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T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News
Elaine Elliott, women's basketball head coach at the University of Utah, fights back tears while talking about her planned yearlong leave of absence after 31 years with the program during a press conference at the Huntsman Center.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's women's basketball coach Elaine Elliott is stepping away from the program and will take a year's leave of absence while she considers a permanent retirement.

Utes assistant coach Anthony Levrets, who joined the staff three years ago, will take over the reins.

Utah Athletic Director Chris Hill said that Elliott had approached him earlier in the season to tell him that she was going to retire at the end of the season and he knew then he couldn't allow her to make such an important decision so abruptly. Therefore, he suggested the leave of absence.

"I wanted to give her the opportunity to think about it a little more," Hill said Wednesday at a press conference announcing Elliott's decision. "I knew I was not going to talk her out of anything but I think this gives her a chance to make an informed decision."

Elliott said she was grateful for the opportunity to take a leave of absence.

"It was pretty obvious it was a real big decision," she said, "so I want to thank everyone for the chance to do it this way. There isn't any one single thing behind the thought process.

"It will allow me an important perspective."

She said that job fatigue has been creeping up on her for the past couple of years.

No one would know anything about her stress by looking at her successful coaching record. She is the winningest coach in Mountain West Conference history with seven MWC titles and a total of 14 league championships including past conference affiliations. Elliott has compiled a 582-234 (.713) record in her 27 years at Utah as a head coach. She has 31 years total counting four years as an assistant in the program.

She is one of 16 women's basketball coaches who can boast of twenty 20-win seasons. Only six coaches have ever accomplished that feat at one school.

Elliott has taken the Utes to 15 NCAA Tournament appearances and owns a winning record in 26 of her 27 seasons.

"What you see is wonderful," Hill said, "but behind the scenes it is even better. She has done an absolutely phenomenal job."

The program has been, and continues to be, at the forefront for Elliott. She said the program is in capable hands.

"I feel that this is the right staff to do this with," she said. "That was a key component."

Levrets said he is honored by the opportunity.

"It will be an honor to lead this team, even if it is just for a year," Levrets said.

The hardest thing for Elliott to do is leave the women on her team. She spoke of how important the relationships are, but she said, "I know the kids will be resilient."

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