Tech's Steve Payne named among Top 25 Mid-Major Assistant Basketball Coaches in USA

Tech's Steve Payne named among Top 25 Mid-Major Assistant Basketball Coaches in USA

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Tech's Steve Payne has been recognized as one of the Top 25 Mid-Major assistant basketball coaches in the nation, according to the website The list was compiled by basketball writer Jason Belzer, and took into account a variety of factors including an assistant coach's work ethic, servant's mentality, reliability, attention to detail, recruiting skills and overall basketball knowledge.

Payne was listd as No, 19 on the list, which featured 25 coaches plus another nine who earned honorable mention. He was the only coach from the Ohio Valley Conference to make the list.

The top five included Leon Rice of Gonzaga, Matt Graves of Butler, Mitch Buonaguro of Siena Jim Corrigan of Old Dominion and Jayson Gee of Cleveland State.

Payne is entering his ninth season on coach Mike Sutton's staff with the Golden Eagles, and holds the title Associate Head Coach.

The entire article from is shown below.

by Jason Belzer

Ranking the quality of a team is never easy. Ranking the quality of a coach is even harder. Ranking an assistant coach is well… almost down right impossible. There are so many factors that go into determining what exactly makes a good assistant coach; work ethic, servants mentality, reliability, attention to detail, recruiting skills, overall basketball knowledge, the list goes on and on. What is most imperative to remember is that even though assistant coaches are integral parts of each program, they are not irreplaceable. A good assistant supports his head coach, and not the other way around.

In compiling this list, several factors were weighed, one of the more significant of which was an assistant’s longevity with the program. Those that have served their time and paid their dues with unquestionable loyalty to their head coaches have proven their worth as an assistant and will themselves be be rewarded one day with the opportunity to lead a program. Other factors that went into the rankings include; overall program success while on staff, total years as an assistant, head coaching experience, recruiting, reputation amongst peers, and future potential. Almost all of those listed will one day be head of their own programs and those that are not will only be so by choice. Most importantly is the realization that this list was created not to classify the haves from the have-nots, but to honor those assistants who have done great work throughout their careers and bring something truly special to a staff.


1) Leon Rice, Gonzaga
Leon Rice is considered by many as one of the best associate head coaches on the collegiate level. Rice has been with Gonzaga since Mark Few took the head-coaching job in 1999. Rice is responsible for the signing of some of the nations top young players, which has helped the Bulldogs achieve a record of 236-60 during his tenure.

2) Matt Graves, Butler
The 34 year old has a deep history at Butler, leading them to back-to-back tournament appearances as a player along with eight years as a member of the coaching staff. Prior to the Bulldogs, Graves had assistant coaching stints at North Central and Ben Davis High Schools.

3) Mitch Buonaguro, Siena

With over 25 years in the industry including nine under legendary Villanova coach Rollie Massimino, Buonaguro is regarded as one of the most experienced assistant coaches in the country. Buonaguro was head coach at Fairfield during the late 80’s and has spent the last five years with Fran McCaffery at both Siena and UNC-Greensboro.

4) Jim Corrigan, Old Dominion

Corrigan enters his 22nd year as a collegiate coach and his 15th as a member of the Old Dominion staff. During his tenure, Corrigan has built a long list of accomplishments, which includes; three CAA championships, three trips to the NCAA Tournament, two NIT tournament appearances and the championship of the inaugural Postseason Tournament this past season.

5) Jayson Gee, Cleveland State

A 21-year coaching veteran, Gee made a name for himself during his tenure as head coach of his alma mater, College of Charleston. He led the Golden Eagles to six 20-win campaigns and four NCAA berths. Gee has spent the last 3 years as Associate Head Coach under Gary Waters, revitalizing a once downtrodden Cleveland State program to unprecedented new heights.

6) Casey Alexander, Belmont

Casey Alexander has fourteen years of experience as a member of the Belmont coaching staff and has recruited and developed some of the best perimeter players in the NCAA. During his 14 years at Belmont, Alexander’s sharp shooters have finished in the Top-25 for 3-pointers per game an astonishing 11 times.

7) Darian DeVries, Creighton
The 34-year-old assistant coach has logged 11 years on the Creighton basketball staff. He has led the Blue Jays to the postseason each of the last ten years, including seven bids to the NCAA Tournament. During this time period Creighton is one of only seven teams to win twenty or more games each season.

8) Kyle Smith, St. Mary’s
Smith joined the St. Mary’s basketball program in 2001 and served as Randy Bennett’s first hiring as head coach. Smith immediately took the helm of the Gael’s offense and helped record a school high of 2,377 points during the 2003-04 season, leading to the turnaround of the program.

9) Rob Judson, Illinois State
With 20 years of coaching experience, including 6 years as Head Coach at Northern Illinois, Judson has proven himself as one of the best in the business. Judson’s resume includes six NCAA tournaments, three trips to the NIT and four regular season conference championships.

10) Brad Holland, UC – Santa Barbara
Brad Holland brings head coaching experience to his role as assistant coach at Santa Barbara. Before coaching the Gauchos, Holland was the head coach at the University of San Diego leading them to a school record of 200 wins. His résumé also boasts a head-coaching role at Cal State Fullerton along with an assistant coaching job at his alma mater, UCLA.

11) Steve Merfeld, Bradley
Steve Merfeld has twenty-three years of Division I coaching experience as both an assistant and head coach. Merfeld is best known for coaching Hampton to a rare upset over the No. 2 seed Iowa State during the first round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament. Merfeld also spend 5 years at the helm of rival MVC school Evansville from 2002 to 2007.

12) Matt McMahon, Appalachian State
The 31 year old started out as an administrative grad assistant for Buzz Peterson prior to securing a permanent position on the coaching staff. McMahon has spent the past five years as the associate head coach for his alma mater at which he was a two-year starter.

13) Billy Donlon, Wright State

The 31 year old has spent the last three years at Wright State behind his former head coach, Brad Brownell. Prior to reuniting with Brownell, Donlon held coaching positions at American and St. Peter’s.

14) Tracy Dildy, Illinois – Chicago

Tracy Dildy returns for his third season at his alma mater as an assistant coach and head recruiting coordinator. Dildy boasts an impressive coaching career, serving as an assistant or associate coach at UAB, Ole Miss, Auburn, Ball State, and DePaul at which he was responsible for the signing of several future NBA stars.

15) LaMonta Stone, Bowling Green
LaMonta Stone is in his 5th season as the Bowling Green Falcon’s assistant coach. Stone helped improve the program and most recently aided the team in securing the 2008-09 Mid-American Eastern Division regular season championship and a bid to the NIT tournament. Stone was previously an assistant at both Eastern Michigan and Ohio State.

16) Ron Verlin, Pacific
Verlin has 15 years of experience as a member of the Pacific basketball program where he is in charge of academic efforts and defensive development. Prior to his career at Pacific, Verlin served as the assistant athletic director at Columbia College and an assistant coach at both the University of Nevada and Sierra College. Verlin, is the brother of University of Idaho’s Head Coach, Don Verlin,

17) Mike Boyd, East Tennessee State
Boyd has a wealth of coaching experience, holding positions as an assistant at both Penn State and Michigan as well as a head-coaching job at Cleveland State. For the past six years, Boyd has held the assistant coaching position at East Tennessee State where he is responsible for the development of post players as well as the teams recruiting.

18) Todd Howard, IUPUI
Todd Howard is the longest tenured assistant/associate coach in the Summit League, serving IUPUI’s coaching staff for 14 years. IUPUI has not recorded a record below .500 since Howard’s promotion to associate head coach eight years ago.

19) Steve Payne, Tennessee Tech

Entering his 9th year as an assistant at Tech, Payne has been one of the key factors behind Tech’s success in the OVC. Payne stepped in as acting head coach during Mike Sutton’s recovery from Guillain-Barré Syndrome. At the end of the team’s 2006-2007, 19-12 campaign, Payne was recognized as the Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year by both and

20) Kareem Richardson, Drake
Kareem Richardson helped lead the Bulldogs to postseason play during the 2008-09 season, which was his first year as an assistant coach. Prior to Drake, Kareem spent time at UMKC, Evansville, Wright State, and Indiana State where he assisted the Sycamores in reaching the NCAA Tournament and knocking off the No. 4 seed Oklahoma to advance to the second round.

21) Jermaine Henderson – Miami Ohio

Jermaine, who has spent the last 15 years as a player and assistant, has helped the RedHawks compile am 273-183 overall record, including a 172-94 Mid-American Conference mark. In nine of those seasons, Miami has made post-season appearances including, NCAA Tournament appearances in 1998 and 2007, back-to-back National Invitation Tournament berths in 2005 and 2006 and an invitation to the inaugural College Basketball Invitational in 2008.

22) Jim Fox, Davidson
With eight years on Bob McKillop’s staff, Jim Fox has been an essential part of Davidson’s success over the same period. Since joining the staff, Davidson has compiled an 146-64 overall record, 96-21 versus teams in the Southern Conference, won four conference tournament championships, played in four NCAA tournaments and one postseason NIT.

23) Elwyn McRoy, Arkansas State
Arguably the best junior college recruiter in all of college basketball, much less the Mid-Major level, there is no coincidence that on court success has followed McRoy throughout his entire career. During a span of 5 seasons in junior college, McRoy coached 28 players who went on to play Division I Basketball.

24) Paul Molinari, Winthrop
Molinari has served as an assistant coach at Kent State, his alma mater Villanova, UNLV, Wichita State and Cleveland State. He spent a total of 14 years working under Rollie Massimino, including the eight at CSU. During his 18 years as an assistant, the schools that he has been associated with have appeared in eight NCAA tournaments, including
the Elite Eight with Villanova in 1988, and four NIT tourneys.

25) Joel Sobotka, Portland
Entering his 4th season on Eric Reveno’s staff, Sobotka has played an integral role in the Pilots competitive rise to the top half of the WCC to challenge Gonzaga for it’s perennial crown. At the age of 28, Joel was hired as the head coach of Portland State, serving for six seasons as the Vikings Head coach. Joel also spent three years at Cal-State Northridge before coming to Portland.

Honorable Mention: Robert Burke (American), (Eric Eaton (Quinnipiac), Tom Hankins (Oral Roberts), Kermit Holmes (Lamar), Jason Hooten (Sam Houston State), Eric Strothers (Jackson State), Jeff Tungate (Oakland), Andy Hill (Montana), Angres Thrope (Wisconsin-Green Bay)

Consideration was given only to assistants whose schools are eligible for the Mid-Major Top 25 Poll.