‘Dynamic Duo'

Kyra Elzy and Jolette Law are about to coach in their first Sweet 16 as part of the Tennessee staff. This Q&A with the insightful and amusing duo ran in the preseason and is reprinted here for online subscribers.

Tennessee has two new assistants on the sideline this season in Kyra Elzy and Jolette Law. The two sat down in preseason with for a question-and-answer session intended to get to know them better.

Elzy, 34 a former Lady Vol player – she was coached by now head coach Holly Warlick – and Law, 45, who arrived at Tennessee by way of Illinois, intersected for years on the recruiting circuit. The close friends are now sharing a program in orange, and they opened up about their lives off the court – and dreams on it – with InsideTennessee.

INSIDETENNESSEE: Kyra, you are all over Twitter with status updates. Jolette, not so much. How can you help her be a better Twitter user?

Kyra Elzy: She's a re-tweet. I tweet. She re-tweets.

Jolette Law: And I direct message.

INSIDETENNESSEE: Kyra, do you see it as a way to reach people? What is the purpose of Twitter right now?

Kyra: It's another platform that we can use to let them know what is going on with our program and what the staff is doing. Another way for them to get to know us.

INSIDETENNESSEE: Kyra, you just recently got married to Dexter Lander and then proceeded to hit the road to recruit. Is he the most understanding man on the planet right now?

Kyra: (with much laughter while Jolette emphatically nods her head) Yes, he is very, very understanding.

Jolette: I wish he had a twin.

Kyra: You have to find somebody who is understanding.

Jolette: I am a workaholic. I have just got to find somebody who is just as understanding, if not more understanding, than he is.

Kyra: I'll be tired on the road and be like I am ready to come home, and he'll be like, ‘No, you won't. Y'all haven't signed any kids!' But, yes, he is very supportive.

INSIDE TENNESSEE: Jolette, tell me something I don't know about Kyra.

Jolette: The team knows her as the drill sergeant, but she is the most kind, warm person that you will ever want to meet. And she tries to play like she is tough all the time, but she is very genuine and very kind. She has that drill sergeant side, but she is a very compassionate person.

INSIDETENNESSEE: That was very sweet. Kyra, tell us something about Jolette.

Kyra: I know! She was very sweet. She has an outgoing personality but extremely shy. She is a little brainiac. She almost has like a little nerd side to her, very, very intelligent. We were going to camp with fifth-graders, and she was in my office and talking transition drills.

I said, ‘Bring it down. Slow it down. Too complex.' She started laughing. Her brain just works so fast, but I was like, ‘Slow it down for them, sweetie. Dribble.' She had made a whole plan for these fifth-graders. At camp.

INSIDETENNESSEE: Coaches get very little time to themselves because you work what are essentially year-round and seven-days-a-week jobs, especially as assistants. But when you do, what do you like to do in your free time?

Jolette: Like Kyra said I am sort of a nerd. You will probably catch me at Barnes & Noble, at a bookstore or all to myself reading. I watch television but most of the kids are like, ‘You don't know what Basketball Wives is?' I would rather listen to jazz and be to myself and read.

Kyra: I like to clean. That calms my mind. I like to read. And you wouldn't believe this, but I am addicted to crazy shows. I get very intrigued. Hoarders. My Strange Addiction. I try to figure out why they would want to eat the drywall. And my husband is like, ‘You are so weird.' Or one day we were watching the girl on My Strange Addiction, and she was eating toilet paper and I was like, ‘Dexter, let's try some.' I am intrigued on why their mind works like that.

INSIDETENNESSEE: Just to be clear and so the fans won't be concerned about you, you didn't actually eat toilet paper did you?

Kyra: No, I didn't. I was just so intrigued on why she wanted to eat the toilet paper. It's just very fascinating to me.

Jolette: She would go on Fear Factor.

Kyra: I would love to. I could do all of that as long as they didn't put me underwater. Eating the bugs and all that stuff, that wouldn't bother me.

INSIDETENNESSEE: Jolette, you have been a head coach at Illinois – after assistant roles at Ball State and Rutgers – so you have firsthand experience with this question. Kyra, you have been an assistant at Western Kentucky, Kansas, Kentucky and now Tennessee. If you both suddenly became the head coach at Tennessee, what is the first thing you do?

First-year Tennessee assistant coach Jolette Law once competed for the Harlem Globetrotters.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
Kyra: That's a great question. If I was in charge, one, I would make sure that I have a great staff in place to help me run the show. But I think my first phone call would be to coach Summitt for advice. Who better to talk to, to know how the place runs, how to keep it successful, who to reach out to and how to continue to connect with the fans. Coach Summitt would be my lifeline.

Jolette: The staff is going to be crucial. I would definitely call coach Summitt. I would assess where we are right now and where we're going. I would utilize everybody from top to bottom, support staff, everybody. I would definitely get in and connect with my players, one on one, team meetings. And planning out the first 90 days. What are my first 90 days going to entail?

Kyra: I would be like, ‘Who can we sign real quickly to help us?'

Jolette: Reach out to the fans and the community, get involved and try to find out what I have to do in these 90 days to keep this ship going in the direction that we're going.

INSIDETENNESSEE: Now for a completely opposite question, if you suddenly weren't coaching anymore, what would you want to do?

Jolette: I would definitely want to be connected with kids and also I would do a lot of things in missionary work, giving back. People that know me know that I would give you the shirt off of my back. I would love to go overseas, do different causes, help get little kids shoes, giving back. I always wanted to do something like the Peace Corps, being in the trenches with everybody.

Kyra: Have babies. I am just kidding. I could see myself in social work working with little kids. I would probably try to adopt all 20 of them. I could have my own reality TV show. I could do something in social work or start my own nonprofit organization. Eventually, one of my dreams is to open up in my hometown (of LaGrange, Ky.) something that gives children the opportunity through sport to lure them in and basically they can have life skills, working on their SAT, studying and to show them a life through education as a way to be successful.

INSIDETENNESSEE: Jolette, would Kyra be suited for that?

Jolette: Kyra can do pretty much anything. I can see Kyra running her own organization. I could see her in charge. She is very good at delegating. She is highly organized. I can see her being a CEO of a corporation. I can see her in corporate America. I also can see her running a team, a general manager of a WNBA team. I can definitely see her being in charge.

She has the ability to say, ‘I love you, but you are not getting the job done. Let me explain to you. This is what I am looking for, this, this, this and this.' I can see her being a head coach. I can see it. She is very good at being a great assistant, not a good assistant but a great assistant, but I also can see her sitting in the seat as a head coach.

INSIDETENNESSEE: Kyra, what else could Jolette do?

Kyra: I could definitely see her in charge of a Boys and Girls Club, working with teams and running an organization as well. I wouldn't be surprised if she got into some kind of counseling, therapy. She is very good at listening. I could see her as Dr. Law.

It's a great skill. That is what she does. She has a lot of patience and understanding, very compassionate and her personality is kind of laidback so she baits them in, but then she'll move in for the kill. But it's really soft.

INSIDETENNESSEE: Kyra, you grew up in LaGrange, Kentucky; Jolette, you grew up in Florence, South Carolina. Both are small towns in the South. What were your lives like growing up? What are your childhood memories?

Jolette: My mother and father, Joseph and Lena – he is deceased now and my name was going to be Jolena – they set the standards high, not let anything distract me from education and what was important. My mom and dad always made me think outside the box. At a very young age they got me involved in everything imaginable. I was in 4-H.

Kyra: I was in 4-H, too!

Jolette: Everything that my school offered my mother was like, ‘My daughter is going to that.' They wanted me to not think about limiting myself to Florence, South Carolina. If it was something in sports – I am a better softball player than I am at basketball; I was at shortstop and third and then when we played slow pitch I would be center because I could back everyone up – they got me involved. And they just made sure they focused on education. Self-esteem.

I had boundaries, but my mom and dad wanted me to (expand horizons outside of own neighborhood). I was probably the only minority (at some events,) but they never made me look at black and white and I thank them for that because at a very young age I would go hang out with friends and spend the night. I think they did a great job.

I am from South Carolina and I went to Iowa (to play basketball for C. Vivian Stringer, who is now the head coach at Rutgers). I was comfortable. I had a great experience.

Kyra: I grew up in a small town, very country. My mother, Sheryl, raised me. All of her family are there so I grew up with a lot of family, love and support. I was the hyper child. I was everywhere all day, energy. So my mom put me in everything. The doctor wanted to put me on medication to calm me down, Ritalin, and my mom said no. They told her peanut butter has something in it, one of the chemicals in it, to calm you down, so I would be running around and my mom would be like, ‘Here's your peanut butter. Take some of this.' Or she would be like, ‘We've got a peanut butter sandwich. Peanut butter. Come on.' She would give me the whole spoon.

INSIDETENNESSEE: Did it work?

Jolette: It works now. She gets going and I say, ‘Here, peanut butter.'

Kyra: My mom was very hard-working. My family is very hard-working. They are like roll up your sleeves, nothing is going to be handed to you, you have to go get what you want. I played basketball. I ran track, cross country. Walking the streets and not going to school, that wasn't even an option. My mom worked in the prison for 20 years, maximum security, so she is very, very, very disciplined. Now she is a drill sergeant.

INSIDETENNESSEE: Jolette, so that's where she gets it from?

Jolette: She says, ‘I am nothing like my mom,' and I am like, ‘You are your mother. In a good way.'

Kyra: Getting an education was extremely important. It's not like they had a lot of money, but if I made good grades or did well in sports, they would give me anything that I needed, they would give my family anything, as long as you're trying to help yourself.

INSIDETENNESSEE: Kyra, how has Holly Warlick changed since you were a player?

Kyra: Her role is different now. I was telling Jolette that it is good for me to see, but it's different, because when I played she was the buffer and the liaison from the wrath of coach Summitt. She was more, ‘Y'all are alright. Let me give you a hug. Let me give you some cookies.' And now she is in charge. She has the final say-so. So to see her grow and develop into that role has been very enlightening.

Elzy's mother attempted to use peanut butter on her as a child to calm her down.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
INSIDETENNESSEE: Jolette, you could have taken some time off after leaving Illinois but instead got back right into coaching. What made it so easy to come to Tennessee after Kyra took one of the assistant openings?

Jolette: I had the utmost respect for Kyra. I thought she was one of the up and rising stars. They always called me the old recruiter. I saw Kyra as the new wave recruiter. From afar I always respected her. Every time I was in the gym I would be the last one to leave and I would look around the gym to see who was actually working and she was always that person. First one in the gym, last one to leave. I would talk to certain kids or see different kids and ask who they were talking to and they would say, ‘Oh, coach Elzy.' I've always look at her like she has that edge. She is that recruiter I don't want to ever go up against.

I call her my best friend. Because I was really going to take a sabbatical. Get my mind right. But I told my best friend there is only one person – and I always respected this program – but if there's one person that takes the job it will really be a sign from God that I need to really, really, really do this. If Kyra leaves Kentucky – because I was like I don't know if she's going to leave because that's her home state – and she comes back to Tennessee, I would love to work with her. I tell everybody we can be a Dynamic Duo. I was in constant prayer. If it were up to me, I would have taken the sabbatical.

Kyra: She will probably remind me of that.

Jolette: I prayed. I said, ‘God, I know you have me at this point. What's next for me? If you can just give me some sign, I am going to wait on you.' I left it there and forgot about it. I was out in Arizona and then I had to go to Dallas and then she took the job. I said, ‘Be careful what you ask for.'

Obviously when she talked to me it made my decision a lot easier. I am very high on who I work with and who I am around. Who can get the best out of me? She can drive me. She is driving me now and inspiring me to do different things. She always says she is learning a lot from me, but I am learning a lot from her as well. She helped me with my decision, and I thank God I didn't let this opportunity pass me by.

Kyra: She will remind me, ‘Why didn't I take that sabbatical?!'

Jolette We were on the road for forever …

Kyra:She was like, ‘Why didn't I take this year off?'

Jolette: It is a joke between us. I am glad I am here.

INSIDETENNESSEE: Last season turned out to be Pat Summitt's final one as head coach of the Lady Vols. The rallying cry throughout the year was "We Back Pat," to raise money and awareness about Alzheimer's. Now, Holly Warlick steps into one of the hottest spotlights in college sports as she becomes the coach to succeed Summitt. How much do Tennessee fans now need to back Holly like they backed Pat?

Jolette: It is extremely important. People from the outside looking in think that since Pat has stepped down Tennessee is not the same. I've always been told by Vivian Stringer that every good head coach is supported by a great assistant, and Holly has been a great assistant, and she is ready for it. I think the fans can show her the same level of respect because she has paid her dues. She has done everything. I think she deserves it. She has earned it. 28 years. Anybody who has been somewhere for 28 years, they have paid their dues. I think if the fans come in and support her and rally around Holly like they rallied around Pat, I think they will be in for a good treat.

Kyra: Listen, 28 years as an assistant? When y'all are looking for me I will be in Destin, feet up, in the sand.

Jolette: When I think of 28 years, that is loyalty. That is someone committed to something.

Kyra: She has been here nearly as long as I have been living.

They do have to back Holly, and I think Holly has more than paid her dues. She was a player here. Her jersey is hanging in the rafters. She was an Olympian. She has helped Pat build the foundation of eight national championships and the reason why Tennessee is what it is. In the essence of that she has paid her dues, and I think people need to give Holly the same respect and love that they gave Pat.

Because Holly is one of Tennessee's own.


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