Former WNBA player to coach women’s team

By Kelsey Johnson


The new head coach for the women’s basketball team at the University of the Incarnate Word had a busy year once.

In the space of 12 months, then-point guard Christy Smith led Team USA to gold at the World University Games, Arkansas to the NCAA Final Four and the Charlotte Sting into the WNBA playoffs.

NowChristy Smith the former pro is taking over a program that is entering its fourth and final year of the transition process from NCAA Division II to Division I. In its first three years as a member of the Southland Conference, the program has won only seven conference games.

Smith, a native of Oxford, Ind., is coming to UIW after serving two years as an assistant coach at Arkansas. She was introduced to the Cardinals community April 13 in a news conference at Alice McDermott Convocation Center where the home games are played.

“We are really excited to have Christy join the UIW family,” John Williams, director of athletics, said. “She brings a wealth of experience from her success as a player and as a coach. Christy has played both in the collegiate and professional ranks. She understands the importance of hard work both in the classroom and on the court. We are blessed to have her.”

Smith began her coaching career as head varsity girls’ basketball coach at Harrison High School in West Lafayette. Before that she served as an assistant coach at Lafayette Jefferson High School and at Lake Country Christian School in Fort Worth, Texas, where she worked with Whitney Hand, a standout player at the University of Oklahoma.
Smith has been a Division I assistant coach in women’s basketball since 2008, starting at Valparaiso (Ind.) University where she served three years as recruiting coordinator. She also prepared team travel, scouted opponents and worked on individual player development. She was a high school coach before that.
In the summer of 2011, Smith took a position at Purdue University in West Lafayette, and had a successful three years with the Boilermakers where they went 77-27, including winning a pair of Big Ten Tournament titles and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament all three seasons was there. She was the position coach for Courtney Moses, a first team All-Big Ten player in 2014.  She continued to do many of the same things at Valparaiso and added a few other duties such as coordinating academic plans for players, and representing the department at fund-raising and speaking events.
Smith moved to Arkansas in Fayetteville in 2014. She helped the program to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2015. She was a key recruiter for the program and remained involved in fund-raising and speaking events while arranging player involvement in a community service event.
Smith was a four-time honorable mention All-American for the Razorbacks, was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll three times, and earned first team All-SEC as a senior after twice being named second team All-SEC. In 1995, she earned SEC Freshman of the Year recognition.

The three-time team captain is eighth all-time at Arkansas in scoring with 1,459 career points. She also ranks fourth in school history with 507 career assists and third with 239 steals. She is second all-time in made free throws, connecting on 461, a mark that ranks 10th in the SEC as well. Smith finished her collegiate career shooting 83.7 percent from the charity stripe, second-best in Razorback history, and holds the single-season school record of 89.9 percent set in the 1994-95 season, a year she led the nation in that category.

She competed for the United States at the World University Games in Italy in 1997, winning a gold medal. She also represented the North on the 1995 Olympic Festival Team.

After a stellar senior season, Smith was drafted No. 17 overall by the Charlotte Sting in 1998 where she played two seasons for the WNBA franchise. Smith was inducted into the Arkansas Hall of Honor in 2005, the fifth women’s basketball player at the school to receive such an honor. In 2015, she was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Smith has two degrees from Arkansas: a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in biomechanics. Now she’s bringing her background to UIW.

“I am honored to be named head coach at the University of the Incarnate Word, and would like to thank Dr. (Lou) Agnese (the president), John Williams, and the hiring committee for giving me this opportunity,” said Smith, who was one of three finalists brought in for interviews to succeed Kate Henderson, who resigned March 7, as coach.

“I feel privileged to be a part of the Southland Conference with the recent success of Abilene Christian and UCA, and the tradition of Stephen F. Austin, where my college coach, Gary Blair, started his head coaching career,” Smith said.

Smith said she and her family — she’s married to Tommy Cook, and they have three children: Dayton, Crew, and Tyson – have been getting to know San Antonio, especially its restaurants.

“Restaurants like Mi Tierra and La Fogata are where I am confidant my family will soon become regulars,” Smith said. “San Antonio is an incredible city with the draw of the Alamo, River Walk and festivals like Fiesta.”

And she’s looking to improve the women’s record. The team finished the previous season, 6-23.

“My goal is to build a program where student-athletes take with them an understanding of the importance of working hard, giving back, and honoring God in everything they do,” Smith said.