UNC lures Duke aide

Stafford-Odom joins rival women's team, a rare move in college basketball.

Staff WriterAugust 25, 2011 

The North Carolina women's basketball program has turned to archrival Duke to find its new assistant coach.

The team announced Trisha Stafford-Odom as assistant coach on Wednesday.

Stafford-Odom joins the Tar Heels after two seasons with Duke, where she was viewed as one of the nation's leading recruiters and helped the Blue Devils land back-to-back top-five recruiting classes.

UNC hired Stafford-Odom, a former player at California-Berkeley, to fill the position vacated by Charlotte Smith, who was named head coach at Elon in June.

"We are extremely excited to add Trisha to our staff," UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell said in a statement released by the school. "She has played the game at the highest level professionally and coached at the highest level, and she's going to be a tremendous addition for us. Trisha is replacing a Carolina legend in Charlotte Smith, but I think her enthusiasm for women's basketball and her work ethic as a coach and a recruiter will help make this a very smooth transition."

Stafford-Odom, 41, played at Cal from 1988 to 1992, twice earning All Pac-10 honors and scoring 1,530 career points. A native of Los Angeles, she played two seasons in the WNBA and played with professional teams overseas.

Stafford-Odom could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Stafford-Odom spent three seasons as an assistant at UCLA, helping the Bruins sign a No. 3-ranked class before moving to Durham to work for coach Joanne P. McCallie at Duke.

During her time at Duke, working alongside assistant coach Samantha Williams, who left the program and is now on the staff at Louisville, Stafford-Odom helped the Devils sign a 2009-10 recruiting class, considered No. 1 in the nation.

"She's really sharp," said Bret McCormick, girls basketball scout for All-Star Girls Report. "She knows the kids, she really connects with the kids."

The move for Stafford-Odom comes as a surprise to several women's college basketball observers, who noted the rarity of an assistant joining the staff of a rival program.

"I think on the men's side you see it happen somewhat more often," national women's basketball analyst Debbi Antonelli said. "On the women's side, particularly these two schools, wow. It's a little surprising. ... It's unique. It's interesting. But it does happen."

Antonelli, who played basketball for N.C. State, said the most surprising part about the move is the proximity of the two major programs. "You add the rivalry, the bitter hatred between those two programs in basketball. What the men feel in the rivalry, the women feel the same."

McCormick said Imani Stafford, a top 15 player in the 2012 recruiting class, recently added UNC to her list of schools based on the move. The 6-foot-6 Stafford, he said, is Stafford-Odom's niece. She had already included Duke on that list.

McCormick said Duke has received a verbal commitment Alexis Jones, who many consider a top-five recruit from the 2012 class.

Edward.robinson@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4781

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