Kentucky women’s basketball coach Mickie DeMoss resigns

Kentucky just got a new men’s basketball coach. Now it’s searching for a women’s coach.

Coach Mickie DeMoss abruptly resigned Wednesday after four seasons in charge of the Kentucky women’s team, saying she wants to step away from the game, at least temporarily.

DeMoss told the players of her intentions early Wednesday, then announced her resignation at a news conference. She said she wanted to try other things in her life but didn’t rule out a return to coaching in the future.

“I don’t want to classify it as burnout,” DeMoss said. “I think it’s just a time – a transition time in my life.”

DeMoss, a former assistant coach to Pat Summitt at Tennessee, said Summitt tried to talk her out of the decision. She joked that Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart also tried to persuade her to stay with such enticements as a new desk, but that she told him Monday she would be stepping down.

She said Barnhart would have no trouble filling the job.

“It’s a great job,” DeMoss said. “There’s going to be a line wrapped around I-75 to apply for this job. The whole perception of Kentucky women’s basketball has changed nationally.”

Barnhart praised DeMoss for helping lift the national profile of women’s basketball at a school known for its men’s team. He stressed it was DeMoss’ decision and that he wanted her to stay.

“There’s no problems in our program,” Barnhart said. “None.”

Some of the players were in tears after the news conference.

“I think we’re all very surprised by the decision but everyone deserves to be happy, none more than coach DeMoss,” said sophomore guard Carly Ormerod. “This program is where it is today because of her.”

DeMoss’ departure means Kentucky will have a new coach for both the men’s and women’s programs. Billy Gillispie was hired last week as the men’s coach after Tubby Smith left for Minnesota.

“It’s kind of crazy that we’re sitting here in the same situation as (the men’s team),” said guard Samantha Mahoney.

DeMoss agreed to a new contract last year that would have kept her with the school through 2011 and would have paid her about $350,000 a season. When asked whether she would consider another offer for next season, DeMoss said, “At this point, yes.”

The Wildcats finished 20-14 (6-8 Southeastern Conference) this year, making the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. Last year, DeMoss led the Wildcats to their first NCAA tournament appearance in seven years and a breakout season that included a victory over the top-ranked Lady Vols.