Cal Women's Basketball: Charmin Smith Named Bears' Head Coach

Jake Curtis

Charmin Smith, a Cal assistant coach this past season before accepting a job as an assistant coach with the WNBA’s New York Liberty in April, has returned to Cal as the Bears' new head coach.

Cal made the announcement Friday, a week after Lindsay Gottlieb left Cal to take a job as an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA.

Smith has been a Cal assistant for the last 12 seasons, but this will be her first time as a head coach.

Smith will be formally introduced at a press conference Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the Field Club at California Memorial Stadium.

It is unclear whether freshman McKenzie Forbes, who requested a release from Cal on Thursday, might reconsider and stay at Cal now that a familiar face has been hired.

Smith seemed like a logical choice to succeed Gottlieb, although it was unclear whether she would be willing to leave her WNBA job. She had accepted the job with the Liberty on April 2, and the the WNBA is in the middle of its season now. Perhaps the only odd thing about the hiring of Smith was that she played for Cal’s archrival, Stanford, under Tara VanDerveer.

Smith becomes the 10th head coach in Cal women's basketball history. Cal has had ten 20-win seasons and made nine trips to the NCAA Tournament since Smith's arrival in Berkeley in 2007, highlighted by the program's first trip to the Final Four in 2013.

"I am extremely excited that Charmin has agreed to lead our women's basketball program," Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton said. "With a dozen years as a member of our staff under both (former head coach) Joanne Boyle and Lindsay Gottlieb she has a deep understanding of Cal and Cal basketball. She has played an integral role in the most successful seasons in our history, including trips to multiple NCAA Tournaments, a Final Four and a Pac-12 championship. Charmin is committed to supporting student-athletes in all aspects of their lives, helping them thrive academically, athletically and personally, and she has a clear vision that builds upon the foundation already established here in Berkeley. Charmin has prepared her entire career for this opportunity, and I believe she is ready to lead our program to even greater heights."

Smith also issued a statement:

"I am excited and honored to have the opportunity to lead this program and the amazing young women in it," Smith said "I am grateful to Jim Knowlton for trusting me to keep building the tradition of excellence that is Cal basketball. I also cannot thank Katie Smith enough for giving me the opportunity to coach alongside her in the WNBA as well as General Manager Jonathan Kolb for trusting her hire. The experience with the New York Liberty only furthered my passion for and commitment to the game. Berkeley has been my home for the last 12 years and has made a lasting mark on my life. I am incredibly proud of what this program has already accomplished under the direction of both Joanne and Lindsay, and I am thrilled to continue the work of preparing our student-athletes for success both on the court and beyond."

Smith arrived at Cal for the 2007-08 under head coach Boyle and remained on the staff when Gottlieb was hired in 2011.

Of the 14 McDonald's All-Americans in Cal women's basketball history, Smith has helped sign 12 of them since joining the Cal staff in 2007.

"I'm really excited for Charmin, I'm thrilled for our student-athletes, and I'm very proud of Cal, because I think this is a phenomenal hire all the way around,” Gottlieb said in a statement. “Charmin has played and coached in Final Fours, she has two engineering degrees from Stanford, she was my right-hand person for years, and now she's the head coach at Cal. This women's basketball program that I care about so much is going to thrive under her leadership and I truly believe the best is in front of us."

Smith had been an assistant coach at Boston College and Stanford before becoming an assistant at Cal.