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South Carolina State nabs former Clemson head coach

Audra Smith makes the jump from the ACC to the MEAC.

South Carolina State nabs former Clemson head coach

Courtesy: South Carolina State University

ORANGEBURG, SC—South Carolina State Director of Athletics Stacy Danley has announced the hiring of Audra Smith as the new head women’s basketball coach.

“When I began my search for a new head women’s basketball coach, pedigree was high on my list of qualifications. Coach Smith has a remarkable pedigree. She was a champion at the University of Virginia as a student-athlete and an assistant coach, she was a champion at UAB as a head coach and competed at the highest level as a head coach in the ACC at Clemson University”, said Danley.

“This is a family atmosphere and after talking to administration on what direction they wanted the women’s basketball program to go I was convinced this was a great fit for me,” said Smith. “I know in every situation it may be a challenge but me and my staff are committed to working hard to turn things around.”

Danley also stated, “She understands what a championship team should look like and how they need to prepare.  I believe that Coach Smith will serve as tremendous leader of our women’s basketball team, and an excellent role model for our students at South Carolina State University and I look forward to supporting her as we elevate our program to a championship level.”

Smith comes to South Carolina State after spending five years as the head coach at Clemson University. During her tenure at Clemson led she the Tigers to a dramatic improvement. In Smith’s fourth year at the helm, the Tigers won 11 more games than the 2015-16 season and finished the year with a 15-16 overall record, the program’s best record since 2003-04.

The Tigers were 11-2 in nonconference play in 2016-17, the program’s best nonconference record since 2003-04. The team’s only two nonconference losses came to top-25 teams (No. 6 South Carolina and No. 25 Oregon). The program went 13-19 in Smith’s first season, 2013-14, and the 13 wins were the most by the team since 2009-10.

During Smith’s time at UAB, the Blazers were 57-39 over her last three seasons, and had a winning record in conference play in each of the past four. The 57 wins over three seasons were the most in any three-year period at UAB in 17 years. Her UAB program finished with a winning record in each of her last four seasons, including a Women’s Basketball Invitational tournament title in 2010-11, a 19-11 record in 2011-12, and an 18-13 mark and WNIT bid in 2012-13.

Under Smith, the UAB team and players established 25 school records, three players earned Conference-USA Player-of-the-Year honors, and her players garnered 12 All-Conference USA selections. Academically, UAB had 25 selections for conference academic honors in her final three seasons alone, and 39 overall.

Smith also worked as an assistant coach under Hall of Famer Debbie Ryan at Virginia. As an assistant from 1994-2004, the team reached the NCAA Tournament in nine of her ten seasons. During Smith’s career as a student-athlete, Virginia was 113-18 in four seasons, made three trips to the Final Four and won two ACC Championships. One of her teammates at Virginia was current South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley.

A native of Milledgeville, GA, where she was named Miss Georgia Basketball in 1988. She graduated from Virginia with a degree in sociology and is married to former Virginia basketball player Anthony Oliver, who played for the Cavaliers from 1988-92.

The couple has a son, A.J., and a daughter, Adria. A.J. is a member of the Clemson men’s basketball team, and Adria is a member of the Clemson volleyball team.

Career Path:
From Milledgeville, Ga.; Attended Baldwin HS; Named Miss Basketball in Georgia in 1988
1988-92: Played at Virginia (Class of ’92, Sociology) under Debbie Ryan as forward and center; Team went to three Final Fours and won two ACC Championships
1992-94: Worked in hometown
1994-96: Restricted Earnings Coach at Virginia
1996-2004: Assistant Coach at Virginia; Named Recruiting Coordinator in 2000
2004-13: Head Coach at University of Alabama at Birmingham
2013-18: Head Coach at Clemson
2018-present: Head Coach at South Carolina State

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