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Kentucky hires Kenny Brooks as women's basketball coach after successful tenure at Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Kenny Brooks gets crowd involved during the second half of a second-round college basketball game in the women's NCAA Tournament against Baylor in Blacksburg, Va., Sunday, March 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Robert Simmons)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky hired Kenny Brooks as women's basketball coach after a successful tenure with Virginia Tech highlighted by the ACC regular season championship a year after winning the tournament title and reaching its first Final Four.

The school announced Brooks' hiring on Tuesday afternoon, hours after Virginia Tech said he would leave the program. Kentucky will introduce Brooks as its ninth coach on Thursday afternoon.

Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement the school was “extremely excited” to bring Brooks aboard and cited his past success developing players at James Madison and Virginia Tech while guiding both programs to success.

“When you combine his coaching excellence with his vision for this program and his passion to take us there, he is ideally suited to be head coach of the Wildcats,” Barnhart said.

Brooks thanked Virginia Tech “for the most joyful journey” of his coaching career and expressed excitement in coming to Kentucky and competing in the Southeastern Conference.

"I don’t plan on wasting any time building a positive atmosphere, winning environment and a persistent program that Big Blue Nation can be proud of,” Brooks said.

Brooks will follow Kyra Elzy at Kentucky. She was fired March 11 after consecutive losing seasons since winning the school’s first Southeastern Conference Tournament title since 1982.

Earlier Tuesday, Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock wished Brooks and his family well and called him “an incredible mentor” to the program and a terrific representative of the school.

The Waynesboro, Virginia, native went 180-82 with at least 20 wins in seven of his eight seasons in Blacksburg, leading the Hokies to their first Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament title last year before winning the 2024 regular season title. Virginia Tech won a school-record 31 games last season on the way to its Final Four appearance before falling to eventual national champion LSU.

The Hokies (25-7) were seeded fourth in their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament and reached the second round before falling 75-72 to No. 5 seed Baylor on Sunday.

“We hired Kenny in 2016 with the intent of revitalizing our women’s basketball program," Babcock said. "Needless to say, Kenny, his staff and student-athletes created a culture of excellence on and off the court.”

Babcock added that the school will begin a national search for Brooks’ replacement immediately.

Brooks went 337-122 at James Madison and was the Dukes' winningest coach, leading them to 11 consecutive postseason appearances with six NCAA berths and five WNIT appearances. JMU went 60-3 in Colonial Athletic Association play during his final three seasons at the school in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

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