Q&A with Mike Curtis
Former Cavalier player Mike Curtis returned to his alma mater this season as the strength and conditioning coach of the Virginia basketball program. A 1998 graduate of Virginia, he was a four-year letterman at UVa and was a co-captain his senior season. Curtis came to Virginia after spending a year as the director of strength and conditioning at Michigan. He was he strength and conditioning coach for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies for six seasons (2002-08) and also spent time at South Carolina and Dayton.
How has it been for you returning to your alma mater?
It has been a refreshing experience to see how far this university has come in the 10 years since I have been gone. I am amazed at the commitment in terms of facilities and support dedicated to improving this basketball program. I am impressed that they hired a guy like Tony Bennett to try and rebuild this team.
Question: Was returning to Virginia someday part of your professional plan?
Not at all. I really had no expectation of coming back to the state of Virginia. I love it here, I grew up here, but I thought my path was going to keep me in the NBA. I went to Michigan, but thought after a few years I would head back to the NBA if I didn’t fall in love with my experience at Michigan. Being back at UVa was something that I never thought would happen.
Question: How is your job different working with collegiate players compared to working with professional players?
There is a big difference. A large percentage of what you do in the NBA is trying to facilitate recovery from game to game. A lot of the training programs were more structured to avoiding injuries. Here, the process it is more of developing physically. In the NBA, you have players who range from 19 year-old rookies to veterans who are 35- or 36-years-old. The priorities for those individuals are different, so you have a wide range of programs you are administrating. In college, you are basically looking at four years of development, essentially from ground zero. So it is a different type of program. There are some things from the NBA I take and use with the players here, but the structure and method is different.
Question: What made you want to get into strength and conditioning?
My undergraduate degree is in sports medicine and I thought I would go down the path of being an athletic trainer or physical therapist. I loved that part of it. There was another side of me that had more passion for the performance enhancement aspect of things and I saw where there was a bridge between those two things. I wanted to do things to keep people out of the training room and enhance their performance on the field. I became a grad assistant in strength and conditioning here at UVa to get another part of that discipline that falls under the sports medicine realm and I fell in love with it. That led me to what is called a ‘strength and conditioning coach’, but I tend to think of myself as an ‘athletic development coach’.
Question: When you look back at your playing career at Virginia, what are the memories that stand out to you
My first year, coming here and being part of something that was much bigger than myself, making it to the Elite Eight, the camaraderie of those guys from the fourth-years down to my class, that was special. It was a bond that is still there today. Those guys are my best friends. When I look back, it is the day-in, day-out, experiences with those guys, that stands out. It was the daily grind, just showing up to practice, those were the most rewarding things for me. The games were just a reward.