Edniesha Curry’s basketball knowledge has touched men, women and children in nearly every corner of the world. Vietnam? Check. China? You bet. Israel? Absolutely. Palestine? Certainly.

Whether handling the rock herself as a former WNBA point guard, pacing the court with a whistle around her neck or occupying a seat on the bench with a clipboard in hand, Curry’s influence on the game itself extends far beyond her 38 years on earth.

That’s why it was a no-brainer for the University of Maine to name her an assistant coach of their men’s basketball team, making her the only woman currently serving as a full-time assistant coach in Division I men’s college basketball.

Coach Curry with her University of Maine coaching staff.

“I’ve never looked at the sport in the eyes of gender,” Curry said in a telephone interview. “I think that’s what has made my journey successful to this point. If I’m going to coach my female player hard, I’m going to coach my male player hard, and vice versa. What matters to me is that all my players, years from now, are sitting where I am, whether it’s as a successful coach, entrepreneur, teacher or doctor. I’m hoping the lessons I’m instilling in them off the court are going to outlive their careers as basketball players.”

‘Born to Coach’

Curry started playing basketball in seventh-grade in Palmdale, Calif. Her love for the sport grew as she studied Magic Johnson’s court awareness and envied his ability to thread-the-needle with no-look passes.

“I’m a die-hard Lakers fan so when I saw Magic play, I knew I wanted to be a point guard,” she said. “I knew I wanted to do all the talking, leading and passing.”

She was actually a better track-and-field athlete growing up, but her passion for basketball outweighed her desire to shine on the outdoor oval.

So, she developed her game and brought it to Cal State Northridge, where she became the school’s all-time leader in three-pointers in just three seasons. Then she transferred to the University of Oregon, where she led the team to a WNIT Championship. Her collegiate career was impressive enough that theĀ Charlotte Sting selected her 41st overall in the 2002 WNBA draft. She enjoyed an 8-year career playing professional ball in both the U.S. and overseas.

But, as her playing career was winding down, she unearthed a once-repressed natural talent. You see, at first, Curry disliked the idea of coaching. After her first year playing professional ball, she would return home to train in the off season with Michael Abraham, a well-respected coach at all levels of play who has trained some of the best women’s basketball players to ever step foot on the court.

“I would come in the off season and work with him, and he would tell me, ‘you’re born to coach.’ I would think, ‘this dude is crazy. I’m not a coach; I’m not you. There’s no way I’m doing this. I’m going to play until I can’t walk,'” Curry recalled.

But, as the years passed, she was more intrigued by the idea.

“I love learning and that’s what opened me up to coaching,” she said. “I love figuring out what opponents are going to do, and being part of a young person’s dream. Coach Michael saw it in me when I didn’t see it in myself.”

Being a Lifelong Learner Leads to Success

You might need a map to really get a handle on Curry’s coaching experience. She developed young players in the U.S., Asia and Europe, and led entire basketball programs like Jr. NBA skills clinics. She also participated in the NBA Draft Combine and the NBA G League Showcase, where she groomed players’ on-court abilities and handled scouting duties.

Before being hired by University of Maine head coach Richard Barron, she served as an assistant coach for the school’s women’s basketball team for three seasons, with Barron at the helm of that program.

She credits being exposed to so many great basketball minds and a giant pool of international talent for her success.

“I still have relationships with all of my coaches all the way down to middle school,” she said. “I was always a player who studied my coaches and asked questions in college, in the WNBA and in Europe. And now as a coach, I still pull strategy from other coaches. I’ll call or email a high school coach or an AAU coach if I’m watching a game, and I see a good play or a good drill. I’ll write down the coach’s name and get in touch. Really, coaching is about being a lifelong learner while still being yourself. You can’t be ‘the next Geno Auriemma’ or ‘the next John Calipari.’ That’s where a lot of young coaches get tripped up.”

So, what type of coach is Curry? You might say she’s the quintessential player’s coach, meaning she works on the relationship before drawing up X’s and O’s.

“I tell my players, ‘I’m going to get on your nerves and you’re going to get on my nerves, but through this whole process, we’re going to have a great relationship beyond your playing days with me,'” Curry explained. “That mindset has helped me build really healthy relationships with them where I can coach them up hard because they know that I’m going have their back as a person well beyond basketball.”

And isn’t that the point of being a student-athlete? To take relationships and lessons learned from fierce competition and heartfelt commitment to other areas of life?

So, when Curry sets foot on the hardwood for the upcoming season, she may stand out a little on the bench. But, her mission is the same as every other coach on the team: Win games and turn young men into outstanding individuals.

“I understand what this platform means, but I don’t feel any added pressure,” Curry said. “I’m here to help instill self-confidence in these young men and foster an attitude of gratitude. I love the opportunity it gives me to teach and influence young people’s lives.”

Chalk up another “assist” for Curry.