Edniesha Curry never wanted to be a trailblazer when she became a coach after a playing career that spanned both the WNBA and international professional basketball leagues.
But this is where the 43-year-old Curry finds herself as one of the first female coaches to lead a men’s national team in international competition.
On Sunday, the Virgin Islands Basketball Federation announced that it had hired Curry to be the head coach of the USVI men’s national team for the upcoming FIBA AmeriCup tournament, which kicks off September 2 in Brazil. .
“It’s a big step forward – I’m delighted too,” Curry said in a phone interview with The Daily News on Sunday. “Understanding FIBA, since playing nine years abroad, I have experienced the physique and the rules, and I understand that the game is different in this form.”
This hiring makes Curry one of the few women to have coached a men’s basketball team at the international level. According to online resources, Brigitte Affidehome Tonon coached the Benin men’s national team in the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 qualifiers, and Australia’s Liz Mills coached the Kenya men’s national team in the FIBA AfroBasket tournament. 2021 last summer.
However, Curry didn’t think about the differences between coaching men and women in basketball, not least because there is no difference.
“You know what, I always say ‘basketball is basketball,'” Curry said. “If you’re a coach who can teach the game, direct the game and empower, whether you’re coaching men or women, it really doesn’t matter.
“I’ve been coaching for six years now…I’ve coached men all over the world. If you are a great teacher and someone who can instill and empower them, they will listen to you. It’s just on a different level. But teaching a 2-3 zone to women or men is the same thing.
According to David Edole, general secretary of the Virgin Islands Basketball Federation, the idea to bring Curry on as head coach of the men’s national team came from former St. Croix resident Jerome Tang. , who won an NCAA Tournament championship as an associate head coach at Baylor in 2021 before being hired as a head coach at Kansas State in March 2022.
“It was Coach Tang,” Edole said. “He knows her and he asked if we had a place available. I spoke to [VIBF’s executive board], and they said, ‘Let’s see.’ Then we talked to Donald Bough [the men’s national team coach for the AmeriCup Qualifiers]. He liked her, and that’s how she became the head coach.
However, it wasn’t that simple, according to Curry – she had to get her FIBA coaching license first and then get clearance from USA Basketball, as she had no family connection to USVI.
It only happened this weekend, leading to Sunday’s announcement by the VIBF.
“We had been going back and forth for months,” Curry said.
What the VIBF got Curry was a coach with college and professional experience, after a playing career in the WNBA (2003 with the Phoenix Mercury, 2005 with the Los Angeles Sparks) as well as play overseas for women’s pro teams in Israel, Greece, Hungary and Poland.
“We did our due diligence,” Edole said. “We reached out to some people we know from college, and they spoke about her pretty well. We got a good hire.
Curry’s first coaching job came in 2012 as an international development coach with Sports Skills Academy programs in Israel, China and Vietnam. In 2015, she got her first coaching job in the United States, as an assistant coach for the University of Maine women’s basketball team.
After a year-long absence from the NBA’s assistant coaching program, Curry returned to Maine in 2018 as an assistant coach for the Black Bears men’s team. She also began making inroads with the NBA, working in the Draft Combine and G League Showcase, serving as a guest coach with Summer League team San Antonio Spurs in 2019, and assisting with pre-draft workouts. Minnesota Timberwolves.
Then Curry got her big break — to be hired as an assistant coach for the Portland Trail Blazers for the 2021-22 season. This made her one of seven assistant coaches in the league that season. She also coached the Trail Blazers team that won the NBA Summer League title last month.
Now Curry is taking the next step with the USVI Men’s National Team. She has already phoned assistant coaches and team support staff and plans to call the players over the next few days.
Curry will be able to meet them all in person at the team’s training camp in Brazil the week before the US Virgin Islands – No. 57 in the latest FIBA World Rankings – open the AmeriCup tournament against the United States. Argentina, seventh in the standings, on September 3.
USVI is one of 12 teams in this year’s AmeriCup and plays in Pool B with 19th-placed Dominican Republic and 20th-placed Puerto Rico.
The top two teams from each of the three pools, along with the two highest-ranked third-place teams, will advance to the playoff rounds beginning September 8.
“I’m excited about it,” Curry said. “It was fun preparing for it, organizing behind the scenes with the staff. I am delighted to have the opportunity to improve as a coach again. Every time you have the opportunity to improve and grow as a coach, you should be excited. It’s just another platform for me.