Last June, Charity Elliott was introduced as the new Head Coach of the UC San Diego Women’s Basketball team. She replaced Janelle Jones who in her second year at the helm took the Tritons to the 2007 NCAA Division II Final Four. Elliott brings a diverse background as both a player and coach to her new position. The head coach at Division I Portland State for the past three years, she has also been on the basketball staffs at Arkansas, San Diego State and Missouri State. Elliott played four years of Division I ball, two at Rice and two at Missouri State (formerly Southwest Missouri State). At SMSU, she was part of the 1992 Final Four team. With the start of the season less than a month away, Elliott took time to talk about her background, philosophy and vision for the Triton program.
Q—What made you want to be a basketball coach?
ELLIOTT—I was in graduate school working on a clinical psychology degree and was asked to coach the freshmen team at Glendale High School in Springfield, Missouri. It changed the entire direction of my life. I realized the impact I could have on young people and the joy that I received out of teaching/coaching/ mentoring these young ladies. It’s got to be one of the most rewarding careers in the world and I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life! I have found my calling...
Q—W hat are the basics of your coaching philosophy?
ELLIOTT—On the court, we’re going to run, run, run and play very aggressive on the offensive and defensive end. I need players who are very tough—mentally and physically—because my expectations are very high for each player and this team. I really believe that coaching is teaching and my job is to teach these players how to be successful, both on the court and off.
Q—Who have been your coaching mentors?
ELLIOTT—The greatest coaching mentor in my life is definitely Cheryl Burnett, who I played for and coached with at Southwest Missouri State. I learned so much from her both on the court and off. She is all about work ethic on the court and integrity off the court. The next influence on my life was Beth Burns, current head coach at San Diego State. Even though, I only worked with her for one year, I learned so much from her about recruiting and out-working people! There certainly are others, but these two have made a lasting impact on my life and career.
Q—You played collegiate basketball at both Rice and Southwest Missouri State. What are the things you remember most vividly from those years?
ELLIOTT—My two years at Rice were more about maturing and adjusting to the collegiate level. I was able to compete against some of the best players in the country (Texas, Baylor, all the old SWC teams) which certainly helped prepare me when I transferred to SMSU and was able to help the team win conference championships and advance to the NCAA Final Four as a senior. The greatest lesson I learned from my playing days is that the most talented and athletic teams do not always win, but those teams that play with heart, desire and teamwork can do amazing things!
Q—What interested you about the UCSD position?
ELLIOTT—I have long considered San Diego to be my second home as I have most of my family here and have watched and admired from a distance the UCSD campus and what has been accomplished here in the entire athletic department. Being one of the UC schools automatically sets the school on a pedestal academically and the facilities and location are definitely second to none. As I did my research, I was overwhelmed with the EXCELLENCE that exists all over this campus. Plus, I knew Coach Janell Jones had done an outstanding job with the women’s basketball program and it seemed like a great time to join the Triton family.
Q—Most of your experience has been at the D-I level. What differences, if any, have you found with the move to UCSD?
ELLIOTT—The major difference I have noticed is the balance these student-athletes are able to maintain in their lives—that and the desire to succeed in every area of their lives. It’s pretty unusual to have an entire team of very driven, self-motivated young ladies who expect excellence from themselves and each other. As far as the university and athletic department is concerned, this place is head and shoulders above many D-I universities, so I have been very pleasantly surprised with the excellence that encompasses the entire campus.
Q—Given your limited exposure to the UCSD roster, what can we expect to see on the floor from the 2007-08 Tritons?
ELLIOTT—I think you will see a very scrappy, hard-working group of young ladies who get after it defensively and are very up-tempo offensively. Each lady brings something unique to this team and our challenge is to put each of them in situations to be successful, kind of like a puzzle. We’ve just got to put the pieces in the right place. We certainly have tremendous leadership on this team and I think the seven seniors will be setting the tone for us daily.
Q—What do you demand of your players?
ELLIOTT—I demand that they lay it all on the line and put the team ahead of themselves. I love coaching tough (mentally and physically) kids and stretching them beyond what they think they are capable of doing. The players here at UCSD seem to love the fact that they will be pushed and challenged daily.
Q—Do you feel any pressure taking over at a program that went to the NCAA Division II Final Four a year ago?
ELLIOTT—I don’t think it’s pressure, I think it’s excitement. These returning players have now experienced something amazing and hopefully, that success has made them hungry for more and even higher success. But, I think we all realize that it doesn’t just happen and we have to work that much harder to get back there again.
Q—What has surprised you most about UCSD (basketball and outside of basketball)?
ELLIOTT—I don’t know if I could ever have guessed at how high quality these student-athletes are as both people and as motivated student-athletes. I’ve been so impressed with their work ethic and motivation. It sure makes my job a lot easier.
Q—What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
ELLIOTT—My husband and I love exploring new places. One weekend we climbed Cowles’ Mountain and another we explored the Torrey Pines Reserve. So anything we can do that is outside and can be considered exercise, I’m in! I also love having “hang out” time with the rest of my family who are here in San Diego, particularly, my niece and nephews. Finally, I love watching college football and NFL games, so if we’re home, we’ve got football on!
Q—What are some of your favorite places in and around San Diego?
ELLIOTT—Anytime I am at the beach or the bay, I’m happy. We live close to Pacific Beach so that’s become one of my favorite spots to just relax, hang out, or go for a jog on the boardwalk. My favorite casual restaurant has to be DZ Akins Deli and my favorite fancy restaurant is Island Prime, which is right on the harbor and has an amazing view at sunset or night. Balboa Park has to be on my list as well.
Q—What would make the 2007-08 season a success in your eyes?
ELLIOTT—I really want these seniors to go out with a bang. I know how driven they are and how motivated they are to continue to the success of the last couple of years. Obviously, any time you are putting in a new system, it takes some time. I’d also really like to see our underclassmen take great strides this season both on the court and in developing their leadership skills.
Previous Q&A Articles
Jason Le (Men's Soccer ) October 3, 2007
Rebecca Bailey (Women's Volleyball) September 18, 2007
Amanda Burkhardt (Women's Cross Country) September 10, 2007
Curtis Williamson (Men's Water Polo) September 4, 2007
Ali Lai (Women's Soccer) August 25, 2007
Nate Garcia (Head Coach of Cross Country) August 13, 2007
Tony Choi (Men's Soccer) July 25, 2007
Natalie Facchini (Women's Volleyball) July 9, 2007
Chris Carlson (Head Coach of Men's Basketball) June 22, 2007
Madeleine Flint (Women's Track and Field) April 30, 2007
Leah Llach (Women's Crew) April 22, 2007
Natalie Hockett (Women's Water Polo) April 9, 2007
Jenny Maze (women's softball) April 2, 2007
Zach Johnson (Men's Crew Head Coach) March 18, 2007
Michelle Osier (Women's Basketball) March 7, 2007
Brooks Dierdorff (Men's Volleyball) March 1, 2007
Scott Clement (Baseball) February 15, 2007
Chelsea Ambort (Women's Fencing) January 29, 2007
Meaghan Noud (Women's Basketball) January 15, 2006
Susan Bell (Women's Swimming) January 6, 2007