When the Toronto Raptors found themselves in an early hole to the Portland Trail Blazers at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday night, it was the long-distance shooting by the visitors that played a big part. Portland started the game hot, draining six three-pointers in the first quarter before finishing the night with a 56.3 percentage from beyond the arc.
While the Blazers were feeling it from three on the court, they didn’t have to look too far down their own bench for inspiration, as one of the team’s assistant coaches made a playing career off the three-point shot. The players know her as Coach Eddie, and she holds the record for most three-pointers made at her alma mater.
“I shoot a little bit with them, but I don’t try to brag too much about my career,” Edniesha Curry (Coach Eddie) modestly told Sportsnet when asked if she ever challenges any players on her roster to a three-point contest.
Curry is in her first season as an assistant coach with the Blazers. She finished her college career not far from Portland at the University of Oregon after transferring from Cal-State Northridge, where she is the school’s all-time leader in three-pointers made.
But her love of basketball began with the 1996 Summer Games, when as a teenager she was inspired by Team USA’s women going undefeated (8-0) and winning the gold medal.
“Honestly, it was like the ‘96 Olympics,” Curry said. “When I saw Dawn Staley, Sheryl Swoopes and all the rest of the crew in Atlanta. That’s where I was like, ‘I really want to be a women’s basketball player.’ And from then on, I wanted to be a Division-1 athlete.”
Following her success at the college level, she played in the WNBA for Phoenix and Los Angeles before heading overseas to suit up for teams in Greece, Poland, Israel and Hungary.
Curry then made the jump from player to coach. Before joining Chauncey Billups’ staff in Portland, she was an assistant at Maine and coached internationally in Vietnam, China, Israel and Palestine. However, working at the NBA level has given Curry the opportunity to build stronger connections with the players.
“One of the big differences is just the relationships with the guys. That’s one of the things that I’ve enjoyed the most. I’m getting a lot of quality time on the road to get to know them. That’s something that’s hard to do in college with all the NCAA rules. But this has been amazing, just to sit and have conversations with them.”
One of the players Curry has had the chance to work with in Portland is 2019 NBA Champion and former Raptor Norman Powell, who is in his second season with the Blazers and has brought some of that winning character to his new squad.
“Norm brings a great energy and he’s one of our defensive guides. He comes out there and he’s always going to the glass hard, he’s driving hard. He’s just a hard-working guy and more importantly, he’s unbelievable off the court.”
Curry is a graduate of the NBA Assistant Coaches’ Program where she gained experience working at the NBA Draft Combine and the NBA G League Showcase. One of her mentors was former Raptors head coach Butch Carter.
“I learned a lot from him on how to be professional, how to embrace your journey and knowing that you can have some ups and downs. One of the most important things is just surrounding yourself with good people that are going to help you learn and grow along the way.”
Curry isn’t the only WNBA connection to the Blazers. The franchise recently hired two-time WNBA Champion Sheri Sam as a scouting manager. They also promoted Jessica Cohen to head athletic trainer, making her the only female to hold that position in the NBA.
“I’m just glad to be a part of an organization. They’re hiring good people that happen to be women. It’s just awesome women that are really great at their jobs. They’re being seen for the work they do, not just for their gender.”
She has the respect of her players and, even though she’s too humble to brag about her playing accomplishments, she still loves the challenge of stepping onto the court and squaring up for a three-point shot.
So, if she had to take on two NBA players in a three-point contest, who would she want to face?
“Klay Thompson and, of course, Dame (Damian Lillard).”
How badly does she think she could beat them?
“You know what: A girl never tells her secrets.”