As Charlene Curtis enters her seventh season at the helm of the Wake Forest women’s basketball program, her commitment to excellence and drive to bring the program to new heights is stronger than ever. Curtis was named the program’s eighth head coach on May 7, 1997, bringing a wealth of coaching experience with her.
"I am very excited to be here at Wake Forest,” Curtis said upon her appointment. “I am excited to have the opportunity to build a program at an institution with a great academic reputation in a super women’s basketball conference. The potential in the program is untapped. It may take a couple of years for our fans to see a noticeable change in our win-loss record, but there will be an immediate change in how we approach the game and in how we play the game.”
In her first season at Wake Forest, Curtis began her rebuilding effort by instituting completely new offensive and defensive systems as well as a stronger work ethic to her team. The sweeping changes resulted in a season that was short on wins but long on progress. Although the Deacs posted just a 4-23 mark in 1997-98, the team showed dramatic improvements in its style of play.
Those improvements began to pay off in the next two seasons, as more skilled and athletic Deacon squads added to the win column (8-20 in 1998-99, 7-21 in 1999-2000). The 1999 squad was notable in that it improved two spots in the conference standings from the previous year to seventh place, and played its best ball down the season’s home stretch, including a dazzling performance in the ACC Tournament. The 1999-00 team notched its first ACC road victory in four seasons with a win over Maryland in College Park, and also recorded an exciting 69-56 win over rival North Carolina, its first victory over the Tar Heels since the 1991-92 season.
The 2000-01 campaign began to show even more fruits of Curtis’ labor, as the team opened the season with a 7-2 record, its best start in nine seasons. The Deacons also posted an 8-3 mark in non-conference play, and posted notable ACC wins over NCAA-bound Florida State as well as North Carolina before taking ACC champion Duke to overtime in the conference tournament. Wake Forest finished the season with an 11-17 overall mark.
In 2001-02, Curtis guided the Demon Deacons to a 12-16 record, the best record of her WFU coaching tenure thus far and highest number of victories in five seasons. The team’s 5-11 ACC record was also its best league mark since the 1995-96 campaign. The Deacs defeated North Carolina for the third straight season and topped Maryland by 18 points in the regular season finale – the largest margin of victory over an ACC opponent in 13 years.
Another personal highlight for Curtis during the 2001-02 campaign was the team’s 58-46 win over Clemson on January 17 – a game that marked her 200th career victory as a head coach.
Last season, Wake Forest continued its steady improvement. The Deacs finished with a 13-15 overall record – the highest number of victories in the seven-year tenure under Curtis. Wake Forest also opened the season with a stellar 9-1 mark, its best start to a season since 1992-93. The Deacs registered an eight-game winning streak along the way – longest such streak in 10 seasons. If those numbers were not enough indication of the program’s step forward, Wake Forest also picked up victories over Virginia and at Maryland. The victory over the Terps in College Park was the first road win in the series in three years, while the win over the Cavaliers snapped a streak of 49-straight losses – a span dating back to the 1977-78 season.
While Curtis’ focus has been on the rebuilding of the overall program during the past six seasons, she has guided individual performers to postseason honors along the way, including third-team All-ACC pick Tiffani Listenbee (2003), Tonia Brown (2002), All-ACC honorable mention selections Olivia Dardy (1999), Alisha Mosley (2000) and Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick (2001) as well as ACC All-Freshman Team honorees Cotelia Bond-Young (2003), LaChina Robinson (1999) and Eafton Hill (2001).
Additionally, the Wake Forest women’s basketball team has kept up a high level of performance in the classroom, as 2000 Wake graduate Mosley was the recipient of the Robin Roberts/WBCA Sports Communications Scholarship and Kirkpatrick was an Academic All-America district selection in 2001. Deacon women’s basketball has also been well represented on both the WFU Dean’s List and the ACC Honor Roll over the years. During Curtis’ tenure at Wake Forest, every four-year player to come through the women’s basketball program has earned her degree from the University.
Curtis came to Wake Forest from the University of Connecticut, where she served as an assistant coach for two seasons under head coach Geno Auriemma. In that time, Curtis helped lead the Huskies to a combined 67-5 record and two Big East conference championships. The team advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 1996 and to the Elite Eight in 1997.
Curtis’ previous head coaching experience includes six seasons (1984-90) at Radford University, her alma mater, where she coached the Highlanders’ first season of Division I competition. She was the Big South Coach of the Year in 1988 and 1990 and compiled a 121-53 record during her tenure there. Her teams won three Big South Conference tournaments and captured the conference’s regular season title four times. Her 1988-89 team appeared in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
Curtis then moved to Temple University, where she spent five seasons as the head coach (1990-95). She compiled a 41-97 record and coached four Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team players before taking the position at UConn.
Curtis also served as an assistant coach at Georgetown University in 1984 and, prior to that, earned her first taste of ACC women’s basketball as an assistant coach at the University of Virginia in from 1981-83.
Curtis’ résumé includes a wealth of international experience as well. She was an assistant coach with the USA Basketball teams that won a gold medal at the 1994 Goodwill Games, a bronze at the 1994 World Championships, and a gold at the 1991 World University Games. She was also a floor coach for the USA Basketball Olympic Trials in 1992.
A 1976 graduate of Radford, Curtis earned, with honors, a Bachelor of Science degree in music education. While playing for the Highlanders, she was the school’s first 1,000-point scorer (1,043 career points), a team captain, and named Most Valuable Player in 1975 and 1976. In 1995, she was inducted as a charter member of the Radford Sports Hall of Fame as both a coach and a player. Curtis also holds a master’s degree in secondary education administration, which she earned from Virginia in 1982.
Beyond the actual coaching, Curtis has stayed involved with her profession over the years as an active member in several organizations. She has served on the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association Executive Committee, the Black Coaches Association Board of Directors, the USA Basketball Selection Committee, the East Regional Advisory Committee for the NCAA Division I Championships, and Coaching Women's Basketball magazine editorial board. She is currently a WBCA Conference Captain representing the ACC.
Curtis is also involved with the Radford University Alumni Association, currently as a member of the Executive Council after previously serving as President and Treasurer. She has also worked with the University Foundation, Athletic Association Advisory Council and Board of Visitors.
The Charlene Curtis File
Career Head Coaching Record
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