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Charmin Smith New Women's Basketball Head Coach

June 21, 2019

In the latest surprise move involving the Cal women’s basketball program, Charmin Smith has been hired to succeed Lindsay Gottlieb as head coach.

Smith left Cal after 12 seasons as an assistant, just two months ago to become an assistant coach with the New York Liberty of the WNBA. Now she is back in Berkeley.

Gottlieb was hired last week as an assistant with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers in a move that caught even her by surprise. Athletic director Jim Knowlton has moved quickly to fill the vacancy. In the days since Gottlieb’s resignation, more than 20 names were on various internet lists of possible replacements. None of them was Smith. Everyone understandably believed she would not leave a job she just took. Turns out they were wrong.

Smith becomes the 10th head coach in Cal women's basketball history. She was hired by Gottlieb’s predecessor Joanne Boyell as an assistant in 2007 and promoted to associate head coach in 2012 when Gottlieb took over.

Known as an outstanding recruiter, Smith could conceivably immediately bolster the Bears depleted roster. Star guard McKenzie Forbes, who recently announced her intent to transfer, cited Smith’s departure as one of the reasons. This is mere speculation, but given Smith’s return Forbes might reconsider. 

Also top recruit Lauren Fields asked to be released from her letter of intent after Gottlieb’s departure. Smith could persuade her to stick with the Bears.

"I am extremely excited that Charmin has agreed to lead our women's basketball program," Knowlton said in a news release. "With a dozen years as a member of our staff under both Joanne Boyle and Lindsay Gottlieb, she has a deep understanding of Cal and Cal basketball.

“She has played an integral role in the most successful seasons in our history, including trips to multiple NCAA Tournaments, a Final Four and a Pac-12 championship. Charmin is committed to supporting student-athletes in all aspects of their lives, helping them thrive academically, athletically and personally, and she has a clear vision that builds upon the foundation already established here in Berkeley. Charmin has prepared her entire career for this opportunity, and I believe she is ready to lead our program to even greater heights."

The Liberty, where Smith was reunited with former Cal players Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray, are off to a slow start this year with a 3-6 record. Liberty head coach Katie Smith gave Charmin her blessing.

"It's been a pleasure to work alongside Charmin and I am excited for her and this amazing opportunity,” Katie Smith was quoted by the Bears. “She is incredibly knowledgeable about the game and that translates into how she coaches and inspires players. We all wish her continued success in her new role.”

Charmin, who has never been a head coach, certainly knows what she is getting into having spent so much time on the Cal bench. She sounds eager and ready to go.

Cal Athletics
Charmin Smith

"I am excited and honored to have the opportunity to lead this program and the amazing young women in it," Smith said in the Cal news release. "I am grateful to Jim Knowlton for trusting me to keep building the tradition of excellence that is Cal basketball. I also cannot thank Katie Smith enough for giving me the opportunity to coach alongside her in the WNBA as well as General Manager Jonathan Kolb for trusting her hire. The experience with the New York Liberty only furthered my passion for and commitment to the game.

“Berkeley has been my home for the last 12 years and has made a lasting mark on my life. I am incredibly proud of what this program has already accomplished under the direction of both Joanne and Lindsay, and I am thrilled to continue the work of preparing our student-athletes for success both on the court and beyond.”

Several Cal players took to Twitter to praise the hire. “Today is hands down the best day of my life,” wrote forward Alaysia Sykes.

“My dawg is BACK!”, Tweeted guard Sara Anastasieska.

Gotttlieb, too, had nothing but good things to say about the move. “I'm really excited for Charmin, I'm thrilled for our student-athletes, and I'm very proud of Cal, because I think this is a phenomenal hire all the way around,” Gottlieb said per the Cal release. “Charmin has played and coached in Final Fours, she has two engineering degrees from Stanford, she was my right-hand person for years, and now she's the head coach at Cal. This women's basketball program that I care about so much is going to thrive under her leadership and I truly believe the best is in front of us."

Smith, a native of St. Louis, Mo.,  played four years at Stanford (1993-97) and helped the Cardinal to three NCAA Final Fours. She earned her bachelor’s and master's degrees in civil and environmental engineering from the school.

Following her collegiate playing career, Smith played professionally first in the now-defunct ABL with the Portland Power. Then three years in the WNBA. She also played a year in Sweden.

She began her coaching career in 2003 as an assistant coach at Boston College, where she spent one season before joining Tara Vanderveer's coaching staff at Stanford. After three years on the Stanford staff, she moved to Cal.

She will be formally introduced Tuesday at a press conference on campus.

Related Story:

Gottlieb Leaves Cal for Role As Cavs Assistant

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