The University of Arizona has named Niya Butts its new women’s basketball head coach, athletics director Jim Livengood announced today. She becomes Arizona’s eighth women’s basketball head coach in program history.
"We are absolutely thrilled to be starting a new era with Niya as our head coach,” Livengood said. “She brings playing experience, championship experience, coaching and recruiting experience and a bright, young mind. I can attest that we had a number of quality candidates for this job, but the direction we expect to head with Niya gives us immediate cause for optimism and downright anticipation. I believe everyone connected with the program will soon share those feelings – let's get this thing started."
Butts comes to Tucson from the University of Kentucky, where she spent the previous five seasons as an assistant coach. This past season, she served as Kentucky’s associate head coach, and was the program’s recruiting coordinator for three seasons.
“It is an amazing feeling to be the head coach at Arizona,” Butts said. “This is the opportunity I have been waiting for. Arizona is a great place, and I am looking forward to taking the Wildcats to the next level.”
During her tenure at Kentucky, Butts helped coach the Wildcats to an 88-72 record over five seasons, with a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2005-06 and three WNIT appearances. This past season, Butts helped lead Kentucky to a 17-16 overall record, an 8-6 mark in the SEC and a WNIT quarterfinal appearance.
Before her stint at Kentucky, Butts spent the 2002-03 season as an assistant coach at Michigan State. Butts helped coach MSU to a 17-12 overall record that season and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans’ first since 1997. Prior to Michigan State, Butts spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Tennessee Tech, leading the Golden Eaglettes to two Ohio Valley Conference regular-season championships.
Butts played collegiately at the University of Tennessee for Pat Summitt, where she was a four-year letter winner and a member of two NCAA Championship teams (1997, 1998). The Lady Vols won three SEC titles (1998, 1999, 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 and earned Tennessee’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.
Butts, 30, is a native of Americus, Ga.
What They Say About Butts
Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee Head Coach
“Niya Butts is one of the bright young coaches in the women’s collegiate game. I see this as a tremendous opportunity for her to take over the reins of her own program at Arizona and to compete in one of the nation’s best conferences – the Pac-10. I see her taking the same qualities I saw in her as a player en route to two NCAA Championships – doing all the little things right – and applying them as a head coach at Arizona.”
Lin Dunn, Indiana Fever Head Coach
“Wow, Arizona sure hit the jackpot. The great thing about Niya is that she has the experience of playing at the championship level and she has great experience coaching in the SEC. That experience will benefit her in building Arizona into a national power. I can’t think of a better young coach to take over at Arizona. She is the best of the best.”
Matthew Mitchell, University of Kentucky Head Coach
“I am thrilled for Niya. She is extremely deserving of her position at Arizona. I have worked with no one in my career that has her unique combination of skills to excel as a coach. I have no doubt in my mind that she will turn Arizona into one of the top programs in the country that will last for many years. She helped take Kentucky from the bottom of the SEC to being one of the top-four teams in a short period of time, a testament to her ability to recruit and coach.”
Debbie Antonelli, TV Analyst
“I have watched Niya in practice and during shootarounds and she is one of the most capable and well-prepared young coaches I have seen in the business. She has the pedigree of a champion and I know she will take Arizona to new levels. I am excited for Niya, Arizona and the Pac-10 to get a young, aggressive, innovative coach to challenge the league quickly. Her hard work during her playing days carried over to the sidelines, and I believe the future will be bright for the Arizona basketball program.”
Mickey DeMoss, Former Kentucky Head Coach
"Niya is certainly one of the game's up and coming young coaches in the country. I've known her since 10th grade when I recruited her as a player to Tennessee. I had the opportunity to hire her at Kentucky, and she hit the road running, making a huge difference to that program, notably in recruiting. She is a driven young lady, very mature and very focused. Arizona is very fortunate to have her."