Citing health, Curl resigns
When faced with the agonizing decision of whether to continue coaching the UH women’s basketball team or focus on improving his health, Joe Curl ultimately did what was best for himself and the team.
Curl, 55, resigned Tuesday, indicating that his recent health concerns, which doctors diagnosed as congestive heart failure, needed to be addressed. He leaves UH as the winningest women’s basketball coach in school history with a 193-167 record (.536) in 12 seasons, also the longest tenure of any coach in the program.
Curl led the Cougars to five postseason appearances, including this year’s Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
“This season has been really difficult for me to keep up with everything for health reasons, so it’s time for me to step aside and heal up,” Curl said in a release. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity I’ve had here at the University of Houston. It has been a great fit for me.”
Just this season, Curl missed six games, including the Cougars’ season-ending loss to Texas Tech in the WNIT, but it was not his first heart-related health scare. In the fall of 2007, Curl suffered a heart attack and missed the entire 2007-08 season. After undergoing single-bypass surgery, Curl remained nearly incident free until this season’s issues.
On Feb. 13 Curl was admitted to a Dallas-area hospital after complaining of chest pains prior to the Cougars’ game at SMU. After being released, Curl was admitted to a Houston area hospital where surgeons upgraded his pacemaker and installed an internal defibrillator.
He returned to coach the Cougars against in-town rival Rice on March 4 and remained with the team through the end of the regular season. Curl was forced to miss the team’s WNIT opening-round game after being admitted to a Lubbock area hospital with another incidence of chest pains.
Curl said part of the problem involved the team’s travel requirements. Each time he was hospitalized this season, it was following a flight, and doctors have told him he shouldn’t fly anymore.
“Two cardiologists said I shouldn’t fly at all,” Curl said. “Out of the fairness to our kids, with the games I missed this year, some games last year and the entire year before, I’m resigning. I’m putting the kids in a situation I don’t like, and that’s not giving them what they need. They need a coach 24/7.”
While Curl stopped short of saying he was retiring, he did indicate he would not pursue a coaching position at another school and that he is done working — for now.
“I have no desire to make another move to another school,” Curl said. “I have fit so well here at UH that I wouldn’t ever entertain anything else.
“If I get the itch to work again, and not just in basketball, it’s just being around people, we’ll see. I have my cooker, and I will enjoy cooking for the masses. I will come out and support the Cougars every way possible.”
After taking over the program prior to the 1998-99 season, Curl’s teams posted a combined record of 12-43. The Cougars went 19-13 the following season and secured a spot in the WNIT, the program’s first postseason appearance in nine years. Curl guided the Cougars back to the WNIT the following year and lost 54-52 to Oregon in the championship game.
Curl’s breakthrough campaign came in the 2003-04 season, when the Cougars won 28 games, a school record, and the Conference-USA regular-season and tournament championships, earning a trip to the Women’s NCAA Tournament. He went on to be named the C-USA Coach of the Year and National Coach of the Year by the Associated Press, United States Basketball Writers Association, ESPN.com and the Basketball Times.
UH Athletic Director Mack Rhoades thanked Curl for his service and said the search for his replacement would begin immediately.
“I really want to thank Joe for his 12 years of service to the University of Houston and his commitment to our student-athletes,” Rhoades said. “The program has enjoyed great success during his tenure and been a source of pride for our department. I want to wish Joe and his family the best; it really has been a pleasure to work with him.”