Charlene Thomas-Swinson, the architect who put the Tulsa women's basketball program on the national stage during her rookie season at TU, is in her sixth season as the head women's basketball coach for the Golden Hurricane.
The 2006 Conference USA Coach of the Year, Thomas-Swinson has a 67-83 mark at Tulsa and is the only coach in school history to guide the program to a conference title and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Instead of taking a passive approach, Thomas-Swinson immediately made TU better with the installment of the triangle offense and a match-up zone she learned during her playing and coaching days at Auburn under legendary coach, Joe Ciampi.
The results were indisputable. Thomas-Swinson became the first coach in school history to lead the Hurricane to a conference regular season and tournament title, and she guided TU to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance and postseason win. Tulsa posted a school record 26-6 overall mark and a first-place finish of 13-3 in Conference USA in 2005-06.
Thomas-Swinson put TU in the national spotlight with its 71-61 upset over fifth-seeded North Carolina State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and lost a narrow, 71-67, decision to 13th-ranked DePaul in the second round on the Demons' home floor.
After an impressive first season at Tulsa, Thomas-Swinson had to rebuild the Hurricane after losing three starters and six letterwinners from the lineup. In the 2006-07 season, TU tallied an 11-19 overall record and a 5-11 mark in C-USA. In 2007-08 the Golden Hurricane recorded a similar 11 wins and a 6-10 record in the league, and during the 2008-09 campaign Tulsa captured seven wins and posted a 3-13 mark in the league. Last year, after beginning the season with a 6-12 mark, the Golden Hurricane finished 6-4 in the final 10 games of the season for a 12-16 overall record and a 6-10 mark in C-USA.
During her first two seasons at Tulsa, Thomas-Swinson was also instrumental in coaching two-time Associated Press and Kodak/WBCA Honorable Mention All-American Jillian Robbins. Robbins concluded her illustrious career as the school record holder for points (2,108), rebounds (1,313), field goals (747), free throws (602), steals (347), blocked shots (251) and double-doubles (66), and posted the program's only triple-double.
Aside from Thomas-Swinson's on-court accomplishments, she was also appointed to the WBCA Board of Directors by her peers of the Black Coaches and Administrators Association in 2007 and continues to serve today. The WBCA Board of Directors develops policies, procedures and regulations for the operation of the organization. They also monitor the organizations financial health, the program's overall performance and provides the chief executive officer with the resources to meet the needs of those the organization serves. Thomas-Swinson, 44 (12-11-65), was introduced on May 20, 2005, as the ninth head coach in school history, and just the third coach since the program was re-established in 1996-97.
She came to TU with 14 years of collegiate experience and three seasons as an assistant coach in the WNBA. On the collegiate level, she served as an assistant coach at Columbia Union College, Auburn and Florida. In addition, she was an assistant coach for USA Basketball for two years (1998-99), coaching with the 1998 USA Women's Select Team and as a member of the USA National Team staff in 1999.
Thomas-Swinson came to Tulsa from the University of Florida, where she spent three seasons (2002-05) on the Gators' coaching staff under 1999 WBCA National Coach of the Year Carolyn Peck. In three years, Thomas-Swinson helped Florida compile 42 victories against a schedule consistently ranked among the top-15 toughest in the country. She was also instrumental in landing a top-10 recruiting class for the Gators in 2005.
Before her tenure at Florida, Thomas-Swinson served under Peck with the WNBA's Orlando Miracle for three years (1999-2002).
Previously, Thomas-Swinson was the head coach at St. John's University for three years (1996-99). From her first to her third season, the Red Storm improved upon its record by eight wins. While there, she landed three of the nation's top-30 recruiting classes, including back-to-back No. 30 classes in 1997 and 1998 and a No. 15-rated class in 1999. Those top-ranked recruiting classes included Aiysha Smith and Trish Patterson.
Before that, Thomas-Swinson returned to her alma mater, Auburn University, in 1992 as an assistant coach. During her four years (1992-96) on the Tiger coaching staff, the squad chalked up an 85-32 overall record and reached the NCAA Tournament three times, including a "Sweet 16" appearance in 1993 and an "Elite Eight" run in 1996.
Thomas-Swinson began her collegiate coaching career at Columbia Union (Md.) College, where she served as an assistant coach for three seasons from 1989-92.
As a collegiate player, Thomas-Swinson was a four-year letterwinner at Auburn, helping lead the Tigers to an overall 99-24 record during her career. She led her team to the school's first-ever SEC regular season championship as a senior in 1987. Auburn also captured the 1987 SEC Tournament title and advanced to the NCAA "Elite Eight" during her junior season.
She earned her bachelor's degree in business management from Auburn in 1992 and joined the coaching staff soon afterward.
A native of Takoma Park, Maryland, Thomas-Swinson and her husband, Assistant Coach Aaron Swinson, have one son, Charles, and a daughter, Jada.
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