UK Women's Basketball

Kyra Elzy returning to UK women’s coaching staff

Kyra Elzy assisted Matthew Mitchell at Kentucky from 2008-12. She was associate coach at Tennessee, above, until leaving in April.
Kyra Elzy assisted Matthew Mitchell at Kentucky from 2008-12. She was associate coach at Tennessee, above, until leaving in April. Associated Press

A familiar face is returning to Kentucky amid turmoil and turnover.

The Herald-Leader has learned that Kyra Elzy, a former Cats assistant turned Tennessee assistant, will rejoin the UK staff as an associate head coach.

Elzy formerly was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Kentucky from 2008-12 before being pulled back to her alma mater when Holly Warlick took over the Lady Vols program.

The announcement of the Elzy hire — expected in the next 24 hours — comes as UK deals with the abrupt resignation of UK assistant coach Tamika Williams-Jeter and the departure of another player, freshman forward Batouly Camara on Monday.

It also comes less than two weeks after Kentucky confirmed that it would not be renewing the contract of assistant coach Adeniyi Amadou without offering any further explanation.

Camara was the sixth player to leave the program this season alone, including transfer Chrishae Rowe, who was kicked off the team before the start of the season and Morgan Rich, who was never cleared to practice and opted to transfer.

Elzy, the former Lady Vols standout, won two national championships and four Southeastern Conference regular-season titles under Pat Summitt. She parted ways with Tennessee on April 6.

“Kyra and I spoke this afternoon and agreed that it would be best if we parted ways,” Warlick said in a news release at the time. “I have the utmost respect for Kyra as a person and as a coach. We have been friends for a long time and our friendship will remain strong.”

Elzy had been promoted to associate head coach last summer and her total compensation was increased to $239,484 through May 2, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Kentucky made some of its largest strides as a program while Elzy was on campus. Along with Mitchell and now-Ole Miss Coach Matt Insell, UK signed a top 10 recruiting class for three straight seasons, including signing four McDonald’s All-Americans.

While at UK, Elzy helped the Cats advance to three straight NCAA Tournaments and two Elite Eight appearances.

The first time the Lady Vols played in Memorial Coliseum with Elzy on their bench, Warlick said that her assistant coach had a special place in her heart for UK.

“She would’ve never left Kentucky had it not been for this program and it being Tennessee,” Warlick said. “I just think she left because she felt a need to help continue on the tradition that Pat built. I’m very, very grateful that she did.”

A former standout at Oldham County, Elzy finished her high school career as one of the top girls’ basketball players in the state of Kentucky, totaling 3,020 points, 1,703 rebounds, 516 steals and 449 assists. The runner-up for Kentucky Miss Basketball also was recently inducted into the KHSAA Hall of Fame.

Elzy, 37, is going to be inducted into the Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame in June.

Camara, who was granted her release from UK on Monday, took to Twitter to thank Cats fans and others for her time at Kentucky, but she didn’t offer much explanation for her departure.

“After heartfelt discussions with my family, friends and other trusted people in my life — along with much prayer — I have decided that remaining at the University of Kentucky is not in my best interest,” she wrote in an open letter, saying that she plans to return home to decide where to finish out her college career.

In the letter, the freshman forward thanked teammates, friends and staff members at UK that “supported me throughout this challenging year.”

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader