From the archives: UK women's coach buys former Pitino home in Lexington

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comAugust 30, 2012 

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    Coach Matthew Mitchell bought the house at 871 McMeekin Place.

University of Kentucky women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell recently bought a house in Lexington once owned by Rick Pitino when Pitino was the UK men's basketball coach.

The Georgian-style house, in a private enclave of homes at 871 McMeekin Place, sold for $2,060,000, according to the deed at the Fayette Clerk's office which was dated Aug. 23.

Mitchell and his wife, Jenna, bought the home from Robert Cummings and his wife, Annette Bacola of Chicago, who had owned it since 2003, according to the deed.

The house was under construction when it became a tourist attraction after Pitino bought the land in 1989. Fans and the curious often drove past. A radio station purloined dirt from the yard for an on-air promotion, according to Herald-Leader archives.

McMeekin Place is off Tates Creek Road in Lexington, not far from the University of Kentucky campus. Mitchell said in a statement on Thursday that he and his wife wanted to live close to campus.

"We loved our previous house, but we wanted to move closer to campus. That was our main goal," said Mitchell, who now lives near Hamburg off Winchester Road. "Lexington has so many beautiful homes to offer, and after an extensive search, we kept coming back to the McMeekin house. The previous owner did an incredible remodel to the interior of the house, and its location was perfect for us."

The house has more than 10,000 square feet, according to Lexington Realtor Rick Queen, who said he represented the Mitchells in the transaction.

When Pitino owned the house, it had six bedrooms and eight baths, 10-foot ceilings, fireplaces, a pool, a sauna, a marble-floored foyer and a wood-paneled study, according to Herald-Leader archives.

UK Women's Basketball spokeswoman Susan Lax said Pitino's previous ownership didn't factor into Mitchell's decision to buy it.

"Not at all. It's been owned by two people since. They just loved the remodel the previous owner did. It was ready to move in," Lax said in an e-mail. "Everyone keeps telling them the house looks nothing like it did when Pitino lived there. The previous owner knocked out walls and moved staircases. It's totally redone."

The quality of the house, its setting on a quiet street and its size also were draws, Queen said.

According to Herald-Leader archives, Thomas Abell and his wife Jami Abell bought the home from Rick and Joanne Pitino in 1998 for $1.4 million. The Abells sold it to Cummings and his wife in 2003 for $1.5 million.

Pitino, now the men's basketball coach at the University of Louisville, was the University of Kentucky men's coach from 1989 to 1997.

Mitchell said he and his wife are "very excited about our new home."

"Jenna and I look forward to raising our family in this house and being a part of the Lexington community for a long time," he said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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