Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Curry leads team to success

Alabama women’s basketball coach Kristy Curry said the move from Lubbock, Texas, to Tuscaloosa in 2013 was easier than the previous one from West Lafayette, Ind., to her previous head coaching job at Texas Tech in 2006.

It was initially hard on her two children, Kelsey, 13, and Kendall, 10, with the older daughter taking it harder than her sibling, Kristy’s husband Kelly said. An assistant coach with the program himself, Kelly has been with his wife for every transition in Kristy’s 15 years of head coaching.

The family has settled into Tuscaloosa nicely the past few months, Kelly said, and Kristy agrees.

“We’re just a lot more comfortable in this environment, whether it’s the trees and the water or just the South,” Kristy said.

Whatever it was, the Curry family’s positivity must have trickled down into the women’s basketball season and into Foster Auditorium, where routine record-setting crowds saw the Crimson Tide (14-16, 7-10) finish with the most conference wins since the 2001-02 season.

In Kristy’s first season at Alabama, the team achieved numerous milestones and broke losing streaks. On Jan. 26, the Crimson Tide broke a 23-game drought against Georgia for its first win against the Lady Bulldogs since 1998. Curry and her team traveled to Nashville in February and picked up Alabama’s first win over Vanderbilt since 2004. It was also the program’s first win ever at Memorial Coliseum.

(See also “Wheelchair basketball team wins national title“)

And on Senior Day, playing against No. 23 LSU, the Crimson Tide’s 78-60 downing of the Tigers marked the school’s first win against LSU since 2002.

One win in particular, however, stands out for Kelly as a personal high point in the season.

“I think for me, probably, was the game at Kentucky [on Jan. 23], just because of the adversity we overcame to win that game,” he said.

The win, which came on a layup from guard Daisha Simmons with three seconds left to secure a 57-5 victory, was the Crimson Tide’s first road win against a top-10 team since 1998.

“We were fortunate to get that one at Kentucky, and I thought that one was a real positive confidence booster,” Kristy said. “I thought that came at a critical time for this team.”

Alabama started 1-4 in SEC play and was coming off a 77-51 loss to No. 8 South Carolina before earning a signature win in Lexington that Thursday in late January. After that win, the Crimson Tide’s first in Kentucky since 2002, Alabama finished 5-6 in the league and earned a No. 7 seed in the SEC tournament, its highest since 1999.

Falling to LSU 78-65 in the first round, however, the Crimson Tide is on the outside looking in at a berth in the National Invitational Tournament.

With all the challenges of taking the reins of a team with a combined nine conference wins in the three previous years, both Currys said the transition was made a little easier with the help of a fellow Alabama coach whom Kristy parallels: gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson, who also coaches with her husband and has two daughters.

“She’s been a fantastic supporter of ours from day one, really,” Kelly said. “She reached out and made contact to Kristy before she ever took the job, so her support has been overwhelming.”

Kelly said Patterson made it to nearly every game at Foster Auditorium she was able to attend. The praise from Kristy to Patterson is reciprocated from the gymnastics coach as well.

(See also “Gymnastics seniors to end regular season“)

“I think she has done a lights-out job this year,” Patterson said. “I texted her after they completed the SEC Tournament, and I said, ‘If I was a coach and I was voting, you’re my vote for Coach of the Year.’ It’s great seeing another women’s program just jump right up there. Think about it: Softball, golf, we can all compete. It just takes great leadership.”

After nearly every game, Kristy stayed at Foster Auditorium well after the game was over, win or lose, until the lights dimmed and the bleachers folded up for another Alabama practice, speaking to whomever happened to still be at the venue. At times it was Patterson, but not always, Curry said.

“Some of those were just normal fans who hung around to speak to our players,” Curry said. “I think it’s important. We want to get out and get back on the court as soon as we can just to thank people for coming and thank them for their support and have a chance to visit. I think that’s what makes women’s basketball special, the relationships that you develop with people and that you take time for people and you never become too big that you don’t take time, one-by-one.”

On Feb. 2, a 64-54 loss to Tennessee saw a record crowd at Foster Auditorium with 3,002 spectators.

With the season Curry posted in her inaugural year at the Capstone, many have praised new athletic director Bill Battle, whose first high-profile order of business after taking over last March was luring the coach from Lubbock. Battle, like Patterson, had positive things to say about Curry’s resume with Alabama.

“I have been very impressed with the great coaching job Kristy has done with our team this season,” Battle said in a statement. “It’s not uncommon in years of transition for a team to take several steps back before real progress is made. That was certainly not the case with this year’s team. The progress that Kristy, her staff and her players made this year was remarkable. Our team this year showed more improvement from start to finish than any team that I have ever seen. They have come so far in many areas. Alabama women’s basketball has a very bright future.”

During Alumni Weekend, which took place Jan. 11-12 and saw Kristy Curry’s first SEC win, a 93-79 thumping of Ole Miss, the 1994 Alabama team that reached the NCAA Final Four was honored on center court at halftime. That journey marked the furthest any Crimson Tide women’s team has gone in the NCAA tournament, and it gives Curry confirmation those heights can be reached again someday in Tuscaloosa.

“To know that we’ve done that here, and this league’s been so successful, gives you hope,” Curry said. “And that’s what we wake up for every day is to get this program back to the tournament, and if you get back to the tournament you have a chance to compete for a Final Four.”

For now though, looking back at what the 2013-14 team did with lone senior Shafontaye Myers, two-time SEC Freshman of the Week Ashley Williams and the rest of her incredibly young team, Curry knows what was accomplished was special.

“I’m not sure, and I mean this in a positive way, that I’ve enjoyed a group more than I have this group than I have in a long time,” she said. “It’s been one of my most rewarding years in 14 years. I’ve learned that.”

(See also “Women’s basketball team ends drought against UGA“)

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