New UK women’s basketball coach Brooks eager to awake ‘sleeping giant’

Published 11:45 am Monday, April 1, 2024

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When Kenny Brooks was mentioned as a possible candidate women’s basketball coaching vacancy at Kentucky, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart wasn’t sure he could lure the former longtime Virginia coach to Lexington.

It turned out to the be easier than Barnhart thought as one phone call is all it took for Brooks to become the ninth women’s basketball coach at Kentucky.

“There was an outreach and and there was an interest,” Barnhart said following a press conference Thursday. “And, frankly, the brand of Kentucky basketball and, the Southeastern Conference, was a big draw for us. I think that was important. But at the end of the day, it was an easy conversation with him, and that’s what made it so nice.”

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What also made it nice for Brooks is his family didn’t hesitate when he told them about being approached by Barnhart. They were ready for the next journey, he said.

“I just thought it was, in my gut, the right move,” he said. “I talked to my wife extensively about the situation and my family, because they are most important to me and they were on board.”

Brooks said he wasn’t scanning the country for potential job openings and was happy at Virginia Tech. However, he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to coach the Wildcats.

“It sounds surreal, but when you think about Kentucky, you think about basketball,” he said. “When I was approached about a situation that could possibly be with Kentucky basketball, I wasn’t looking. I wasn’t looking. We had a wonderful thing going. What we did at Virginia Tech was very, very special. What we did, created a buzz for women’s basketball, that is much needed and much deserved. I was extremely proud about that.”

The first priority, Brooks said, is to create that same excitement and anticipation that he instilled with the Hokies at Kentucky.

“We needed to win basketball games (at Virginia Tech),” he said. “But we needed to bring awareness to women’s basketball. And I’m looking forward to that challenge here. I know Big Blue Nation is very passionate about their Wildcats.”

The newly hired Kentucky coach also wants his players and staff to be visible on and off the court and become the face of the program while in public.

“That is how you build a program,” he said. “That is how you build awareness for women’s basketball that these young ladies need and deserve. And when we are able to get to that point, we are going to capitalize on it. I’m extremely excited to get to work.”

When he took over at Virginia Tech eight years ago, he saw the potential and took the school to the Final Four last year. He sees the same qualities at Kentucky.

“What I came up with is it’s going to be a sleeping giant that needs to be awakened,” he said. “I am here and I’m going to come in here and we are going to work.”