By Kindsey Bernhard
The University of Kentucky women’s basketball team is nearing the final games of its season and sits fourth in the SEC standings, one game behind Texas A&M and one game ahead of both Missouri and Tennessee.
Lin Dunn, a Hall of Fame coach who came out of retirement to serve as a UK assistant coach this season, is “very optimistic” about the progress the team has made.
What many fans don’t know about Dunn is after retiring from coaching in 2014 and being inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, she did not step away from women’s basketball completely. She began a consulting program with women’s college basketball coaches and programs around the country. Dunn’s company helped head coaches and their teams fix particular areas of the program.
One of the teams Dunn was working with last season was Kentucky and coach Matthew Mitchell.
“One of the things I like do is help coaches,” Dunn said. “You know I’m not trying to help you beat someone; I’m trying to help you be better. And so when Matthew asked for some help, I was receptive.”
Dunn had been working with Mitchell and his program in a consulting role last season when six players and three coaches. When Mitchell asked Dunn to join his staff, she didn’t hesitate to join a program surrounded by turmoil and speculation.
“I had an inside look at what was taking place,” Dunn said. “I also had an inside look because I had attended his practices. How he ran his practices. How he ran his team. So I felt like that Matthew, because he is a good person, because he is a good coach, he is a good father, he could get this back on track. And so I was very receptive to helping him because he is a good person. He’s worth helping.”
Dunn has known the kind of person Mitchell and knew she wanted to help Mitchell turn around his program.
“I’ve known Matthew since he was a graduate assistant at Tennessee,” Dunn said. “So I’ve known him for a long time. He is what I consider one of the people from the (Tennessee coaching legend) Pat Summit coaching tree. He worked for Carol Ross who worked for Mickie DeMoss who worked for Pat Summit, all dear close friends of mine. So that was another reason why I wanted to help Matthew any way I could.”
Dunn believes that the exodus of players and coaches had nothing to do with how Mitchell coaches and treats his player, but more about people who did not fit his system.
Before this season, Mitchell hired two coaches with whom he was familiar: Niya Butts and Kyra Elzy. Both had previously worked under Mitchell at Kentucky as assistant coaches.
“I think what he’s done now is, he has the type of staff that he should have,” Dunn said. “He’s got Kyra Elzy and Niya Butts, both extremely experienced, both have won championships. Both know what it takes to win championships.”
Each assistant coach brings her own basketball expertise to the team. Dunn’s main responsibilities are offense and scouting the opponent.
“I think primarily if you were to say ‘what is your number one role on this staff,’ it would be from the offensive perspective, game situations that relate to offense. I am also deeply involved in scouting of the opponents. So I feel like I provide him a great resource when it comes to offense.“
Dunn’s has one other responsibility while on the bench. That role is acting as the calming factor for Mitchell. He is known to be vocal with the referees after calls he does not agree with or understand.
“I also feel like my role is to be a calming factor for him in practice, during the games and any situation because I feel like the other two assistants are being much more full engaged verbally as well as he is,” Dunn said.
Dunn’s ability to stay calm during these situations allows her to calm Mitchell and bring him back to the bench.
“And so I think it’s important that I can when I feel like when he is perhaps a little irate at the officials or upset about a call, I can calm him down because I’m calm,” Dunn said. “And so I feel like that’s my role; that’s something I need to do for him.”
Dunn has done that job successfully. With just a handful of games left, Mitchell hasn’t received a technical or been ejected, which he has in the past.
With four games left on the schedule, including Mississippi State at home and South Carolina in Columbia, both ranked in the top five, UK Hoops hopes to stay in the top four of the SEC standings to secure a first-round bye in the women’s SEC Tournament the first week of March.
Kindsey Bernhard is a journalism senior at the University of Kentucky. She is from Ft. Wright and played high school basketball at Notre Dame Academy.