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Kentucky fires Kyra Elzy as women's coach, just 2 years after winning first SEC crown since 1982

Kentucky fired women’s basketball coach Kyra Elzy on Monday after consecutive losing seasons that followed the Wildcats’ first Southeastern Conference Tournament championship since 1982.

Kentucky fell 76-62 to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament on Thursday to conclude an 11-20 finish, including 4-12 in league play during the regular season. Elzy was 61-60 in four seasons and 8-3 in the conference tournament, but Kentucky has failed to reach the quarterfinal round in two seasons since winning the title. This season’s bottom-half finish follows last season’s 12-19 mark (2-14 SEC).

Athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a news release that he appreciated Elzy's efforts at Kentucky on and off the court and wished her and her family “the best in the future.”

The Wildcats struggled down the stretch, with 10 losses in 13 games, including a season sweep by No. 1 South Carolina by an average of 55 points. Kentucky has struggled against other SEC opponents, with four recent losses by at least 14 points.

Elzy, a former Tennessee player, had served several stints totaling eight years as a Kentucky assistant under Matthew Mitchell, most recently from 2016-20 as associate head coach. Mitchell’s sudden retirement just before the 2020-21 season thrust her into the interim coaching role, with that tag removed that December following an impressive start to the season.

Elzy’s initial squad, which featured two-time SEC Player of the Year and eventual three-time first-team All-American guard Rhyne Howard, reached the SEC Tournament quarterfinals and NCAA Tournament's second round. A remarkable run to the SEC championship followed the next spring, capped by a 64-62 upset of top-ranked South Carolina in the tournament final on Edwards’ late game-winning 3-pointer.

The sixth-seeded Wildcats fell to No. 11 seed Princeton in the NCAA first round. Howard went on to become the program’s first No. 1 overall WNBA draft pick, selected by the Atlanta Dream.

Kentucky has struggled to follow up that milestone, and injuries this season haven’t helped; the Wildcats used 12 starting combinations and the same starters for just five recent games.

Elzy also was an assistant coach at Tennessee, where she won two national championships as a player under Hall of Famer Pat Summitt from 1996-2001, and at Kansas and Western Kentucky.

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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball