Inside ACC Women's Basketball with Charlene Curtis: Every Year's a Little Different
Aug. 16, 2007
"Every year is different." At least that's what coaches like to say whether they have the same players returning or not.
Duke finished the ACC regular season with a 29-0 mark. North Carolina was second and advanced to its second consecutive NCAA Final Four. And Maryland slipped by Florida State and N. C. State to hold onto the third seed going into the 2007 ACC Tournament. Georgia Tech was right on their heels and finished sixth. That was the result of the 2006-07 regular season.
Gone are some of the ACC's star players: Lindsey Harding and Alison Bales (Duke), Ivory Latta and Camille Little (North Carolina), Renee Taylor (Miami), Kathrin Ress (Boston College), Kirby Copeland (Virginia Tech), Alicia Gladden (Florida State), Stephanie Higgs (Georgia Tech), and Shay Doron (Maryland). Each has exhausted her eligibility.
Returning are WBCA/Kodak All-Americans, Crystal Langhorne (Maryland) and Erlana Larkins (North Carolina) who were both First Team All-ACC team members. Also returning are second and third All-ACC team members Abby Waner (Duke), Lyndra Littles (Virginia), Marissa Coleman (Maryland), Khadijah Whittington (NC State), and Kristi Toliver (Maryland). All-Freshman team members, Monica Wright (Virginia), LeLe Hardy (Clemson), Jacinta Monroe (Florida State), Christy Brown (Clemson), and Mekia Valentine (Wake Forest) are all poised to take on even bigger roles with their respective teams.
And gone is Duke's Gail Goestenkors, the ACC and WBCA Coach of the Year. Much has already been written about new head coach Joanne P. McCallie.
All that said, perhaps the most important change in eight of the 12 ACC programs is the number of new assistant coaches on the sidelines. Change is inevitable, and as Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated, "Nothing is permanent but change." And change is what we will see on the sidelines.
The new faces on the sidelines are well-respected veteran coaches who bring experience, insight, and ingenuity. They are joined by next-generation young assistants who bring energy, excitement, and innovation to their programs. Some were former collegiate head coaches. Some have won championships. Some were former All-Americans. And some were very successful high school coaches.
Will new coaches on the bench result in a change in the hierarchy of the regular season finish? The new assistants at Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest hope that is the case. Duke and Maryland new staffers want to at least hold serve in the regular season final standings.
Next Generation Coaches
Angel Elderkin returns to Virginia after starting her coaching career at Virginia's summer camps as the assistant camp coordinator during the summer of 2000. Elderkin credits her experience at Virginia with giving her a jumpstart on her coaching career. She spent four years as an assistant coach at Siena College, two seasons at East Tennessee State, and two seasons on the staff of the University of Tennessee.
Saudia Roundtree, Clemson's new assistant, was the National Player of the Year when she played at the University of Georgia. Clemson head coach Cristy MeKinney spoke of Roundtree's impact on Lady Tiger program in a news release. "She (Roundtree) has an incredible basketball background as a player and has already been a head coach at the division I level... Her personality and success as a player will be a tremendous asset in recruiting." Back in her home state of South Carolina (a native of Anderson, S.C.), Roundtree will work with the Clemson perimeter players imparting her experience as a professional player for the Atlanta Glory and the Nashville Noise in the American Basketball League (ABL).
Samantha Williams (Duke) was recruited as a player by McCallie when McCallie was an assistant coach at Auburn. Williams helped Auburn advance to the Sweet 16 twice and the Elite Eight once. She continued her playing career by playing one season for the San Jose Lasers of the ABL. Williams started her collegiate coaching career at Saint Louis University in 2001. She spent time at Columbus State, Auburn, and DePaul. Williams had just joined the Michigan State staff when McCallie decided to make the move to Durham to lead the Duke Blue Devils.
Bob Clark brings 21 years of coaching experience to the Wake Forest program. He served as assistant coach with teams in the Big East, Colonial, Big West, Big South, PAC 10, and Big 12 Conferences before joining Wake Forest and the ACC. For six years, Clark was on the staff at Georgetown University where he worked with current Demon Deacon associate head coach Natasha Adair. Clark is excited to work again with Adair and calls their relationship one of "genuine respect both personally and professionally." Clark is also ecstatic to have the opportunity to coach in the ACC. He said that the caliber of play in the ACC from top to bottom was a factor in his taking the position at Wake Forest. Although Clark will be making the transition from high school teaching and coaching back to collegiate coaching, he says the transition will not be difficult because "coaching is teaching and teaching is coaching." He looks forward to opportunities of working with the Wake Forest players on their skill development and to opportunities of developing relationships through recruiting.
Al Brown of Duke is the most veteran of all the new assistant coaches in the ACC. He and Williams are just two of the new faces you will see on the Duke sideline. Brown, a proven winner, served as an assistant coach in the Big Ten, Southeastern, and Mid-American Conferences and the Horizon League before joining McCallie in the ACC. He helped his programs win 80 percent of the games in which he served as an assistant women's basketball coach. His teams have made numerous trips to the Final Four, and he has three NCAA Championship rings in his jewelry case. With 30 years of coaching experience, Brown is one of two new assistants in the conference who played basketball at Purdue.
Former Collegiate Head Coaches
The other Purdue graduate is Teri Moren of Georgia Tech. Moren played with head coach MaChelle Joseph on the 1991 Big Ten Championship Purdue team. According to Joseph, Moren, the point guard, knew when and how to get her the ball. Now, she will be getting her assists as an assistant on Joseph's bench. Moren is the former head coach at the University of Indianapolis. After seven seasons developing the Indianapolis program, Moren was ready for a different challenge and a chance to grow as a coach. She explained, "Having a chance to be on the same team again with MaChelle was an opportunity I could not turn down. The timing was right. I will become a better coach by working in a great conference, alongside great coaches, and with great athletes."
Miami's Lynn Bria has spent 13 years as the head coach of programs at Ohio University, Central Florida, and Texas Woman's University. Her new boss, Katie Meier is excited about what Bria will add to the Hurricanes' program both on the court and on the recruiting trails. Meier stated in the May 23rd press release, "Lynn Bria is one of the most loved and respected coaches in the business and brings us so much experience and knowledge. Her enthusiasm for coaching and teaching is unmatched. I know my staff and I are excited to have someone with her breadth of knowledge to bounce ideas off of, and we are excited about broadening our recruiting contacts as well."
The other former collegiate head coach is Maryland's Daron Park. Park honed his head coaching skills at Westminster College before joining the Utah staff as assistant coach three seasons ago. He helped Utah win two Mountain West Conference Titles and ironically assisted on the 2005-06 Utah team that lost in the Elite Eight to the eventual national champion Maryland Terrapins. Maryland head coach, Brenda Frese, was quoted on the Terrapin website saying, "His (Park's) strengths include on-court player development, scouting and game management. He will have a huge impact on this team."
Former Recent High School Coaches
Joining Park as a new addition to the Maryland staff is Diane Richardson. Richardson spent last season on the bench at American University. Prior to that, Richardson was the very successful head coach at Riverdale Baptist High School where she coached and groomed players such as Duke's Wanisha Smith and Wake Forest junior, Yolanda Lavender. On the Terrapin website, Richardson stated, "I am very excited and thankful to Brenda (Frese) to be given the opportunity to coach at Maryland. As a life-long resident of this area, it has been a dream and a goal of mine for a long time." In a recent conversation, Richardson restated her excitement about coaching at Maryland and in the ACC. "The ACC is the best conference in the country. Every team is competitive, yet every opposing coach is supportive of the overall conference's successes." Because of players like Smith and Lavender, Richardson already had established relationships with ACC head and assistant coaches through the recruiting process. Now, Richardson is their colleague, and she is enjoying a new type of relationship with the other conference coaches. Perhaps the most difficult days ahead for Richardson will be when she is on the Maryland sideline coaching against her former players.
Virginia Tech's George Porcha comes from the high school and AAU ranks. Head coach Beth Dunkenberger stated on the Hokie website, "With his tireless work ethic he turned the girls' basketball program at T.C. Williams into a national power house. His outgoing personality combined with his recruiting contacts will quickly help him become one of the best recruiters in the nation." Porcha also coached in the Boo Williams Summer League in Hampton, VA where he coached 12 players who received Division I scholarships.
The impact these new assistant coaches will have on their respective programs remains to be seen. Without a doubt, the range of their experiences is vast. Their first imprints were made this spring and summer on the recruiting trail. The start of the academic calendar means the beginning of on-court workouts and the second opportunity for these new assistants to make their mark. John F. Kennedy once said, "Change is the law of life..." So, change we will see. And I can't wait....
Charlene Curtis is a women's basketball analyst for Fox Sports Net and ESPNU. She is a former head coach at Wake Forest, Temple, and Radford and was an assistant at Virginia, Georgetown, and Connecticut. She also served as an assistant with the WNBA's Charlotte Sting and several USA Basketball Teams. When not analyzing the game, Curtis can be found instructing future collegiate players on the hardwood.
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