Jen Smith on Basketball

Niya Butts rejoins Kentucky women’s basketball coaching staff

Niya Butts’ best season at Arizona was in 2010-11 when her Wildcats went 21-12 and lost in the first round of the WNIT.
Niya Butts’ best season at Arizona was in 2010-11 when her Wildcats went 21-12 and lost in the first round of the WNIT. AP

It appears that Matthew Mitchell is getting the old band back together.

The Herald-Leader has learned that another former member of Kentucky’s women’s basketball coaching staff has been hired back. This time it’s Niya Butts, who was dismissed as Arizona head coach in April.

Butts, 38, spent five seasons on the UK staff, starting the rebirth of the program in 2003 under Mickie DeMoss and then joining Mitchell’s first staff before taking the top job at Arizona in 2008.

The Americus, Ga., native went 102-147 as a head coach for Arizona. In her final season, the Wildcats went 13-19 overall and 3-15 in the Pac-12 Conference. Butts’ best season in Arizona was in 2010-11 when it went 21-12 and lost in the first round of the WNIT.

Butts joins former Tennessee teammate and good friend Kyra Elzy on the UK staff, replacing two of the three assistant coaches who parted ways with Mitchell after this past season.

The first, Adeniyi Amadou, did not have his contract renewed. The others, Tamika Williams-Jeter and Camryn Whitaker, both decided not to return to the staff.

All of this was a part of a season of upheaval for Mitchell, which included six players requesting transfers at various times of the season and another player dismissal. The latest was Wednesday night when sophomore forward Alexis Jennings was granted her release.

In April, the Cats had a McDonald’s All-American signee, Lindsey Corsaro, ask to be released from her national letter of intent, and a 2017 commitment also balked.

In an interview with the Herald-Leader last week, Mitchell expressed a desire to get more familiarity on his latest staff, trying to halt what he called a “revolving door” of assistant coaches.

“This is going to be a staff that’s like, ‘Hey, we want to be together. We want to be at Kentucky. We’re all invested in this. We’ve all had a hand in building this thing,’” Mitchell said.

Butts was on DeMoss’s first staff at Kentucky with Mitchell. In her final three seasons, she served as the program’s recruiting coordinator, including landing two top-10 classes.

She had some success at rebuilding Arizona’s program, but it struggled the past couple of seasons. Arizona opted not to renew her contract.

A third and final member of Mitchell’s staff is expected to be named soon.

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader

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