Audra Smith knows how to succeed as a player in the Atlantic Coast Conference. She's eager to do it again as Clemson's new women's basketball coach.
Smith, the former Virginia player who spent the past nine years as UAB's head coach, was hired to take over the Tigers' struggling program Monday and make an impact in the already tough and soon-to-be beefed up ACC.
"There has been success here," Smith said. "If I'm not mistaken, there have been two ACC championships and trips to the NCAA tournament and that was attractive to me because I know that we can get this program turned around and going in the right direction."
Things have trended downward for the Lady Tigers in recent years. Former Clemson point guard Itoro Coleman, part of two ACC championship teams in the late 1990s, went just 25-63 in three seasons before she was fired last month.
The ACC challenge figures to get tougher the next couple of years with the inclusion of Final Four teams Notre Dame and Louisville, along with Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Smith, though, won with the Lady Cavaliers, a member of a team from 1988-92 that won two ACC titles and played in three Final Fours — a team led by All-American Dawn Staley, now the successful coach at South Carolina, Clemson's state rival.
Staley, named to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame on Monday, welcomed Smith to the state. "I already told her we aren't supposed to like each other, but she will be an exception on those days we aren't playing each other," Staley said.