What Kenny Brooks' exit from Virginia Tech means for Kentucky

Two days after being upset by fourth-seeded Virginia Tech in the second round of the women's NCAA tournament, Kenny Brooks has resigned from the hockey team to take over as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats.

Brooks, a Virginia native, is leaving Blacksburg after eight seasons. He led Virginia Tech to its first Final Four appearance in 2023 and has compiled a 180-82 record since taking over in 2017. In Lexington, Brooks replaces Kyra Elzy, who was let go this month after back-to-back losing seasons.

In 22 seasons as a Division I coach, Brock has a career winning percentage of .717. He had just one losing record, in 2003-04, his second season at James Madison, where he coached for 14 years before joining Virginia Tech. Brooks was 8-4 against SEC teams with the Hokies.

Virginia Tech led the ACC in offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage in 2023-24, while Kentucky was last in both categories last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

How will Brooks fit into the SEC? What is Virginia Tech's path forward? We take a look.

What did Brooks bring to Kentucky?

Kentucky reached its greatest period of success in women's basketball with three trips to the Elite Eight in a four-season span from 2010-13 under coach Matthew Mitchell. After retiring for health and family reasons just prior to the 2020-21 season, Elzy was promoted from her assistant role to head coach and led the Wildcats to the program's second SEC Championship title in 2022.

Kentucky has had real success, but also some years. For a long time, it was difficult to be the “other” basketball program in Big Blue Nation. It's not that different from the situation for women's hoops teams at places like Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina, where the spotlight on legendary men's programs can be all-consuming.

That has gradually changed over the years, to the point where the spotlight could expand to other sports at those schools. We know how much Kentucky basketball is loved, and Brooks can capitalize on that.

Entering the SEC has its pros and cons. From a conference stability standpoint, the SEC is very strong. There is a lot of visibility to SEC programs. But the league has been dominated by one program — South Carolina — over the past decade, and Gamecocks coach Don Staley shows no signs of slowing down.

Additionally, LSU is the defending national champion, and perennial NCAA championship programs like Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC. The conference, even in the so-called down seasons, is stacked.

This must be a difficult step for Brooks, a Virginia native who has, to this point, spent his entire coaching career there. Now, he's moving from one commonwealth to another, from a league where the hockey team won the regular-season title this year to one where doing so might be as difficult as winning a national championship. But his success at James Madison University and Virginia Tech is a good indication that he is up to the challenge. — Michael Vobel

What does Brooks' departure mean for Virginia Tech?

The 2024-25 campaign was already going to be a transitional one for the Hokies after three-time ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley ended her college career. There was no guarantee that American Georgia Amore, a senior, would stay for the fifth year. But with Brooks now gone, presumably taking members of the program with him, Blacksburg has a daunting task ahead of it in keeping hockey at the level they achieved under Brooks.

It took time for Brooks, who arrived before the 2016-17 season, to transform Virginia Tech into an ACC and national contender, building a fan base that became one of the most electric in the country. Athletic director Whit Babcock must find a leader who can maintain a strong sense of culture within the program and prevent it from sliding back into its days of irrelevance (the Hokies achieved their first winning record in ACC play under Brooks and went 15 years without an NCAA tournament appearance before He will participate in it for the first time in 2021).

Sean Bobby, who worked under Brooks for years at Virginia Tech, would have made a lot of sense as Brooks' successor, but as of Tuesday morning, he was reportedly taking over the head coaching position at Clemson. It will be fascinating to see what types of candidates Blacksburg can attract in this college sports landscape and with uncertainty mounting within the ACC. — Alexa Filippo

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