Season Preview: CHD sits down with Tennessee Tech coach Steve Payne

To prepare for the tip-off of another great year of college basketball, CHD is reaching out to coaches and players around the country to get the inside scoop on what we can expect this time around.  Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Tennessee Tech coach Steve Payne about winning an NAIA national title. 


You lost your leading scorer from last year in Jud Dillard, who finished second in the OVC with 19.3 PPG. How will you be able to fill the offensive void left by the departure of such a great scorer? Jud was a really good player who was very smart and was tough enough to finish all over the floor. He did a little of everything so we cannot replace him with one guy, but our new guys will give us some depth and help us score a lot better.

You have two players from Canada and one from Germany on your roster. How have you been able to establish an international pipeline of talent? One of the Canadians (Josiah Moore) has spent most of his life in Atlanta, and the other  (Ammanuel Diressa) we just saw in AAU ball. Dennis Ogbe is everything you could want in a player (3.9 GPA in Engineering), so fate just smiled on us.

In December you play at Tennessee. How do you prepare your team to face an SEC squad? The same way we prepare to face an OVC squad. People here get excited about it but it is just another game. We will scout them and figure out what we can do against them offensively. It is always a good game for our fans, but we play in a good league with some guys who end up in the NBA.

What are your expectations for the upcoming season? I am cautiously optimistic and am looking forward to it. If we continue to build then I think we can surprise some people. Our league is always tough but will not know where we are at until February.

In the 1998 NAIA national title game, as an assistant coach under Happy Osborne at Georgetown College, Will Carlton had 22 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Southern Nazarene. What did it mean to you to win the title and how were you able to overcome a 13 point deficit? We had really good players. I remember it like it was yesterday. Will was one of the best players in the country and probably the best competitor I have ever met. We called timeout after falling down 13 and then made a few three point shots to get back in it.

In 2006, you were named OVC coach of the year after taking over for Coach Mike Sutton after he was stricken with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. How were you able to pick up the slack in Sutton’s absence? I do not know that there was any slack. Mike ran a good program and conveyed what we believed in, so everyone just did what they were supposed to do. We did not change anything because we had some good players who were really easy to coach and they all stepped up.

In 2011, you were named head coach at Tennessee Tech. Why did you take the job? It was a dream come true! Mike went out the way he wanted to and he fully supported me and helped make it possible, so it was a no-brainer for me.