Focus for new Tide women's hoops coach: attendance, recruiting
by Mark Edwards
TUSCALOOSA -- Alabama has a new women's basketball coach, Kristy Curry, and it's clear her job won't be limited to improving the win totals.

That needs work for the Crimson Tide, which won 14 Southeastern Conference games in five years under former head coach Wendell Hudson. But Alabama athletics director Bill Battle is hoping Curry can create an atmosphere that improves attendance as well.

The Crimson Tide plays in Foster Auditorium, which holds about 3,800. Alabama drew an average of about 1,400 last season. Curry, who spent the past seven seasons as Texas Tech's head coach, saw her program average more than 6,000 a game last season.

"We've talked about attendance," Battle said after Curry's introductory news conference Thursday at Alabama. "We talked about it a lot. It's an advantage to play in Foster. But we also want to outgrow Foster."

Curry, a 1988 graduate of Northeast Louisiana, has 14 years of experience as a college head coach. Before her time at Texas Tech, she coached Purdue for seven seasons, taking the Boilermakers to the NCAA title game in 2001. She also was an assistant for Louisiana Tech's 1998 NCAA runners-up.

Her head coaching record is 309-149 with nine NCAA tournament appearances. Alabama's last NCAA appearance came in 1999, which was the last of an eight-year run of making the tournament.

"There's a rich tradition here, and we're proud to be a part of that," Curry said. "We want to embrace the past while continuing to build on the future."

Battle said Curry was his first choice for the job, especially once it became apparent she was willing to consider Alabama. A native of Olla, La., she even has something Battle said he likes: "She's got a nice Southern accent."

She mentioned she already has spoken to three current Alabama coaches who have won national championships -- softball coach Pat Murphy, gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson and football coach Nick Saban.

"I grew up in the Southeastern Conference. It's a great league, and it's a great opportunity to be back," Curry said Thursday. "All the resources are in place to be successful. Alabama won four national championships, and that shows the commitment the administration has made here."

Curry emphasized recruiting, which had become a struggle at Alabama in recent years. Five players are eligible to return who graduated from Alabama high schools, which is an improvement over what Hudson inherited. The season before Hudson arrived, the Tide had one scholarshipped player from an Alabama high school.

However, none of the players who made the Alabama Sports Writers Association Super Five in the past three years signed with the Crimson Tide.

"We want to do everything we can to secure the borders of Alabama," Curry said. "We also want to recruit right, left and North and South."

She mentioned the rising sophomores in Alabama, the Class of 2016, "is one of the best in the country." She added the Class of 2014, which is the rising seniors, is also very good.

"We're looking forward to getting out and meeting people," Curry said. "Recruiting is about shaking hands and hugging necks. Recruiting is about building relationships -- it's not about buildings and trees."

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter @MarkSportsStar.
© 2013