After finishing her first season with more wins than any other first-year head coach in the nation, University of Kentucky women’s basketball head coach Kyra Elzy has earned the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Spalding Maggie Dixon NCAA Division I NCAA Rookie Coach of the Year.
The Spalding Maggie Dixon NCAA Division I Rookie Coach of the Year award is named in honor of the late Maggie Dixon, former Army head coach, whose success during her inaugural year at the Black Knights’ helm was remarkable. Dixon was named 2006 Patriot League Coach of the Year after leading Army to the conference title and its first-ever NCAA Division I tournament appearance. Dixon passed away on April 6, 2006, just a few weeks following the Black Knights’ appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
It was a successful first season for the Wildcats under Elzy, who led Kentucky to a 18-9 season overall and 9-6 mark in Southeastern Conference play. The Wildcats were ranked inside the top 20 of the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today/Coaches Top 25 all season long. The Wildcats earned a No. 4 seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, which was UK’s first top-four seed since 2017. Elzy led Kentucky to wins in both the SEC and NCAA Tournaments and became the first UK women’s basketball head coach to lead her team to the NCAA Tournament in her first season at the helm.
During the season, Kentucky defeated five ranked opponents, which was its most since 2016. The Wildcats’ ranked wins were against No. 13 Indiana, No. 10 Arkansas, No. 12 Mississippi State, No. 16 Tennessee and No. 17 Georgia. The wins against Arkansas and Mississippi State were back-to-back marking the first time UK has won two straight against top-15 teams since 2013. The two wins led Elzy to be named the espnW National Coach of the Week by the United States Basketball Writers Association tabbed UK its first-ever team of the week. UK was one of 10 teams in the nation to have four wins against top-25 NCAA NET teams entering the tournament.
Following the retirement in early November of Matthew Mitchell, who is the winningest head coach in program history, Kentucky Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart moved quickly to named Elzy as the interim head coach. After a 6-0 start, Barnhart removed the interim tag on Dec. 14 as Elzy signed a contract to stay the program’s head coach until 2025-26.
Elzy spent eight seasons as an assistant coach for Kentucky, including six of those years as associate head coach. She has been a part of some of the best seasons in program history. In nine years with the Kentucky program, the Wildcats have been to the NCAA Tournament seven times, including two NCAA Elite Eights. UK won the SEC Regular Season Championship in 2012 – only its second in program history. UK has had a winning season in eight of those nine seasons, including six 20-win seasons and six 10+ wins in league play.
Under Elzy, UK has won 199 games, including 87 league games and 28 vs. ranked teams. At Kentucky, Elzy has coached three SEC Player of the Year (Victoria Dunlap, A’dia Mathies, Rhyne Howard), three SEC Freshman of the Year (A’dia Mathies, Bria Goss, Rhyne Howard), one SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Victoria Dunlap), two SEC 6th Woman of the Year (Keyla Snowden, Chasity Patterson), two SEC Scholar-Athletes of the Year (Alyssa Rice and Maci Morris) and her players have earned 41 All-SEC honors overall.