetic

    • IndianaSucks
      1:01 pm November 13, 2020 Permalink

      How is taking a leave different than stepping down? He still wouldn’t be there either way… Yeah he could come back at some point but when? If it’s next season, he’d still be leaving the team for this season which is what you’re referring to. I love how people like to tell other people what’s best for them and their family. Smh

    • IndianaSucks
      1:03 pm November 13, 2020 Permalink

      His decision is bad timing? Tell that to his brain surgery… Freakin brain surgery man.

  8. dukeisking
    8:27 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Nothing more important that your family. Blessings

  9. JoeBee
    8:42 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Best of luck coach. Thank you for all you have done for Kentucky.

  10. AdamN
    8:51 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Y’all know this dude had brain surgery a few months ago, right? Kinda sounds like you’re suggesting he timed his brain condition and health problems better to match up with basketball season. F*** is the matter with y’all?

  11. Cats79
    8:54 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    God Blessed you coach Mitchell I one respect your choice and thank you what you did for this women basketball program.

  12. BigBluSoTru
    8:57 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Good god idiots Brain surgery stress the wear and tear is not a good combination not that womens BB is stressful however winning and recruiting the grind is all the same . Not worth taking time off your life for a silly game.

  13. BigBluSoTru
    9:00 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Barhart Open the checkbook for Genio or Walz . sure either will listen to a strong ass offer. you think.

    • 4everUKBlue
      9:13 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

      Who exactly does Genio coach for?

    • 44stewart
      6:41 am November 13, 2020 Permalink

      Geno will never leave UConn I don’t care how much you pay him.

  14. magimae
    10:45 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    God bless, best wishes coach, you will be misses by your players and fans

  15. ukwildcat2323
    11:16 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

    I love Mitchell, but I’m not buying it at all.

  16. kuhlkat
    2:32 am November 13, 2020 Permalink

    2020 is a bitch!

  17. Catman Dan
    6:24 am November 13, 2020 Permalink

    Best of luck to Coach M. No one can judge another when faced with life-or-death situations like your own health. That said, it is a common tactic to wait until right before the season starts to quit so that one’s own hand-picked assistant can take over and get a better shot at getting the job full-time versus quitting in the off season and allowing the AD to find the new coach.

  18. Shagaris Sock Puppet
    6:39 am November 13, 2020 Permalink

    What a legend! Never forget the dances but not importantly how you made Kentucky women’s basketball a program that contended and made young women ready for the real world.

  19. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
    7:39 am November 13, 2020 Permalink

    Good luck Matthew. God bless.

  20. BigBlueFoo42777
    8:02 am November 13, 2020 Permalink

    No matter who the coach is with the talent gap in ncaa hoops all were ever gonna be is a top 10 school.

  21. runningunnin.454
    8:38 am November 13, 2020 Permalink

    There must be additional medical concerns, with the decision coming so abruptly; and, I’m sure it was a difficult, harrowing decision. He is walking away from a dream team.
    I always liked his style of play, the fast paced offense and the press. He has been a dynamic asset to UK athletics.