TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State head women’s basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne, who is third in Pac-10 history with 289 career wins and has led the Sun Devil program to six NCAA tournaments in the past seven seasons, has asked for an unpaid voluntary leave of absence for the 2011-12 season that will be for a nine-month period beginning July 1. Turner Thorne will return to the Sun Devil program as head coach in the spring of 2012. She has led the ASU program for the past 15 seasons, a mark for longevity matched or topped by only three Pac-10 women’s basketball coaches in the Pac-10′s history of hosting women’s championships (1986 to 2011).
Current staff member Joseph Anders will be the interim head coach for the 2011-12 season. A coaching veteran of more than 25 years, Anders just completed his 10th season on Turner Thorne’s staff. The Newport, Ark., native, whose previous coaching experience includes serving as head coach of the Sacramento State men’s basketball program for six seasons, has been on the bench for seven of the eight NCAA tournament appearances during Turner Thorne’s tenure.
“In her 15 seasons Coach Charli Turner Thorne has worked efficiently and tirelessly to build a foundation of great strength and stability with our women’s basketball program, which is duly noted by six NCAA tournament appearances in the past seven seasons,” ASU Vice President of Athletics Lisa Love notes. “Her teams have produced school records and earned marks that are without equal in Sun Devil basketball history and her student-athletes have been excellent role models for future young Sun Devils. When she approached us about the opportunity to take time for some personal and professional development, it also showed her ability to understand what she felt would be best not only for her family, but for Sun Devil athletics over the next season and beyond. We are confident in her staff and student-athletes to carry on the tradition she has helped build, and most importantly we fully support her voluntary leave from ASU as she is able to spend quality time with her wonderful family of husband Will and sons Conor, Liam and Quinn and are excited about her commitment to professional development. Her first 15 years are ASU Hall-of-Fame worthy, and we are excited about the future of the program.”
“At this point in my career and with the foundation for our program firmly established, I am going to spend some time regaining balance in my life which I know will help me grow and become a better coach.,” says Turner Thorne. “Our program is extremely strong right now and will continue great progress with a wonderful coaching staff, a great group of returning players and a lot of new energy and talent from our incoming recruits. I feel blessed to have the understanding of President Dr. Michael Crow, Lisa Love and Senior Associate Athletic Director Don Bocchi. I am excited to continue my leadership role as President of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). I will take full advantage of this opportunity to recenter myself, have more family time and improve as a coach.”
A 1988 graduate of Stanford with a bachelor’s degree in psychology who earned her master’s degree in education from Washington in 1990, Turner Thorne has led the Sun Devils to the postseason 12 consecutive seasons, including a school record five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances (2005-09). ASU’s eight NCAA tournament appearances under Turner Thorne are five more than what ASU had in the 15 years prior to her arrival in Tempe. In 2011 Turner Thorne led ASU to its sixth NCAA tournament appearance in the last seven years after guiding the Sun Devils to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons in 2009. ASU’s final 26-9 record in 2008-09 included a school record 15-game winning streak.
Turner Thorne is one of three coaches (former Washington head coach Chris Gobrecht and current Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer) in Pac-10 women’s basketball championship history (since the 1986-87 season) to have led their respective schools to five (or more) consecutive 20-win seasons. In 2006-07 she guided the Sun Devils to a school record 31 wins, including a school record 16 Pac-10 wins, and led them to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. The Sun Devils concluded the 2006-07 season ranked No. 8 in the final USA Today ESPN Coaches Poll and No. 10 in the final Associated Press Poll, their highest final rankings in each of the respective polls in school history.
In 2005-06 Turner Thorne led ASU to a 25-7 record and to its first top-10 ranking in 22 years after directing ASU to a 24-10 overall record and its first NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance in 22 years in 2004-05. She guided ASU to a share of the Pac-10 title in 2001 and the inaugural Pac-10 Tournament title in 2002, the first league championship in school history.
Away from ASU, Turner Thorne served as the head coach of the USA Women’s World University Games Team in the summer of 2009 which went undefeated (7-0) and captured the gold medal at the 2009 World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia. It was Turner Thorne’s second time working with USA Basketball. In the summer of 2007 Turner Thorne served as an assistant coach on USA Basketball’s U21 World Championship Team which won the gold medal at the FIBA U21 World Championship in Moscow, Russia.
Her family includes husband Will and sons Conor (12), Liam (10) and Quinn (7).
Although Turner Thorne won’t coach this season, ASU’s staff has plenty of experience with both Anders and Meg Sanders on the bench.
Prior to arriving at Arizona State, Anders was an assistant coach for the women’s programs at Mississippi State (1994-96), New Mexico State (1996-00) and East Carolina (2001). The Mississippi State appointment came following two seasons as an assistant coach for the men’s program at Northern Arizona. It was there where Anders first encountered Turner Thorne who was the head women’s coach at the time.
Meg Sanders, who was on Turner Thorne’s first coaching staff at Northern Arizona, also just completed her eighth season. Like Anders, Sanders also has previously served as a head coach as she was promoted to the top spot at NAU after Turner Thorne left to become the head coach at ASU in 1996. Sanders guided the NAU women’s program for seven seasons before rejoining Turner Thorne at ASU in 2003.
Sanders, who began her coaching career at Fresno State where she served as an assistant coach for four seasons, guided the USA women’s basketball team to a silver medal at the 2009 Deaflympics held in Taipei, Taiwan.