By LARRY VAUGHT
When last season ended, Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell lost all of his assistant coaches for various reasons.
To rebuild his staff, he turned to two former assistants — Kyra Elzy and Niya Butts. They are both long-time friends.
‘There’s a one-to-one relationship with Kyra and there’s a one-to-one with Niya, and we have been connected for many, many years since they were in college. I’ve said this before, but they went to bat for me as a graduate assistant. They told Pat (Summitt) that they gave me a vote of confidence and I think they had a role in her feeling comfortable to hire me as a graduate assistant,” Mitchell said.
“We have a long-term, deep relationship and then they’re so close that the three of us are connected and there’s that dynamic in the relationship. It’s a very strong relationship. They’re very loyal people when I needed that. I was in a time of great need of loyalty and the quality of their expertise in coaching and getting this job done is something that I needed. So, it’s been great and it is fun. We have a lot of laughs together. We have a lot of history to draw on to reminisce, tell stories, remember things that are back 20 years.”
Mitchell said the two don’t “gang up on me” and that he is harder on them than they are on him.
“It’s a lot of fun having people that are at a place in their career where they are really here to try to serve our players and try to help them and it’s genuine and it’s so real and authentic and coming from a place of true caring for others. That’s been a wonderful thing to see and to have. So they’re two great people,” Mitchell said.
Except that are just a tad competitive as coaches just like they were as players. That’s part of what makes them good.
“They’re like sisters in a lot of respects where they’ll give each other a hard time and I think they’re very competitive. But I think it’s a healthy competition. At the end of the day, everybody on the staff – Kyra, Niya, Lin (Dunn), Amber (Smith), Amy Tilley, Beth Price – all of them in that office, we’re all for each other and that’s been a great thing to see happen. So it’s a good dynamic right now,” Mitchell said.