Big shoes not unfamiliar to incoming Tech coach
LUBBOCK, Texas -- New Texas Tech coach Kristy Curry isn't afraid of trying to fill some big shoes.
Curry took over a Purdue team seven years ago that just had captured the national championship, and now she's following Texas Tech women's basketball icon Marsha Sharp, whose 24-year coaching legacy includes an NCAA title.
Tech hired Curry about a month after Sharp announced her resignation in February.
"It doesn't bother me or intimidate me one bit,'' Curry said. "I don't really focus on who I'm following or what's happened before me.''
Though Curry's Purdue teams didn't win a national title, the Boilermakers were a game away and won two Big Ten regular-season and three Big Ten tournament titles. She compiled a 179-51 record in seven seasons, winning an average of 25 games a year, and took Purdue to the NCAA Tournament each year.
Curry, who describes herself as "self-motivated and self-driven,'' said she stepped out of her comfort zone geographically when she went to Purdue after three seasons as a Louisiana Tech assistant. Purdue, though it taught her much, didn't change who she is.
"I've always been the kind of person that no one expects more of me than myself,'' she said. "At least I'm back in a part of the world where I'm very comfortable.''
Curry has been in the area for much of her life. Born and raised in Olla, La., Curry earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at Northeast Louisiana and Stephen F. Austin. Between 1991 and 1999, she was an assistant at Tulane, Stephen F. Austin, Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech.
Curry's husband Kelly, who was an assistant at Purdue and will fill the same role at Tech, is a Texas A&M graduate.
Tech, which finished 15-14 last season, missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 17 years. Curry knows there are challenges ahead.
"We're going to be smaller than probably we'd normally like to be, but that doesn't mean we can't be successful,'' she said. "We're just going to be ourselves and pray it'll be good enough. I think that's the only way to approach it.''
That approach seemed to work at Purdue, where Curry succeeded Carolyn Peck, now the coach at Florida. Two years after she arrived in 1999, Curry had the Boilermakers back in the NCAA championship game, though they lost to Notre Dame 68-66.
Curry's final game at Purdue was a 70-68 loss in the regional semifinals last season to Final Four-bound North Carolina.
The Lady Raiders will return a standout from 2004-05 in guard Chesley Dabbs, who sat out last season after tearing a left knee ligament during preseason workouts. When Sharp announced she was leaving, Dabbs, who averaged 12.2 points in 32 starts two years ago, reconsidered whether to return.
Dabbs believes Curry can fill the void left by Sharp.
"She works hard and she's going to push us to the best of our ability,'' said Dabbs, who is pursuing a master's degree in business administration. "It'll be upbeat, fast, energetic.''
Sharp, who remains at Tech as an associate athletic director for special projects, said Curry showed some of her savvy by hiring Baylor assistant Bill Brock. He was on the bench in 2005 when the Lady Bears won the national title and will help build Curry's "comfort level'' with other Big 12 schools.
"She's a great coach,'' Sharp said. "She won't skip a beat from the things she's done already in her career.''
Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said Sharp's legacy is in good hands.
"I think she's done a great job of embracing what Marsha's built here,'' Myers said. "I think she has done about as good as you can do and as much work with the community as anyone could imagine coming in new.''
Returning players have to adapt to new coaches and their styles, senior forward Alesha Robertson said.
"Everything's different,'' she said, making it important for players to spend more time together off the court, including with coaches. "It helps us get on the same page and helps us to know how they think. I think that will help bring more chemistry to the team and also help us out on the court.''
Curry is all for the idea.
"With me, it's always been about the people; it's never been about the player,'' she said. "And I think I'm following someone who had the exact same philosophy.''
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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