Former college and professional basketball star Charlotte Smith was introduced June 22 as Elon's new head women's basketball coach. Smith has spent the last nine years as an assistant coach at her alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill, where she had an All-American career topped by a last-second shot that earned UNC the national title in 1995.
Elon University Director of Athletics Dave Blank introduced Smith at a news conference at Alumni Field House.
“We want a leader with character, integrity and enthusiasm, but I think the number one thing that our players want is a player’s coach, someone who would really relate to them and continue good strong relationships and unite them as a group,” Blank said.
“We wanted a coach who was committed to the coexistence of academic and athletic excellence, as well as a familiarity with the recruiting footprint of Elon University and also the state of North Carolina. We wanted someone who had a background that demonstrated an ability to create a winning and successful basketball program. We landed on Charlotte Smith for a number of reasons, and from our conversations it was pretty clear to me that she’s prepared to become a head coach.”
Over the last nine seasons as an assistant coach at UNC, Smith helped the Tar Heels to a 257-54 record, including a 100-30 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference. UNC won four ACC titles over the last nine seasons, making seven appearances in the top-25 national rankings. The Tar Heels made the NCAA Tournament all nine seasons during Smith’s tenure, making two trips to the Final Four as well as six Sweet 16 and four Elite Eight appearances. From 2005-2008, North Carolina earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“The Elon experience is like no other and you have to be a part of it to understand it,” Smith said. “When I was reading through some different information, I saw that U.S. News and World Report ranks Elon as the nation’s top school to watch, not the region, but the nation to watch. And I said ‘why watch when I can be a part of it.’”
The most decorated player in North Carolina history, Smith was a four-year letterwinner for the Tar Heels from 1992-95 and is one of only two UNC women’s basketball players to have had her jersey retired. The 6-foot forward who wore No. 23 was named National Player of the Year by ESPN in 1995 following a career in which she scored 2,094 points (fifth all-time at UNC) and grabbed 1,200 rebounds (second all-time at UNC).
Smith is perhaps best known for her performance in the 1994 NCAA Championship game, when her buzzer-beating three-pointer gave UNC the national crown with a 60-59 win over Louisiana Tech. She also had a championship-record 23 rebounds in the game and was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
The ACC Rookie of the Year in 1992, Smith earned All-ACC and ACC Tournament MVP honors in her junior and senior seasons as the Tar Heels claimed back-to-back conference crowns.
As a senior, she was named All-America by Kodak, the Associated Press and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. In 2002, she was named to the ACC’s 50th Anniversary team as one of the top players in conference history. She also was honored as the 10th-best female athlete in the history of the league. Early in her senior season, she became just the second collegiate women’s player to dunk in a game when she did so against North Carolina A & T on Dec. 4, 1994.
Following her collegiate career, Smith played professional basketball in Italy, where she was MVP of the Italian All-Star Game for the 1995-96 season. She also spent the 1999-2000 season there.
The Colorado Xplosion picked Smith in the third round (17th overall) of the initial American Basketball League draft in 1996. She spent two-and-a-half seasons in the league, playing for Colorado and the San Jose Lasers and earning All-Star honors.
Smith was the 33rd pick in the 1999 WNBA draft by Charlotte and played six seasons for the Sting before moving to Washington in 2005, then to Indiana in 2006.
Smith has made numerous international appearances for U.S. teams. She was MVP of the 1996 USA Basketball Jones Cup squad, which won a gold medal. She also has played for the 1997 USA Basketball Women’s International Invitational team, the 1995 World University Games team (coached by Hatchell), the 1994 US Select Team, the 1993 U.S. Olympic Festival South team and the 1992 Junior World Championship Qualifying team.
A native of Shelby, N.C., she graduated from Shelby High School, where she earned all-state honors and was her team’s MVP all four years. Smith completed her UNC bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1999. In addition to playing professional basketball, she has interned in the Charlotte Sting offices and has worked for US Sports Management, Inc.
The Charlotte Smith File
- Born: August 23, 1973, in Shelby, N.C.
- Education: Bachelor’s degree, sociology, University of North Carolina, 1999
- Her uncle, former NC State star David Thompson, is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
- A talented piano player and singer
Basketball Coaching Experience
- Assistant women’s basketball coach at UNC from 2002-2011
- Tar Heels had a 257-54 record with Smith as an assistant coach, including a 100-30 mark in the ACC
- UNC won four ACC titles over the last nine seasons and made seven appearances in the top-25 national rankings
- Tar Heels made the NCAA Tournament all nine seasons during Smith’s tenure, making two trips to the Final Four, six Sweet 16 and four Elite Eight appearances.
- Earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for four straight seasons (2005-08)
Basketball Playing Experience:
- Four-year starter at UNC, playing from 1991-95
- Most Outstanding Player of the 1994 Final Four
- Earned All-American honors in 1995
- Her No. 23 UNC jersey was retired on February 24, 1996
- Played two seasons in the American Basketball League
- Played two seasons in Italy
- Played eight seasons in the WNBA, with the Charlotte Sting (1999-2004), Washington Mystics (2005) and Indiana Fever (2006)
Championship Teams (Player/Coach):
- NCAA: 1994
- ACC: 1994, 1995, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
- International: Gold medal with the U.S. team at the 1996 R. William Jones Cup
What others are saying about Charlotte Smith…
North Carolina Head Women’s Basketball Coach Sylvia Hatchell…
“I am just so proud of Charlotte. She has been an incredible asset to Carolina women’s basketball for two decades. Our program owes so much of its success to her hard work both as a player and a coach and she will be greatly missed. That said, I couldn’t be happier for Charlotte to begin her career at an up-and-coming program like Elon. Not only are they getting an outstanding coach, but they are getting an even better person, and we wish her nothing but the best of luck.”
North Carolina Director of Athletics Dick Baddour…
“Charlotte is an exceptional individual with strong values and a determination for success. I am confident she will not only be successful, but that she will develop that success in a first class way. We wish her all the best at Elon.”
CBS Sports Women’s College Basketball Analyst Debbie Antonelli…
“Charlotte Smith is an exciting hire for Elon and the Southern Conference. Charlotte has an impressive resume as a player and as a coach that’s put her in every basketball experience with the exception of sliding over those “18 inches on the bench” to be called head coach. Her North Carolina pedigree as a player and assistant coach have given her the leadership, organization and communication skills and the winning intangibles that are needed to prepare a team and a program. The young women that she guides will excel at the highest levels in the classroom and on the court. The Elon basketball program will be an up-tempo and exciting style of play that will be fun to watch.”
Seton Hall Head Women’s Basketball Coach Anne Donovan…
“Charlotte Smith is a landmark in the state of North Carolina. Her stellar reputation as a high school student-athlete, national champion, coach at UNC and role model for all young women is legendary. Kudos to Elon University for this tremendous hire!”
South Carolina Head Women’s Basketball Coach Dawn Staley…
“Charlotte was the ultimate teammate and she has a great basketball IQ. It’s a tremendous hire for not only the Elon women’s basketball program, but for the community as a whole. Charlotte will be very instrumental in helping the campus grow on all levels, not just on the basketball court. She is a passionate, wonderful and spiritual person that will help take the Elon women’s basketball program to the next level.”