Charli Turner Thorne announces her retirement as ASU head women’s basketball coach
TEMPE, Ariz. – Charli Turner Thorne, a transformational figure in the lineage of Sun Devil Athletics who turned Sun Devil Women's Basketball into a national power, announced her retirement as head women's basketball coach at Arizona State on Thursday.
The winningest coach in ASU women's basketball history and No. 2 all-time in career wins (488) by a Pac-12 coach, the success of Turner Thorne's teams was a 180-degree turnaround from the program she agreed to become the leader of 26 years ago.
Links to memorable moments in Charli Turner Thorne's 25 seasons as head coach at ASU.
VIDEO: No. 10 ASU upsets No. 10 OSU in 2OT – Jan. 20, 2019
VIDEO: ASU downs Miami to reach Sweet 16 – Mar. 24, 2019
VIDEO: CTT credits seniors for season-defining win over No. 2 Oregon – Jan. 10, 2020
VIDEO: Sun Devils hand No. 3 Beavers first loss of season to cap historic weekend – Jan. 12, 2020
VIDEO: CTT reflects on path to 500 wins – Jan. 31, 2020
Turner Thorne, who was hired on June 21, 1996 after three seasons at Northern Arizona where she compiled a 40-40 record, methodically raised ASU's profile with each passing season. Coming into the 2021-22 campaign, Turner Thorne's Sun Devil teams qualified for the postseason all but one season since 2001. Included in that remarkable stretch were a school record six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (2014-19), two Elite Eight appearances (2007, '09) and three Sweet 16 finishes (2005, '15, '18).
"I'm retiring after 25 years… I had the great fortune of coaching and mentoring these young women for almost three decades and I am just forever grateful for them, believing in me and the culture we built here," Turner Thorne said at a press event held at Desert Financial Arena on Thursday. "The world's a lot different now than when I started in 1996, but I'm excited to use this new chapter to continue to help people and hopefully serve our community here at an even grander scale, and maybe have a few off days in between every now and then.
"Reflecting back of course, we were all about winning championships, but I so appreciated that our academic achievements, our community service, our character, our players excelling beyond basketball. It was so appreciated by our administration, by our donors, by our alums, and by our fans. I sincerely hope that we continue with ASU women's basketball to have a transformative and not transactional program. As I begin to thank all the people that I want to thank today, I just want to say that I am so grateful for the amazing memories."
ASU Vice President for Athletics Ray Anderson said Turner Thorne "has been a dynamic and impactful leader within intercollegiate athletics. She has fashioned an extraordinary career, one in which she has positively impacted the lives of thousands of student-athletes, coaches and fans with her unwavering commitment to the sport of women's basketball. She built the Sun Devil program from the ground up, elevated it and maintained that excellence for 25 years.
"It was an honor to watch her work with her student-athletes, molding them into tenacious, relentless teams that no one wanted to play. There is no doubt that Charli sits among the all-time legendary Sun Devil coaching greats in all sports, for both men and women. We are so proud of her and all that she stands for and we wish Charli, her husband Will and her family nothing but the best in their future life endeavors."
Below is a list of the major accomplishments Turner Thorne and her assistant coaches helped Sun Devil Women's Basketball achieve over the years.
• ASU's 14 NCAA Tournament appearances under Turner Thorne are 11 more than what ASU had in the 15 years prior to her arrival in Tempe. In addition to her decorated career as a college coach, Turner Thorne also earned a pair of gold medals with USA Basketball.
• As successful as Turner Thorne's teams have been on the court, they have been every bit as brilliant in the classroom. In December 2021, it was announced, Sun Devil WBB earned a 100 percent GSR for the third year in a row. Among its conference peers, from 1996-97 (Turner Thorne's first season at ASU) to 2018-19, the Sun Devils led the Pac-12 in the number of first-team All-Academic conference awards (22) and the combined number of first- and second-team All-Academic conference awards (46). Note: As of 2019-20 the Pac-12 no longer distinguishes first- and second-team honorees in academics. In 2018, ASU matched the program record with eight student-athletes named to the Pac-12's All-Academic Teams. ASU's No. 5 finish (3.672) on the WBCA's 2017 Academic Honor Roll represented the second time in three seasons the Sun Devils were among the top 10 programs in the country after placing seventh (3.558) for the 2014-15 academic year.
• Combined with her 40 wins in three seasons as NAU's head coach, Turner Thorne, who coached Sun Devil Athletics Hall of Fame Players Molly Tuter (1994-97), Amanda Levens (2000-02) and Emily Westerberg (2004-07), has amassed 528 wins in 28 seasons as a head coach.
• Highlights of her 2021-22 silver anniversary season included wins over No. 22 Colorado, No. 19 Oregon and No. 6 Arizona. The win over Arizona – ASU's second in as many years over a Top-10 Arizona team, was ASU's seventh Top 10 victory in the last five seasons.
• Guided ASU to a share of the Pac-10 title in 2001 and one year later, led her team to a 25-9 record, which at the time had tied the single-season school record for most wins. During that same 2001-02 season, Turner Thorne's Sun Devils claimed the inaugural Pac-10 Tournament.
• In 2004-05 directed ASU to a 24-10 overall record and its first NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance in 22 years.
• In 2005-06 led ASU to a 25-7 record. During the season led ASU to its first Top 10 ranking in 22 years.
• In 2006-07 the Sun Devils established a new program standard with 31 wins – including a school record 16 Pac-10 wins – and qualified for the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time in school history. ASU 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.
• After making it to the second round of NCAAs in 2008, Turner Thorne's 2008-09 made an unforgettable run that culminated in the program's second NCAA Elite appearance in three seasons. ASU's final 26-9 record in 2008-09 included a school record 15-game winning streak (tied by 2016-17 team).
• In 2011, Turner Thorne guided ASU to its sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in seven years and a third-place finish in the Pac-10, ASU's ninth top-3 conference finish in 11 seasons.
• In 2013-14, ASU recorded its 10th 20-win season (23) and its ninth NCAA Tournament berth since 2000-01. The Sun Devils advanced to the second round of the Tournament, the seventh time under Turner Thorne the Sun Devils have been among the final 32 teams or better.
• In 2014-15 Turner Thorne led ASU to 29 wins (second-highest total in school history), a second-place finish in the Pac-12 and a berth in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The 2014-15 Sun Devils posted the best overall start (18-1) and conference start (7-0) in school history and reached 20 wins faster than any other squad (22 games).
• Turner Thorne was named the 2016 Pac-12 Coach of the Year (coaches and media), for the second time in her career (2001), after leading the Sun Devils to their second regular season Pac-12 championship. ASU would go on to earn its highest NCAA Tournament seed (No. 2) in program history. In 2016 ASU also tied the program records for most conference wins (16) and consecutive wins (15) and set the program record for most road wins (11).
• Despite injuries to key personnel and a young backcourt, Turner Thorne led ASU to its fourth-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance (12th during ASU tenure) and fourth-consecutive 20-win season (12th during ASU tenure) in 2017. The Sun Devils made it to the second round of NCAAs where they came up just short of upsetting eventual national champion South Carolina as the Sun Devils took a lead going into the final minute of the game.
• In 2017-18, ASU matched the school record for consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (five) and consecutive 20-win seasons (five). ASU won 22 games and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament while posting four Top 25 wins, including a 57-51 upset of No. 10 Oregon State in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament.
• In 2018-19, Turner Thorne led ASU to a school record sixth consecutive NCAA appearance and 20-win season. The Sun Devils captured a pair of wins in the 2019 NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time since 2005.
• After finishing with a 20-11 record in 2019-20, ASU extended its school record for consecutive 20-win seasons (seven) and finished No. 25 in the AP poll. The Sun Devils were preparing to make their school record seventh straight trip to the NCAA Tournament before the cancellation of the season was announced on March 12, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. During the 2019-20 season, ASU became the first unranked team to defeat consecutive Top-5 opponents when it knocked off then-No. 2 Oregon (72-66 on Jan. 10) and then-No. 3 Oregon State (54-47 on Jan. 12).
• In 2020-21, Turner Thorne led the Sun Devils to a berth in the Postseason WNIT, their 20th postseason trip in the last 21 seasons in which a postseason competition was held. It was also the program's seventh consecutive postseason appearance in which a postseason competition was held (six consecutive NCAA Tournaments 2014-19, 2021 WNIT). ASU concluded the 2020-21 regular season with an 66-64 OT win over No. 6 Arizona.
Turner Thorne's success at ASU her enabled her to take on more leadership responsibilities in the sport of basketball. She is a past president of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's (WBCA) Executive Committee and also had a pair of successful stints with USA Basketball. During the summer of 2009 Turner Thorne served as the head coach of the USA Women's World University Games Team which went undefeated (7-0) and captured the gold medal at the 2009 World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia. 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.
Turner Thorne started her coaching career as a graduate assistant at Washington before taking an assistant's position at Santa Clara. In her first head coaching opportunity at Northern Arizona Turner Thorne led NAU to consecutive winning seasons in 1994-95 and 1995-96, the first coach in school history to accomplish the feat.
As a player, Turner Thorne lettered four years at Stanford where she played three years under current Cardinal head coach Tara VanDerveer. She graduated from Stanford in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in psychology and later earned her master's degree in education from Washington in 1990.
Turner Thorne and her husband, Will, have three sons – Conor (23), Liam (20) and Quinn (18).
Record at ASU: 488-294 (25 seasons)
Career Record: 528-334 (28 seasons)