Home Shocker! Kenny Brooks leaving Virginia Tech for women’s basketball job at Kentucky

Shocker! Kenny Brooks leaving Virginia Tech for women’s basketball job at Kentucky

Chris Graham
Kenny Brooks
Photo: ACC/Jaylynn Nash

Gotta say, I didn’t have Kenny Brooks leaving Virginia Tech for Kentucky on my Bingo card.

Two days after his Hokies were upset out of the NCAA Tournament, Brooks has taken the job at Kentucky, leaving behind the program that he took to its first-ever Final Four just a year ago.

Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio had reported last week, on the eve of the tournament, that Brooks had interviewed for the job at Kentucky, which had fired four-year coach Kyra Elzy, who was 61-60 in four seasons in Lexington, back on March 11.

Brooks had signed a six-year, $6.4 million extension with Virginia Tech last summer that was to run through 2029; one can only imagine the money that UK is throwing at him to get him to leave.

A formal offer was made to Brooks early Tuesday, according to Jones, though thinking back on it now, was Brooks signaling what was to come in his postgame after the second-round loss to Baylor on Sunday night?

“When I got here, I think we were picked 14th in the ACC my first year. 13th or 14th. To get this program to where it is, and that building is loud, it wasn’t just because it was NCAA game, there were people there trying to make a good team great,” Brooks told reporters after the 75-72 loss.

“A lot of that has to do with the kids that we talked about earlier and what they’ve done and how they have represented. This is a passionate fan base. They will support you,” Brooks said. “All that combined, I still walk by, and I have basketballs in my house that say Final Four, and I still have to pinch myself. That was us. We were there, and we belong there.”

Wow. Just, wow.

This is a gut punch for Virginia Tech fans.

The Waynesboro native was 180-82 in his eight seasons at Tech, after leading the women’s program at his alma mater, JMU, where he was a four-year letterwinner for the legendary Lefty Driesell, to a 337-121 record in 14 seasons.

He took JMU to six NCAA Tournaments, then finished up his run at Virginia Tech with four consecutive trips to the Big Dance, with his 2022-2023 team winning the ACC Tournament and making it to the Final Four, where it lost 79-72 to eventual national champ LSU.

This year’s team seemed headed toward another deep NCAA Tournament run before losing three-time ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley in the regular-season finale, a loss at rival Virginia, earlier this month.

Tech went 2-2 in March after losing Kitley, getting bounced in the ACC Tournament semifinals by Notre Dame, then coming up short to Baylor in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night.

In addition to Kitley, Brooks also stood to have to account for the expected loss of point guard Georgia Amoore, a senior who does have one year of eligibility left, the COVID-redshirt year, but is widely expected to be headed to the WNBA, as a projected Top 10 pick in this summer’s draft.

Instead of rebuilding at Virginia Tech, then, Brooks will direct the rebuild at Kentucky, which is coming off a 12-20 season in 2023-2024.

The focus in Blacksburg for AD Whit Babcock is on what’s next.

“We hired Kenny in 2016 with the intent of revitalizing our women’s basketball program,” Babcock said. “Needless to say, Kenny, his staff and student-athletes created a culture of excellence on and off the court. He was an incredible mentor to the young women in our women’s basketball program and a terrific representative of our department and university. We wish Kenny and his family well in this next chapter of his career.

“I remain confident in the trajectory of our women’s basketball program and when combined with our resources, specifically NIL, that the future of our women’s basketball program is bright,” Babcock said.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].