Basketball

Arizona State women’s basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne is retiring after 25 years in charge of the Sun Devils

Arizona State women's basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne is retiring after 25 years in charge of the Sun Devils

Longtime Arizona State women’s basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne announced Thursday that she is retiring after 25 seasons in charge of Tempe.

Turner Thorne, 55, is the winningest coach in program history and the second-winningest coach in Pac-12 women’s basketball history behind Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer. She finished her career with a final record of 488-294 at ASU.

Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson told a news conference Thursday that it was Turner Thorne’s decision to step down.

“After 25 years, it’s been an honor to be here and serve,” said Turner Thorne. “It’s just time. It’s just time.”

The news comes a day after the Sun Devils ended their season in the Pac-12 tournament, where they fell to Oregon State 59-54 in the first round. The Sun Devils went 12-14 this season, including 4-9 in the league, where they finished ninth in the standings.

“The worst acronym ever invented was invented by me: FEFS. It stands for ‘finish everything, finish strong,'” Turner Thorne said. “And while from a basketball perspective we may not have quite done what we wanted to do this year, anyone who’s ever coached knows that your best job as a coach is never your best record. And I feel like we emptied ourselves, gave it our all and it’s time.”

Turner Thorne has elevated Arizona State to consistent relevance in the Pac-12 and on the national stage, as his Sun Devils teams have made 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, most recently in 2019. Most notably, Turner Thorne guided Arizona State to the Sweet 16 three times and Elite Eight twice, in 2007 and 2009.

Arizona State won its first of two Pac-12 regular season titles in 2001 (the other was in 2016) and captured the crown in the inaugural Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament in 2002.

“It’s always been a good conference. Some years there it was us and Stanford, back and forth,” Turner Thorne said. “And I really think the Pac-12 network did an amazing job of elevating our conference because people never looked at us. And then when they saw [Arizona State alum] Briann January and a lot of players and there was this recognition, it just elevated everything. I’m proud of the players and staff we’ve coached, who have always been top three and in contention for championships. We’ve definitely set a standard.”

Before arriving in Tempe in June 1996, Turner Thorne spent three seasons coaching Northern Arizona. She took a leave of absence from Arizona State during the 2011-12 season before returning to the program.

Turner Thorne also played three years for VanDerveer at Stanford University, where she graduated in 1988.

While Turner Thorne will step away from acting — she has credited the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years in part for pushing her into retirement — she has expressed an interest in eventually getting into broadcasting, l writing or teaching, and said she will take care of her parents.

“I’m excited to use this new chapter to continue helping people and hopefully serving our community here on an even greater scale,” said Turner Thorne. “And maybe have a few days off in between, once in a while.”

Turner Thorne said assistant coach Nikki Blue “handles things for [Arizona State women’s basketball] right now” and “hopefully she will be looked into closely” as a replacement.