By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech men's basketball head coach Steve Payne had an easy decision to make when filling the program's vacancy for director of operations, welcoming back former student manager Jonathan Ortiz to Cookeville to fill the role for the 2018-19 season.
"It's exciting," Ortiz said. "Tech feels like home. It was really a no-brainer to come back. I'm very appreciative of Coach Payne, Coach [Gus] Fraley and the rest of the staff. This is a great opportunity for me, especially being in a place that I'm familiar with and have already been a part of for multiple years. I think it will be beneficial to both the program and myself that I'll have some prior experience and working knowledge of how things run here."
Payne added, "We're excited that Jonathan is back with us. He did a great job here during his undergraduate career and he did a fantastic job at Southeast Missouri. We felt confident giving him a recommendation for an administrative spot at SEMO and he performed well. He had an opportunity for a promotion there but decided to come back to Tennessee Tech. It means a lot to me and to our program to have a young man that is committed to our program like that and is as capable and as talented as he is."
Ortiz returns to the Golden Eagle family after spending the 2017-18 season as a graduate manager at fellow Ohio Valley Conference member Southeast Missouri under the direction of head coach Rick Ray. The Redhawks finished the campaign 14-17 with an 8-10 mark in league play.
While at SEMO, Ortiz was responsible for assisting with the coordination video operations, team meals, on-campus visits and social media operations while also assisting the director of operations.
"Going to Southeast Missouri and working as a graduate assistant under Coach Ray was great," Ortiz said. "I learned a lot while I was there and a lot of different ways to do things. It's just surreal to know I took that job a year ago and in one years' time, I'm back in Cookeville with this opportunity. I am just so excited."
Prior to taking the position at Southeast Missouri, Ortiz spent two seasons as a student manager with the Golden Eagles, assisting with game day operations, video coordination, team meals, and summer camps. He also spent a year of his undergraduate career working for the Nashville Sounds Minor League Baseball team.
Ortiz earned his bachelor's of science in sports management from Tech in 2017 with a minor in general business.
"We know he understands everything that has to be done and how we do things," Payne said. "There's no breaking-in period for Jonathan. There's no learning curve for him. He's already been involved in our video operations. We aren't staffed in a way that guys only perform certain duties. He has to everything here. He has to coordinate our travel and our video. He has to wear a lot of different hats at Tennessee Tech. He understands that and we know he's pretty good at those things. This is a jump for him in responsibility, but I'm very confident that he'll handle it well."