Charli Turner Thorne is returning to the basketball court – and she’s bringing an old friend with her.
The head coach of Arizona State‘s women’s basketball program just hired Amanda Levens to help her get the Sun Devils back to the NCAA Tournament next year.
Levens knows exactly what she’s getting into because she played for Turner Thorne in 2001 and 2002. In fact, Turner Thorne recruited her right out of an Illinois high school, but the high-scoring guard opted to attend Old Dominion before transferring back to ASU for her final two seasons of college ball.
This coaching hire is also an indication that the ASU head coach is back in full operating mode after taking a one-year sabbatical from the game last season to give her a chance to spend more time with her family and just re-charge her batteries in general.
Now she’s refreshed, renewed, and ready to begin her 16th season at the helm of the Sun Devil program.
Assistant coach Joseph Anders took the reins in her absence and led the team to a 20-12 record and into the post-season. But it wasn’t the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the Devils accepted an invite to the WNIT, but got bounced by University of Pacific in the first round.
Turner Thorne wants to get them back to the Big Dance, where they have been eight times and have advanced to the Elite Eight twice under her guidance.
And Levens knows what it’s like to go deep in the NCAA Tournament. At Old Dominion, she played on two Sweet 16 teams. When she switched to ASU, she was named to the All-Pac 10 team in 2001 and put up 1,322 points in her two seasons there.
The addition of Levens to the ASU staff as an associate head coach should help in that effort. The 33-year-old coach was named the Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year for her work last season in leading Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville to an over-achieving 18-12 record and the school’s first D-I post-season appearance.
The Cougars, which were picked in the pre-season to finish in eighth place in the conference, finished in fourth. Not bad for a team that won just five games in her first season at SIUE.
She won the job at SIUE when she became one of the hottest assistant coaches in the country while at the University of Nevada-Reno.
It’s a particularly important hire for ASU since there’s a good chance Anders won’t be there that much longer; he’s in a good position to parlay his interim gig into a head-coaching job somewhere. So Levens will join associate head coach, Meg Sanders, on the staff. Amy Wright, who spent just one season as an assistant, is also leaving.
Sanders has been working with Turner Thorne for 12 years, nine at ASU and three before that as an assistant when her boss was the head coach at Northern Arizona University. She took over as head coach at NAU when Turner Thorne left for Tempe, serving seven more years in Flagstaff before joining the ASU staff.
And now, with the return of former player Levens, this latest hire looks more like a family reunion.