Good luck making it through this with a pair of dry eyes…
Early Sunday morning, the Herald-Leader ran a full-page ad from the former head coach of Kentucky Women’s Basketball, Matthew Mitchell. In it, he pens a lengthy Thank You letter to an endless list of names and the entirety of the Big Blue Nation. After the surprise resignation from his post as head coach back in November, Mitchell has hidden from the public spotlight until now.
This morning, I ran a full page ad in the @heraldleader to say thank you to everyone that made our coaching tenure in Lexington remarkable and memorable. Jenna and I cannot thank #BBN enough and want everyone to know Lexington will always be our home.https://t.co/UZ6kxpRy4f
— Matthew Mitchell (@UKCoachMitchell) May 2, 2021
Here’s everything he had to say after nearly six months of observing from outside of the program he’d known so well for the last 13 years.
What an honor it was for Jenna and I to serve the greatest university in the world: The University of Kentucky! The time we spent associated with and leading the women’s basketball team at Kentucky was a remarkable event in our lives. The timing of the decision and our desire to keep the focus properly on Coach Elzy and the 2020-21 team, didn’t afford us the chance for a proper farewell. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to coach at UK. There are many people to thank.
First things first, the strength I had to make good decisions, or the strength it took to learn from mistakes, came directly from Almighty God. My relationship with God and the grace I receive from Jesus Christ sustain me now and they sustained me while I was coaching the Kentucky Wildcats. All glory to God!
A coach is absolutely nothing without players. The players prepare in practice and perform in games. They are the most important part of any program and we were blessed with fantastic young women who gave their all for Kentucky! Thank you Evelyn Akhator, Bra’shey Ali, Ogechi Anyagaligbo, Sarah Beth Barnett, Robyn Benton, Catina Bett, Azia Bishop, Chanté Bowman, Batouly Camara, Makenzie Cann, Chelsea Chowning, Jaycee Cole, Anna Cole, Nae Nae Cole, Maegan Conwright, Samantha Drake, Victoria Dunlap, Brittany Edelen, Dre’una Edwards, Sarah Elliott, Makayla Epps, Kastine Evans, Amani Franklin, Bria Goss, Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, Rebecca Gray, Blair Green, Sabrina Haines, LaShae Halsel, Jessica Hardin, Linnae Harper, Dorie Harrison, Brittany Henderson, Rhyne Howard, Treasure Hunt, Jenn’e Jackson, Ivana Jakubcova, Alexis Jennings, Emma King, Nyah Leveretter, Ali Lomax, Samantha Mahoney, Jazmine Massengill, A’dia Mathies, KeKe McKinney, Deasia Merrill, Maci Morris, Carly Morrow, Taylor Murray, Jennifer O’Neill, Carly Ormerod, Olivia Owens, Amanda Paschal, Chasity Patterson, Bernisha Pinkett, Paige Poffenberger, Rachel Potter, Alyssa Rice, Morgan Rich, Crystal Riley, Kameron Roach, Eleia Roddy, Jaida Roper, Sarah Rowe, Jackie Sanders, Jelléah Sidney, Amber Smith, Keyla Snowden, DeNesha Stallworth, Janee Thompson, Erin Toller, Samarie Walker, Lydia Watkins and Tatyana Wyatt. I learned so very much from our time together. While I fell short many times, I hope you all know each day I showed up to try and help you get better. You impacted my life and my family’s life in immeasurable ways! Thank you!
I first arrived on campus in the Spring of 2003 as an assistant for Mickie DeMoss. It’s amazing to me that I still remember the feeling I felt that first day. It was an immediate connection to Kentucky. I knew I’d come to a special place! I want to thank Mickie from the absolute bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity to work in women’s college basketball. She saw something in me as a young high school coach and convinced Pat Summitt to hire me as a GA at Tennessee. My debt to her is immense. She taught me how to be a professional. I owe my coaching career to her. I also hope Coach Summitt is looking down from heaven with approval.
On that first day at Kentucky, I met Susan Lax. Susan was the long-time media relations director of Kentucky Women’s Basketball. I’ve never met anyone who loves UK more! Thanks, Slax for your hard work and friendship over the years. From day one until now, your friendship remains!
I left Kentucky for my first college head coaching job at Morehead State University in 2005. Thank you to President Wayne Andrews, Brian Hutchinson, Jim Wells and everyone at that great university for providing an experience that impacted my life in an incredibly positive way. Thanks to all of the great young women who played for us those two seasons. I learned a lot and am grateful.
In April of 2007, President Lee Todd gave me the opportunity to lead this program. He always encouraged and believed in me. Thank you, Dr. Todd!
During the early years of my tenure at Kentucky, I benefited greatly from the wisdom and encouragement from our football coach, Rich Brooks. Coach Brooks, you helped me find my footing as a young coach and I appreciate you very much. Thank you for continuing to encourage me throughout my career!
I want to thank Billy Gillespie, who went out of his way to encourage me after some tough losses early in my UK career. I appreciated and admired that.
I was so fortunate to work for one of the most amazing and thoughtful leaders, President Eli Capilouto. The positive transformation that’s occurred at Kentucky during his tenure is amazing. I am grateful for his contribution to my life and I am honored to count him and Mary Lynne as friends.
I could write volumes about all I learned from Mitch Barnhart. Outside of my family, I can think of no one who supported me more. He always had my back. We shared many wins together and that was fun. But what I will remember most is all of the great talks we had and the relationship we built. You are my friend and I am so blessed to have you in my life! Thank you for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime.
Working alongside John Calipari for 11 years was an incredible experience. Coach Cal promoted our program and encouraged our players at every turn. Thank you for your support, Cal! It made a difference!
I was very fortunate to work around so many talented coaches at Kentucky and I learned a lot from them all. Thanks to all! A special congratulations to Harry Mullins and Craig Skinner on leading their teams to NCAA National Championships this past year.
I was blessed to be surrounded by so many special people who worked largely behind the scenes of Kentucky Women’s Basketball. The support staff was incredible. I have a few special mentions for people I worked with daily:
Amy Tilley, our director of operations, helped me every single day, every step of the way. Amy, there is no possible way I would have been able to do my job without you! Thank you for your dedication, your creativity, your diligence and your loyalty. You are an amazing person!
Courtney Jones, our athletic trainer, did her job tirelessly and with excellence. No one worked harder to help people. Thank you one million times!
Tiffany Hayden, our academic advisor, helped us build a culture of academic excellence. Your commitment to helping the students move forward is something I will never forget. Many, many thanks!
Strength and conditioning coaches Stephanie Tracy-Simmons and John Spurlock helped our athletes develop and perform at the highest level. Thanks for helping us build tough teams!
Evan Crane, our media relations director, did an amazing job helping me navigate the complex world of media. We walked through some tough times together and I always valued your input. We had many laughs together and I’m happy we had a chance to work together.
A big thank you to the rest of our support team, Kortez Wilson, Beth Price, Carrie Marshall, Kim Troxall, Jackie Clark, Aisha Foy, Candice Chaffin, Rachel Baker, Pam Stackhouse, Ukari Figgs, Donna Cox, John Butler, Sandy Bell, Jenna Wesley, Kevin Sargent, Nathan Schwake, Kate Stoess, every student manager, student trainer, male practice player, game day staff/volunteer and the rest of the UK Athletics staff.
To our assistant coaches who spent countless hours developing our players, devising game plans, calling recruits, watching and evaluating games: I say a huge thank you! Niya Butts, Vonn Read, Wendy Palmer, Kyra Elzy, Matt Insell, Shalon Pillow, Danielle Santos, Jeff House, Christian Stefanopolous, Adeniyi Amadou, Camryn Whitaker and Tamika Williams-Jeter. You helped build a program that the Big Blue Nation is proud of!
To our basketball staff from 2017-2020: Kyra Elzy, Niya Butts, Lin Dunn, Amber Smith and Daniel Boice: I will be forever grateful for all of the hard work, belief and loyalty during a time when we had to build the program back to the Wildcat Standard! It was a tough journey, but one I am glad I traveled with all of you! You helped bring us back where Kentucky belongs!
To Kyra, you helped me be my professional best. Your listening ear, wise counsel and willingness to tell me what I needed to hear was powerful. You will lead us to the next great chapter in Kentucky Women’s Basketball history! The Mitchell Family will always be behind you cheering you on! Much love to you!
To my parents, John and Carol Mitchell. Thank you for your unwavering love and support. You taught me the principles that led to the success of our basketball program: Honesty, Hard Work and Discipline.
To Lacy Lea, Saylor Rose and Presley Blue: thank you for your love and support! Sharing victories with you will be some of my most cherished memories! I can’t wait to see what the future has in store!
To Jenna, there is no one who supported me more through my entire 15-year head coaching career. You never let me stray off course. You were always there, no matter what. We won 333 games TOGETHER! Your love, fierce loyalty and tenacious spirit kept me going through thick and thin! I thank God we were able to walk this journey together! I look forward to what is next for us! Thank you for always being there for me! You are the love of my life!
To Big Blue Nation – you allowed a guy, who can’t dance a lick, to perform for you every year and to have the time of my life! We had so much fun each year at Big Blue Madness! You packed Memorial Coliseum and Rupp Arena each year to support our team and your passion and energy was a direct contributor to the success of Kentucky Women’s Basketball. Please keep the energy high and keep supporting our program!
As Jenna and I enter a new chapter, we want the Central Kentucky community to know how grateful we are to be one of you. You opened your arms and welcomed us and we have always felt supported. We will continue to find ways to pay you back. We want to especially thank Phylis Cronin, Coach Wayne Martin, Doug Flynn and Kim Sweazy for teaching us how to serve this community. We will never stop working to make our community a better place for all!
Jenna and I thank God for leading us to Lexington 18 years ago! We love you all and we are excited to start the next chapter here in Lexington.
From the bottom of our hearts – thank you! Go Cats!
Matthew and Jenna Mitchell