May 17, 2013 12:31:45 PM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Kristy Curry has worked with some of the most successful coaches and at schools that have some of the best traditions in women's college basketball.
Regardless of whether it is in the South (Tulane University or Louisiana Tech University), Midwest (at Purdue University), or Southwest (Stephen F. Austin University, Texas A&M University, or Texas Tech University), Curry said building relationships is a constant that has helped her have success at each stop.
The University of Alabama hopes the veteran coach can use that skill to help the school re-energize its women's basketball program.
Curry sees no reason why Alabama can't recapture its place among the best teams in the Southeastern Conference and the nation.
"There's no reason in the world women's basketball can't compete at the level those programs are," said Curry, referring to Alabama's softball, women's golf, gymnastics, and football teams that won national titles last season. "You look at women's tennis (which is in the NCAA tournament) this year. You look at men's and women' golf (which also are in the NCAA tournament) and four national championships a year ago, and I think it is evident the commitment the administration had made, and it is the same commitment they're making to women's basketball, or I wouldn't be sitting here."
On Thursday, Alabama officially introduced Curry as its new women's basketball coach. It announced May 11 she had accepted the job to replace Wendell Hudson, who led the women's basketball program for five seasons. Last month, Hudson was reassigned to an administrative position in the athletic department.
Curry, who is from Olla, La., spent the past seven season at Texas Tech. Last season, she led the Lady Raiders to a 21-11 record and their second NCAA tournament appearance in the past three years. Her career record at Texas Tech was 130-98.
Prior to coaching in Lubbock, Texas, Curry spent seven seasons as coach at Purdue. She took over the program in 1999-2000, one year after the program won a national championship under coach Carolyn Peck. Curry guided the Boilermakers to the NCAA tournament all seven seasons, including a trip to the NCAA title game in 2000-01. In doing so, she became the second coach in NCAA history to guide her team to the NCAA championship game in her second year as a head coach.
Curry also led Purdue to an appearance in the Elite Eight in 2002-03 and trips to the Sweet 16 in 2003-04 and 2005-06. She went 179-51 in her time at Purdue, including an 86-26 mark in the Big Ten Conference.
Curry's career record is 309-149 and 132-96 in conference.
Prior to becoming a head coach, Curry worked as an assistant coach at Tulane, Stephen F. Austin, Texas A&M, and Louisiana Tech, where she worked with Hall of Fame coach Leon Barmore and current Baylor University women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey.
Curry signed a five-year, $3.675 million contract with Texas Tech in April 2011, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Terms of her contract at Alabama weren't released.
Alabama Director of Athletics Bill Battle said he didn't want to make a statement with his first hire since taking over for Mal Moore. He said the school was fortunate to get someone of Curry's caliber to join the athletic department.
"I spoke to her on the phone and I was very impressed with our conversation," Battle said. "Her style of basketball coaching is exciting. The job that she has done both in the Big Ten and the Big 12 was very impressive as well. When she and her husband, Kelly, came in, I was very impressed with both of them and believe that they will not only put a great product on the basketball court, but they will be great additions to our community as well. We are excited to have Kristy and Kelly and their two daughters come in and join our family, and I am very honored and proud to present to you our women's basketball coach Kristy Curry."
Alabama has had only one winning season since longtime coach Rick Moody stepped down. Moody was 311-176 as head coach at Alabama from 1989-2005. He led the Crimson Tide to eight NCAA tournaments and a trip to the Final Four in 1993-94. He also guided the program to four consecutive appearances in the Sweet 16. His tenure ended with three consecutive losing seasons. Stephany Smith led the program for three seasons, followed by Hudson. Smith had a three-year record of 27-61, including 4-41 in the SEC. The record was the worst in the program's history.
Alabama had its best season under Hudson in 2010-11, reaching the third round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament. Last season, though, Alabama slipped to 13-18 and 2-14 in the SEC.
Hudson, a 1973 graduate of Alabama and the school's first African-American scholarship student-athlete, played for men's basketball then-coach C.M. Newton from 1970-73, was 68-87 and a 14-64 in the SEC. He took the job as women's basketball coach following a five-year stint as associate athletics director for alumni relations at Alabama.
Alabama's hiring of Curry gives the region four coaches who will be in their first or second year at their school. Earlier this year, the University of Mississippi named former University of Kentucky assistant coach Rick Insell its new head coach. Last year, Mississippi State University named former Texas A&M and University of Arkansas associated head coach Vic Schaefer its coach, and Auburn University named former Georgetown University head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy its coach.
With so many new coaches in an already super-competitive 14-team SEC, Curry knows the importance of getting building relationships and developing recruiting connections. She said she is excited about the opportunity to get connected to a hotbed of girls basketball talent in the Southeast.
"It's about making sure we do everything we possibly can to get out and meet and stop at every high school in the state and visit with every club coach in the state and do everything we can to build those relationships," Curry said. "It goes hand in hand with communicating.
"I think probably the freshman class in the state of Alabama might be on of the best in the country, 2016. In 2014, there is quite a bit of talent, and we have enjoyed talking to folks we have had previous relationships in the past. The class of 2015 is very good, but 2016 might be one of the best classes in the country. Like I said, we want to secure the borders of this state and not let anybody out. We want to make sure we take care of home first and then we will go left and we will go right and we will go north and we will go south."
Curry grew up in the SEC and has family still in Olla, La., which is 5 hours, 10 minutes away from Tuscaloosa. Olla is 45 minutes South of Monroe, La. Curry said she talked to Barmore to get his thoughts about a possible move to Alabama. She said she also has learned a great deal from former Texas Tech women's basketball coach Marsha Sharp. She feels her style of coaching is a blend of everything she has learned, and that her teams will defend and rebound and try to push the tempo up and down the floor.
Curry said she has watched "a ton" of film of Alabama and feels the personnel is there to get the team to play her style. It remains to be seen if junior Kaneisha Horn will be with the program in 2013-14. Earlier this year, Horn, a former McDonald's All-American from Birmingham, Ala., announced she planned to transfer. Curry said she has spoken to Horn and her parents and will wait to see what happens.
Curry also said her goal is to build the fan base for the program so it can make Foster Auditorium, the 3,800-seat home to the women's basketball and volleyball programs that was re-opened in 2011. To accomplish that goal, Curry will use the knowledge she gained from working with some of the game's top coaches and the strategies that were successful for her as a head coach at two Bowl Championship Series programs.
"I'm excited about the potential and the opportunity for us to build a legacy here that's going to be much bigger than I," Curry said. "There's no way in the world this can't be very special and a special place to play women's basketball."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.