Sitting in women’s basketball head coach Kristy Curry’s office, the walls give visitors a revealing glimpse into her career before the topic of conversation can even turn to her.
There’s a poster that has graced media guides with a few high points from her resume: nine NCAA Tournament appearances, one NCAA Final Four, two NCAA Elite Eights, four NCAA Sweet 16’s, three NIT appearances, two Big Ten regular season titles and nine 20-win seasons.
On the other side of her desk rest three basketballs, each commemorating 100 victories. The first is from Purdue, the other two from Texas Tech.
When the conversation does turn to her, she doesn’t talk too much about the past; it’s the future she’s concerned with – the future of her family.
Her husband and assistant coach, Kelly Curry, and her two daughters came with her from Lubbock, Texas, to take the helm of a women’s basketball program that has been in the bottom half of the SEC for much of the 21st century.
“Family is very important here,” Kristy Curry said. “Family values, we love that about the community, and it’s just a great place to raise a family. The culture around the University – the things that they’re exposed to even beyond athletics is just phenomenal, so it’s a fun place to live.”
Kelly Curry isn’t just tagging along; he’s been coaching since the 1998 season at Louisiana Tech. He’s coached alongside his wife for 15 years, so the move wasn’t a difficult choice for him, he said.
But the family extends further than her husband and two daughters. Most of her coaching staff has been with her since Purdue in one form or another.
“I even was with her at Purdue, before Texas Tech,” Grant Fausset, director of operations, said. “So it wasn’t a matter of leaving Lubbock and coming to Alabama. It was a matter of the person you’ve worked for for so long and you respect and you care and is like family, that we’re going to all go together and start over and go that route.”
He’s been around both Kristy and Kelly Curry for 13 years. He isn’t the only coach who’s been around them before.
Assistant coach Shereka Wright and video coordinator Lindsey Hicks played for the Currys at Purdue, and Wright started coaching with the Currys at Texas Tech.
“It was an easy decision, I think,” Kelly Curry said. “We just felt like coming to Alabama as opposed to leaving Texas Tech; it was just a great opportunity. All of the sports have excelled here, and there’s no reason that women’s basketball can’t do the same thing.”
Other Alabama sports have also embraced the new women’s basketball coaching staff. The staff is grateful for the welcome.
“It’s been unbelievable, whether it’s a text message wishing us luck before Nebraska from [women’s tennis coach] Jenny Mainz or [gymnastics coach] Sarah Patterson texted me the other night after West Alabama, [softball coach] Patrick Murphy, [volleyball coach] Ed [Allen],” Kristy Curry said. “All these guys are an inspiration to us.”
Kelly Curry said their relationship with some women’s sports, like volleyball, with whom they share a facility, is more significant than others, but it isn’t just the women’s sports who have embraced the staff. He credited this atmosphere that the other coaches at the University have already established.
“It is different here, and that’s – I’m not trying to disparage anywhere that we’ve been, and I don’t mean that as a backhanded slap or poke at anywhere we’ve been, but it is,” Kelly Curry said. “Again, I just think when – he doesn’t need me tooting his horn – but I think it’s a trickle-down effect from coach Saban. [If] he wants, he could sit and just be the king of the hill, but I think he wants everybody to win, and it’s kind of like on a team when your best player is unselfish, then your whole team’s going to be unselfish, and I think it’s a trickle-down effect from him, coach Patterson and you see coach Murphy, and those guys won national championships. They’re going out of their way to help you and welcome you; then who are you to be petty about stuff, and I just think everybody gets caught up in that atmosphere.”
Fans have started to compare the Currys to the Pattersons. Both Sarah Patterson and Kristy Curry coach with their husbands. Both have two daughters. Athletic Director Bill Battle said professionally, both are good recruiters as well as coaches and are involved in the community.
“You know, the athletic department is made up of great people,” Battle said. “And we all, I guess, operate under the philosophy that a rising tide lifts all boats, and the better each sport does, the better we all do, and so Sarah Patterson was very gracious in reaching out to [Kristy Curry] and I think had some influence.”
With six national championships to the Pattersons’ names, they’re a dominant force in the athletic world, and with the parallels between the Pattersons and the Currys already made, it’s only a matter of time before people ask if the Currys are the next “coach Pattersons.” Kristy Curry said she hopes so.
“I don’t know if I can ever do what she’s done, but I certainly just want to be me and hope that’s going to be good enough and want to look forward to learning and growing,” Kristy Curry said. “I think you can learn a lot from someone like that, and everything from how she handles the community to how she handles her players daily to how she handles her family, it’s certainly someone that I can look up to and admire and respect and learn from, and I just feel like I’m blessed to be at the same place every day to learn from folks like that.”
It’s more than just the success that people see now. Kelly Curry said that people are seeing the fruits of their labor now but not all the hard work put into the program.
“You know [Sarah Patterson] didn’t take the job and win the national championship two months later; there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went into it,” Kelly Curry said. “I’m sure she put a lot of work, and David did too, into getting every fan that they draw over there, and that’s what happens; you recruit one player at a time and one fan at a time and you just have to build it brick by brick, and especially in this day and age when we want instant gratification, that’s kind of a hard thing, but that’s the neatest part of their story to me. … I think there’s only one ‘coach Pattersons’ at this University. I don’t know if we could ever reach those heights.”
Kelly Curry and Fausset both said it’s something they strive for.
“You believe that you can win a national championship here,” Kelly Curry said. “And whether you’re Patrick Murphy or Sarah Patterson it’s not just football, it’s everybody believes that they can win; that’s what everybody’s trying to achieve.”
As for Sarah Patterson, she said she would love to have another championship-winning husband-wife coaching duo at the University. She even reached out to Kristy Curry before she had accepted the job.
“I give credit to coach Battle for reaching out,” Patterson said. “He had to find the people that he was interested in, but from my opinion, when Kristy was the one he wanted to hire, I wanted a strong, successful coach in that program, and I felt like that is my responsibility to the University to help in any way I can to elevate that program just like the other programs here at the University.”
Kristy Curry’s plans to elevate the women’s basketball program will show up other places than on the stat sheet. The program currently has the lowest graduation success rate at the University, according to the athletic department’s annual report for 2012-13.
“The most important thing to me as a coach – obviously, I’m not in the end ultimately hired and fired because of that – is that players graduate and that there’s life after basketball and life after sport,” Kristy Curry said.
She said in her 14 years as a head coach, everyone who finished their eligibility and played four years graduated. She’s very proud of this statistic.
“Believe me, if they’re not getting their books done – that’s the first priority with me – they won’t be in practice, and they won’t play,” Kristy Curry said. “I think it’s important that we prepare them to go out and represent The University of Alabama for years to come out in their communities and with their families, and that’s really what it’s about is them graduating and impacting the world in a better way.”
She operates in sync the mission of the UA athletic department, which is “to recruit and develop student athletes to compete at the highest level in their particular sports and to educate and prepare those student athletes to compete in life after graduation at the highest levels and to do both with honor and integrity.”
“Kristy lived that mission in her past experience at both Purdue and Texas Tech, that academics and life skills, community service were all a very important part of her makeup, and she’s been great in the community,” Battle said. “She’s really active in getting her student athletes involved in attracting other students and Tuscaloosa people to the games, and she’s just everything you look for in a coach. So yeah she’s the total person … which is what we want in our coaches here at Alabama.”