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Opinion: Charli Turner Thorne deserves a statue outside of Desert Financial Arena

Anthony Totri Avatar
March 4, 2022

For 25 years, Charli Turner Thorne was synonymous with ASU athletics. In her two-plus decades at the helm for the women’s basketball team, the recently retired coach tallied 528 career wins.

Her win total far surpasses those who came before her. Not to mention, Turner Thorne’s three Sweet Sixteen and two Elite Eight appearances provided some of the best ASU sports moments in recent memory.

“I’ve had the great fortune of coaching and mentoring these young women for the past almost three decades,” Turner Thorne said. “I’m just forever grateful for them believing in me and believing in the culture that we built here.”

While ASU athletics has wavered in its competitive nature over the last several years, Turner Thorne has been a cornerstone of the athletic program. Her two Pac-12 championships are just part of the legacy she leaves behind.

In fact, Turner Thorne’s accomplishments are rarely the staple of any conversation when people discuss her importance to ASU. Rather, Turner Thorne’s character and leadership seem to be the first topics those who know her bring up.

“She always had a desire to invest in others,” UCLA women’s basketball coach Cori Close said. “And she can really be proud because she left this game than she found it.”

While Turner Thorne leaves the game to spend time with her family, the sport of basketball will certainly miss her. The longtime ASU coach left an impact on her peers extending far beyond the city of Tempe.

“She does it the right way,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “I think she has a program where you don’t see very many people transfer. I think they enjoy playing for her.”

If there is one program at ASU with an undeniable culture, it’s the women’s basketball team. Sun Devil fans can thank Turner Thorne for that.

As her 25 years posted up on the Sun Devil bench come to an end, her legacy should be remembered unlike many at ASU — with a statue.

In a time where women’s sports are slowly but surely growing, there is no one more deserving of a permanent reminder at this university than Turner Thorne. Despite the last two seasons not meeting expectations, most recently losing in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, the veteran coach never wavered in her competitive spirit.

This ASU women’s basketball team overcame countless COVID-related obstacles, injuries and travel conundrums.

“The worst acronym ever invented was invented by me: FEFS. It means ‘finish everything, finish strong,'” Turner Thorne said. “And while from a basketball standpoint maybe we didn’t quite do what we wanted to do this year, anybody who’s ever coached knows your best coaching job is never your best record. And I do feel like we emptied out, gave everything we had, and it’s time.”

Feb 24, 2022; Tempe, AZ, USA; ASU’s head coach Charli Turner Thorne yells to officials during a game against USC at Desert Financial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen/The Republic

Turner Thorne truly gave everything she had to ASU. She gave every ounce of herself to her players year in and year out. In return, Athletic Director and University Vice President Ray Anderson should do the same.

Anderson should honor Turner Thorne with a statue outside of Desert Financial Arena. Accolades aside, she embodies what every coach should strive to be at ASU.

While most universities reserve statues for the greatest coaches or players to attend a university, Turner Thorne has earned that spot. Regardless of what’s to follow in the coming months and years for Turner Thorne, one thing is for sure: Her watch has ended.

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

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