Kyra Elzy named Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach at Duke

Duke women’s basketball head coach Kara Lawson announced Monday the hiring of Kyra Elzy as an assistant coach.

Regarded as one of the country’s elite recruiters and player development coaches, Elzy has helped sign nine top-20 recruiting classes, including four top-10 classes, since 2007 and helped develop some of the best talent in the SEC over the last decade.

“This is a big day for Duke Basketball. We are thrilled to welcome Kyra Elzy to The Sisterhood! She will immediately raise the level in our program,” said Lawson. “Kyra brings great integrity, tactical ability and passion to Durham. She is one of the best relationship builders I’ve been around. She’s been an elite player and coach. I look forward to pursuing championships together again!”

Elzy comes to Duke after previously serving as the head coach at the University of Kentucky from 2020-24. Overall, she spent 12 seasons on the UK sidelines, serving as an assistant coach and an associate head coach for the Wildcats (2008-12, 2016-20), before being named the eighth head coach in program history in 2020.

“I am elated beyond belief to join the Duke family and the incredible staff that Coach Lawson has assembled,” said Elzy. “Duke has a standard of excellence and competes at the highest level, and I look forward to being a part of this rich tradition. It is also a tremendous privilege to work with my sister and former teammate. Kara is a servant leader who embodies loyalty, family, and greatness, and I am grateful for this opportunity to assist her and to inspire, impact, and influence young women.”

In her first two seasons at the helm in 2020-21 and 2021-22, Elzy became the first head coach in program history to lead Kentucky to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in their first couple of seasons. The 2021 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Spalding Maggie Dixon Division I NCAA Rookie Coach of the Year also led Kentucky to the 2022 SEC Tournament title, its second in program history and first since 1982, when it defeated No. 1 South Carolina, 64-62.

During her tenure with the program (2008-12, 2016-2024), Elzy helped Kentucky to seven NCAA Tournaments, two Elite Eight appearances, six 20-win seasons – 28 wins in 2010 and 2012 – and 218 total wins, including 95 league games and 33 victories over ranked opponents. Additionally, she helped produce the program’s first No. 1 WNBA Draft pick in Rhyne Howard (2022).

Elzy coached five WNBA Draft selections (Evelyn Akhator, Victoria Dunlap, Makayla Epps, Rhyne Howard, A’dia Mathies), three SEC Players of the Year (Victoria Dunlap, A’dia Mathies, Rhyne Howard), three SEC Freshmen of the Year (A’dia Mathies, Bria Goss, Rhyne Howard), one SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Victoria Dunlap), two SEC 6th Women of the Year (Keyla Snowden, Chasity Patterson), two SEC Scholar-Athletes of the Year (Alyssa Rice, Maci Morris) while her players earn 44 All-SEC honors overall.

In-between her two stints at Kentucky, Elzy spent four years (2012-16) as an assistant coach and associate head coach at her alma mater Tennessee. With the Lady Vols, she helped the team post a 108-34 overall mark, win two SEC regular-season titles and one SEC tournament title and advance to three NCAA Elite Eights.

Elzy had three WNBA Draft selections at Tennessee with Diamond DeShields going third overall and Mercedes Russell going 22nd overall in 2018. Under Elzy’s tutelage, Tennessee’s Meighan Simmons went 26th overall in the WNBA Draft and was tabbed the SEC Player of the Year in 2014.

Elzy started her coaching career as an administrative assistant at Virginia Tech from 2001-02 before she was the recruiting coordinator and assistant coach at WKU from 2002-04. Her last stop before coming to Lexington in 2008 was a successful stint at Kansas from 2004-08.

A native of Oldham County, Kentucky, Elzy totaled over 3,000 points, 1,700 rebounds, 449 assists and 516 assists during her career at Oldham County High School. She was a two-time Parade Magazine and Street & Smith All-American and led the team to a pair of Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) Regional Championships. After graduation, Elzy continued her basketball career at Tennessee under legendary head coach Pat Summitt.

A four-year letterwinner and the 1997 Holly Warlick Defensive Player of the Year, Elzy was a member of two national championship teams in 1997 and 1998 and a national runner-up squad in 2000. She won four SEC regular-season championships and three SEC Tournament titles at Tennessee. Elzy was just the fifth freshman in Tennessee history to start her first game as a Lady Vol.

Elzy owns two degrees from Tennessee, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1999 followed by a master’s degree in cultural studies and education with an emphasis in sports psychology in 2001. She was the first Tennessee player to earn a master’s degree while still playing.

Elzy married Dexter Lander – also a Kentucky native – in August 2012 and the couple has one son, Jackson. Elzy was inducted into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Kentucky Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017.

Tagged with: