ORONO — The 7.1 magnitude earthquake that shook California on July 5 also rolled through the basketball court in the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, and Edniesha Curry, sitting on the sidelines, barely noticed.

“I’m from (Palmdale) California,” Curry said Wednesday at Memorial Gym in Orono. “It didn’t bother me at all. I was like, ‘Whatever. Next.'”

Curry, a second-year assistant coach for the University of Maine men’s basketball team, was in Vegas as a guest assistant coach on the San Antonio Spurs NBA Summer League team. She was also a guest coach on the Spurs’ summer team in Salt Lake City.

“It was excellent,” said Curry, who has participated previously in the NBA’s Assistant Coaches Program. “It was a dream come true. It was a lot of fun getting a chance to grow as a coach with a championship organization like the Spurs.”

Edniesha Curry, the only female assistant coach in NCAA Division I men’s basketball, recently got a chance to coach in the NBA Summer League with the San Antonio Spurs. Photo by David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

Curry, 40, is the only female assistant coach on an NCAA Division I men’s basketball team, and only the fourth in NCAA history. She believes her gender is no longer important when it comes to doing the job.

“I think gender is more of a media thing,” she said. “I’ve always said that. It’s not a norm for the world. These players have aunts and cousins and moms who are, or were, great players. So many of the players in the NBA now, you ask them who taught them to play and they say, ‘My mom.’ The guys really don’t care. … If you can help them achieve their goal, that’s all they care about.”

Curry, who played in the WNBA and internationally (where she also coached), assisted Blake Ahearn on the Spurs’ Salt Lake City team, then in Las Vegas assisted Becky Hammon, who was hired by San Antonio in 2014 as the NBA’s first full-time female assistant.

Her duties included running practice drills and the teams’ pregame workout, where she got three groups of players for 12 minutes each to prepare them for the game. She was on the bench during games, offering suggestions to either Ahearn or Hammon when needed. Summer League teams typically includes rookies and players with limited professional experience who are seeking spots on NBA rosters.

She said coaching at that level is no different from college. The fundamentals are the same. And the players want to learn.

“It’s a job,” she said. “They understand all the coaches are there to help them get better and to help them achieve their dreams. So it’s a  business. They come in ready to go and willing to work hard.”

UMaine head coach Richard Barron said Curry’s stint in the NBA Summer League can only benefit the Black Bears. “Obviously it’s great for her,” he said. “I think there are benefits for our players directly and indirectly from her being out there.”

Curry said she was most impressed by the professionalism and culture of the Spurs organization, something she wants to bring back to the Black Bears.

“They’re one of the top organizations in the NBA for a reason,” she said. “It’s a true buy-in to what it means to be selfless and what it means to give yourself for the greater good of everybody. Everybody came in about the Spurs, it wasn’t about individual greatness or their stats.”

The Summer League stint gave Curry another glimpse at coaching at an elite level. She hopes one day to be a head coach of a Division I men’s team or land a spot on an NBA coaching staff.

“I have dreams of coaching in the NBA – who doesn’t?” she said. “But I do enjoy college too. I enjoy coaching. And I enjoy showing my passion for basketball and giving my players the love and care they need on and off the court. That would be for college and pro. I would be the same coach.”


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