Cori Close Honored with ‘Heart of a Coach Award’ for Leadership, Service and Godly Commitment On and Off the Court
April 12, 2021
KANSAS CITY, Mo.— The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA, www.fca.org) Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) committee has announced that they will be presenting Cori Close, head coach for the UCLA Bruins, the FCA Kay Yow “Heart of a Coach” Award this month. Close was the 2020 recipient of the award – but was not officially recognized last year due to the Covid-related cancellation of the WBCA convention.
“All of us at Fellowship of Christian Athletes are thrilled to honor UCLA women’s basketball coach Cori Close, who has displayed the FCA values of integrity, serving, teamwork and excellence throughout her career,” said Shane Williamson, FCA President and CEO. “The greatest influence in an athlete’s life is the coach, and there is no greater calling for Christ-following coaches than to influence their players for Jesus.”
Named for the late North Carolina State coaching icon Kay Yow, the “Heart of a Coach” Award is presented annually by FCA to honor a basketball coach who has exemplified biblical principles over the course of his or her career. Kay Yow, who passed away from breast cancer in 2009, was presented with the inaugural award at the 2008 Women’s Final Four in Tampa.
Cori Close was named the UCLA Women’s Head Basketball Coach on April 21, 2011 and is currently 198-104 (.656) overall. The 2020-21 campaign will mark Close’s milestone 10th season at the helm of the Bruins.
The 2019-20 season was historic for Close and the Bruins: UCLA won its first 13 games of the campaign, setting a new program record for the most consecutive wins to start a season. UCLA would, ultimately, finish the year 26-5 and was set to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament until the national postseason schedule was canceled due to COVID-19.
Close helped guide the Bruins to a myriad of individual honors this past season. Junior Michaela Onyenwere earned AP Third Team All-America acclaim and also garnered All-Pac-12 recognition. Senior Japreece Dean also earned All-Pac-12 honors while Charisma Osborne picked up Pac-12 All-Freshman accolades. Dean was drafted with the 30th overall pick by the Chicago Sky in the 2020 WNBA Draft, becoming the fifth draft pick across Close’s tenure at the helm.
This is the first head coaching assignment for Close, who has worked as associate head coach or assistant on teams that have advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 16 seasons, won at least 20 games in 16 of the previous 18 seasons and won or shared a total of 11 conference championships.
Close began her collegiate coaching career at UCLA while serving in the role of the restricted earnings coach on the first staff of then-new head coach Kathy Olivier in the 1994 and 1995 seasons. She earned her Master’s Degree in educational administration during her time at the university.
As a player, Close was a four-year starting point guard at UC Santa Barbara and captained the 1992 and 1993 teams, which each advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. A native of Milpitas, Calif., she was a 1993 first-team All-Big West selection and the MVP of the 1993 conference tournament. Close was the first player in school history to record more than 1,000 points and 500 assists for a career and ranked among the top 10 in seven Gaucho statistical categories. She averaged a school-record 8.3 assists per game in 1993 which was among the top 10 marks in the nation that season. On April 30, 2005, Close was inducted into the UC Santa Barbara Athletics Hall of Fame.
Some of the past winners of the FCA Kay Yow “Heart of a Coach” Award include Kay Yow, North Carolina State (2008); Sue Semrau, Florida State (2013); Kristy Curry, Alabama (2014); Julie Goodenough, Abilene Christian (2017) and Carey Green, Liberty University (2019).
FCA’s theme for 2021 is Pursue, which is based on the verse 1 Timothy 6:11: “Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” FCA encourages its members to pursue God utilizing His Word as an anchor, grounding Christians as they look to His Kingdom.
To interview a Fellowship of Christian Athletes representative, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Jeff Tolson, 610.584.1096, ext. 108, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.