In her nine seasons at the helm of the UAB women's basketball program, Audra Smith has turned the Blazers into one of the top squads in Conference USA, while continuing to increase their national recognition.
The Blazers, under Smith's direction, are coming off four- straight winning seasons and the program's best three-year stretch in a decade. Most recently, her team finished 18-12 and made it to the WNIT in 2013 - UAB's second WNIT bid under Smith.
Her team capped a 20-15 season in 2010-11 with the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) championship and followed that with a 19-11 campaign in 2011-12.
UAB's third-place finish in the 2011-12 Conference USA standings marked its third top-3 finish in the past six seasons under Smith. Prior to her arrival before the 2004-05 season, the Blazers had finished that high in the C-USA standings only once.
The WBI championship in 2011 was the first-ever postseason title for the UAB women's basketball team, which won its first three tournament games on the road before coming home to defeat Cal State Bakersfield in the title game. The victory in the finals secured the Blazers' first 20-win season since the 2000-01 campaign.
UAB has three postseason appearances under Smith, who guided the Blazers to the second round of the WNIT following a breakout 2006-07 season. UAB went 19-13 that year, posted its best-ever Conference USA record (12-4) and managed its highest C-USA finish (second).
Smith has also led the Blazers to Conference USA tournament success recently with the Blazers winning at least one tournament game in three of the last four seasons, advancing to the finals in 2010 and reaching the semifinals in 2012. The 2010 team became the first No. 6 seed in the league's history to make the championship game.
Smith has coached her share of standout players in Birmingham, including two honorable mention All-Americans -- Carmen Guzman (2006-07) and Diamond Rogers (2007-08). Guzman, who was developed and polished under Smith and her staff, became just the second Conference USA Player of the Year in program history and was also invited to the WNBA Pre-Draft Camp.
Numerous players under Smith's guidance have taken home postseason honors from Conference USA, including: 12 All-Conference USA selections: Guzman (2005-06, 2006-07), Rogers (2006-07, 2007-08), Crystal McFadden (2007-08), Britney Jones (2008-09), Jala Harris (2009-10), Karisma Chapman (2011-12, 2012-13), Amber Jones (2011-12, 2012-13) and Ashley Grimes (2012-13). Three C-USA Sixth Player of the Year winners: Britney Jones (2006-07), Amanda Peterson (2007-08) and Harris (2009-10).
Four C-USA All-Freshman Team members: Britney Jones (2005-06), Peterson (2007-08), Harris (2009-10), who was also chosen as the league's freshman of the year, and Chapman (2010-11).
Harris became the first player in C-USA history to earn the top freshman and sixth player awards in the same season, while Peterson wrapped up her career as the all-time leading 3-point shooter in the history of UAB basketball, men's or women's. She hit 319 treys for her career, including a league-record 103 as a senior. Peterson was also highly decorated academically as a three-time member of the Conference USA All-Academic Team and a two-time C-USA Scholar-Athlete of the Year for women's basketball. Amber Jones became the fifth all-academic team selection under Smith in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Jones was also the only Conference USA player to be named to the Capital One All-Academic Team District 4 Team and was a CoSIDA Academic All-America nominee.
Smith has coached a total of 39 Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll selections at UAB, including 25 over the past three seasons. She has also mentored eight C-USA Commissioner's Academic Medal recipients. Named the fifth head coach in UAB women's basketball history on April 7, 2004, Smith owns an overall record of 138-138 with the Blazers.
Her first team in 2004-05 battled through a challenging season with seven players missing a combined 106 games. Only three Blazers played in all 28 contests as the team finished with a 7-21 record.
But Smith quickly turned things around, coaching the Blazers to their first .500 season in five years with a 14-14 mark in 2005-06 before breaking through with the 19-13, WNIT campaign in 2006-07.
The 2007-08 team worked its way through a tough non-conference schedule and, despite a 14-16 overall record, finished third in the conference race with a 10-6 league mark.
Following a 10-20 season in 2008-09, Smith's Blazers began their active streak of three consecutive winning campaigns. UAB is averaging 18.7 wins per year over that stretch, going 17-15 in 2009-10, 20-15 in 2010-11 and 19-11 in 2011-12.
Before arriving at UAB, Smith spent 14 years under Debbie Ryan at Virginia as a player and assistant coach. She was associated with the Cavalier women's basketball program for 10 years as a coach and four as a player.
"I am so excited," Smith said upon her hiring. "I could tell when I came here that the administration is very serious about the success of the women's basketball program. That was apparent. The program at UAB has experienced success in the past and my goal is to get back to that level and beyond."
After finishing her playing career at Virginia in 1992 and graduating with a degree in sociology, Smith worked as a child and adolescent counselor and as a social worker with the Department of Family and Children Services in her hometown of Milledgeville, Ga., before joining the Cavaliers' coaching staff in 1994 as the restricted earnings coach.
After two years, she was elevated to a full-time position, assisting with player development of the guards and working extensively in recruiting and scouting. In May of 2000, she was promoted to recruiting coordinator and helped Virginia attract four recruiting classes rated among the nation's top 20.
As an assistant coach, Smith helped Virginia to the NCAA tournament in nine consecutive seasons (1995-2003), the Sweet 16 four times (1995-97, 2000) and the Elite Eight twice (1995-96). Seventeen Cavalier players were named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll a total of 28 times while she was there.
As a player, she was a four-year letterwinner and a member of a Cavalier program that competed in three consecutive Final Fours (1990-92). Virginia reached the championship game in 1991, falling 70-67 in overtime to Tennessee.
Smith played for a Virginia squad that won a pair of ACC tournament titles (1990 and 1992) and started a streak of six straight ACC regular-season championships for the program from 1991-96. She was a part of the first two of those championships as a player and the last two as an assistant. She was also an assistant on Virginia's 2000 ACC title team.
An honorable mention high school All-American at Baldwin High in Milledgeville, Smith was named Miss Georgia Basketball in 1988. She led Baldwin to three consecutive Georgia AAAA state championships (1986-88) and was named the MVP of the state tournament as a junior in 1987.
Smith, 41, is married to former Virginia basketball player Anthony Oliver and has a son, A.J. (14) and a daughter, Adria (13). She has been a member of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association since 1994 and the Black Coaches Association since 2002.