The FCA's Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) committee has announced that they will be presenting Charlotte Smith, head coach for the Elon University’s women’s basketball team, the FCA Kay Yow “Heart of a Coach” Award this month.
“All of us at Fellowship of Christian Athletes are thrilled to honor Elon University’s women’s basketball coach Charlotte Smith, who has displayed the FCA values of integrity, serving, teamwork and excellence throughout her career,” said Shane Williamson, FCA president and CEO. “The greatest influence in an athlete’s life is the coach, and there is no greater calling for Christ-following coaches than to influence their players for Jesus.”
Named for the late North Carolina State coaching icon Kay Yow, the “Heart of a Coach” Award is presented annually by FCA to honor a basketball coach who has exemplified biblical principles over the course of his or her career. Kay Yow, who passed away from breast cancer in 2009, was presented with the inaugural award at the 2008 Women’s Final Four in Tampa.
Charlotte Smith— a former University of North Carolina women’s basketball standout who hit the game winning shot in the 1994 national championship game— is in her 11th season at the helm of the Elon University women’s basketball program.
During Smith’s first year as a head coach at the university, Elon posted a 16-14 record. It stands as the most victories in a season by a first-year head coach in program history.
In 2016-17, Smith saw her vision of a championship come to fruition with Elon capturing the CAA regular season and tournament titles, the first Division I championships for the program and first conference championships since winning the Conference Carolinas regular season crown in 1982. Elon set a new program Division I record for victories with a 27-7 mark to go with a 16-2 record in CAA action. As a result, the Phoenix earned its first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament, where it battled sixth-seeded West Virginia and ultimately fell in a back-and-forth game to the Mountaineers in College Park, Md. During the 2016-17 season, Smith also captured her 100th career win in a 75-65 victory over Drexel on Jan. 15. In hitting triple-digit win totals, Smith stands third in program history for most wins. With the outstanding season, Smith was named the CAA Coach of the Year, marking the first Elon Coach of the Year award in women's basketball since 1981.
As an assistant at North Carolina for nine seasons before arriving at Elon, Smith helped the Tar Heels to a 157-54 record, including a 100-30 mark in ACC play. UNC won four conference titles during Smith’s stay in Chapel Hill, making seven appearances in the national Top 25.
The most decorated player in North Carolina history, Smith was a four-year letterwinner for the Tar Heels from 1991-95 and is one of only two UNC women’s basketball players to have had her jersey raised to the rafters inside Carmichael Arena. Smith is perhaps best known for her performance in the 1994 NCAA Championship game, when her buzzer-beating three-pointer gave North Carolina the national title with a 60-59 win over Louisiana Tech. She also had a championship-record 23 rebounds in the contest and was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
Following her collegiate career, Smith played professional basketball in Italy, where she was MVP of the Italian All-Star Game for the 1995-96 season. In 1996, Smith was picked in the third round (17th overall) by the Colorado Xplosion in the initial American Basketball League draft. She spent two and a half seasons in the league, playing for Colorado and the San Jose Lasers and earning All-Star honors. Smith was then the 33rd pick of the 1999 WNBA draft by Charlotte and played six seasons for the Sting before moving to Washington in 2005 and to Indiana in 2006.
A native of Shelby, North Carolina, Smith graduated from Shelby High School, where she earned all-state honors and was her team’s MVP all four years. Smith completed her bachelor’s degree in sociology at North Carolina in 1999. In May 2015, Smith was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
Past winners of the FCA Kay Yow “Heart of a Coach” Award include Kay Yow, North Carolina State (2008); Jane Alrbight, Nevada (2009); Nancy Wilson, College of Charleston (2010); Sue Ramsey, Ashland (2011); Deb Patterson, Kansas State (2012); Sue Semrau, Florida State (2013); Kristy Curry, Alabama (2014); Matt Bollant, Illinois (2015); Kirk Martin, Cedarville (2016); Julie Goodenough, Abilene Christian (2017); Lynn Plett, University of Colorado Springs (2018); Carey Green, Liberty University (2019); and Cori Close, UCLA (2020).
Photos courtesy of Elon University