LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky women’s basketball associate head coach Niya Butts has resigned in order to accept the head coaching position at Arizona, Coach Matthew Mitchell announced Thursday.
Butts, a native of Americus, Ga., came to Kentucky in April of 2003 and was an integral part of the Wildcats’ turnaround and ascension back into the national spotlight. She spent four seasons as an assistant coach under Mickie DeMoss before being promoted to associate head coach by Mitchell in 2007. With Butts at the helm of the recruiting efforts the last four seasons, Kentucky nabbed two top 10 and four straight top 25 recruiting classes.
“It is a bitter sweet day for me because on one hand I’m very sad to lose not only a great coach who has done so much for this program but I am losing one of my best friends and I will miss working with her,” Mitchell said. “It also is a proud day because I know how much she has prepared for this opportunity and I am so happy for her. I think Arizona made a tremendous choice.”
With Butts’ help, the Wildcats advanced to a school-record four consecutive postseason tournaments (one NCAA and three WNIT) and compiled an overall record of 88-72 (55.0%) in her five seasons.
Prior to Kentucky, Butts spent one season as an assistant coach at Michigan State, helping coach the Spartans to a 17-12 overall record in the 2002-03 season and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997. She also was as an assistant coach at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tenn., for two seasons. The Golden Eaglettes won the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) regular-season championship in both 2001 and 2002.
In her eight-year career as an assistant coach, Butts compiled an impressive 151-92 overall record (62.1%).
Butts also excelled as a student-athlete as she was a four-year letter winner and a member of two NCAA Championship teams (1997 and 1998) under legendary coach Pat Summitt at Tennessee. The Lady Vols won three SEC titles (1998, 1999 and 2000) during her tenure and she was voted the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1997. She also won the Lady Vols’ Unsung Hero Award that season. Butts was a three-time Academic All-SEC selection (1998, 1999 and 2000) and earned UT’s Academic Achiever of the Week four times. She played in 111 career games at UT and graduated in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in social work and a minor in psychology. She received a master’s degree in education from Tennessee Tech in 2002.