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Is Kentucky's Matthew Mitchell The Coolest Coach In College Hoops?

10/17/2014

He's the school's all-time winningest women's basketball coach. He has led Kentucky to three Elite Eights and a school-record five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, all while maintaining a 100 percent graduation rate.

And even in a state that is synonymous with basketball, none of that is what Matthew Mitchell is most known for in the Bluegrass. Five years ago, Mitchell received a tip from an assistant coach. "If you do this dance, we'll get this recruit," the assistant said.

The assistant was suggesting that Mitchell dance in front of a sold-out Rupp Arena at Kentucky's "Big Blue Madness," the unofficial start of the Wildcats' men's and women's basketball seasons. Mitchell danced, but he didn't get the recruit he wanted.

The initial recruiting whiff hasn't stopped Mitchell from doing bigger and better dances each year since. To fully appreciate Mitchell's annual tradition, one must understand the magnitude of the Madness event in Kentucky and how much work goes into the dances.

Last month, 760 tents were reported on Kentucky's campus during a three-day camp-out for tickets to this year's event (ESPN3, 7 p.m. ET Friday). A lot of eyeballs will be watching as Mitchell's team and coach John Calipari's highly touted men's squad are introduced to the Big Blue Nation. Mitchell will once again take full advantage of the spotlight to promote his team.

Mitchell says that he didn't expect the fans to respond to his dances the way they have. "I didn't think anything about the fans," Mitchell said, "but I thought recruits would like it. I was surprised by the reaction from our fans."

Fans might love Mitchell's routines, but his players are the coach's toughest critics. "Everyone on the team is a better dancer than Coach Mitchell," senior guard Bria Goss said.

"I'm not a good dancer, but I'm not sure I'd be on board with Bria on that," Mitchell said.

Kentucky's dance team coach, Dawn Walters, has worked with Mitchell to improve his dance skills. The seniors on the dance team also take part in the tradition with their own roles in the dance.

Despite the hard work and praise from fans, Mitchell doesn't take much credit for his performances. "The dances themselves are really bad, but Kentucky puts their resources into it," Mitchell said. "Our marketing department puts up with a lot of nonsense and does a great job. I really appreciate them."

Mitchell has performed the "Dougie," MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This" and Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." What does Mitchell have planned for this year? Tune in Friday night to find out. Coverage of Midnight Madness events from across the country will be live on ESPNU from 6-9 p.m. ET.