FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Lisa Campos announced Loree Payne as the 12th head coach in Northern Arizona women's basketball program history on Friday – subject to Arizona Board of Regents approval. Payne spent the last seven years as the head coach at the University of Puget Sound.
"We are thrilled Loree is joining the Lumberjack family," Campos said. "Through the interview process, it became clear she shares the same values and goals as the NAU Athletics department. Loree is a leader who operates with integrity and high ethical standards. She has a passion for developing student-athletes in the classroom, in the community and on the court. Loree's competitive spirit, drive and commitment to the student-athlete experience will serve our department and the women's basketball program well."
Payne brings a decorated basketball resume with her to Northern Arizona University's Mountain Campus. Over the past seven seasons, Payne had Puget Sound squarely in the conversation of the nation's elite Division III programs, compiling a 130-58 (.691) overall record and a 78-34 (.696) record within the Northwest Conference. Over the last three years, Payne's squads won at over an 80 percent clip (69-16) while advancing to the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament twice in 2015 and 2017 and reaching the NWC championship game each season.
"I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be the next women's basketball coach at Northern Arizona University," Payne said. "Thank you to President Dr. Rita Cheng, Dr. Lisa Campos, Robyn Sharp, the Board of Regents and all of the members of the search committee for their efforts in this process. I also want to show my gratitude to all of those at the University of Puget Sound and my former players for an amazing experience that has prepared me to journey from a Logger to a Lumberjack."
She was named the Northwest Conference Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season following the recently completed 2016-17 campaign and was a 2017 WBCA NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year finalist. Payne guided her team to a 26-3 overall record and an unblemished 16-0 mark within the conference, which clinched the program's first-ever outright regular season NWC championship. The 26 wins were a single season school record and her team was ranked as high as No. 6 nationally this past season.
The Loggers' high mark in the national rankings matched where they finished the 2016-17 season nationally in scoring. Payne led Puget Sound to the sixth-highest scoring offense in the country this past season at 79.0 points per game – setting a new school record in the process. In fact, her last three teams at Puget Sound each finished in the top eight in school history in scoring average.
Under Payne's guidance, a total of 18 players earned all-conference honors at Puget Sound with nine earning selection to the All-NWC First Team. In back-to-back seasons, she coached the Northwest Conference's Freshman of the Year (Jamie Lange, 2017) and Player of the Year (Emily Sheldon, 2016). Sheldon also was named a WBCA All-American Honorable Mention in 2016. Furthermore, Payne coached three players to All-West Region honors as selected by D3hoops.com and three players to Capital One Academic All-District VIII honors.
Prior to Puget Sound, Payne was an assistant coach at Washington – her alma mater – from 2007-10. She served as the recruiting coordinator and was responsible in recruiting and developing multiple players to All-Pac-12 honors. She has also had stints as an assistant at Portland and Northwest Nazarene.
"All of the components for a championship winning program are here at NAU," Payne said. "I plan to utilize those resources to build and develop a program that cultivates a positive and empowering student-athlete experience. We will define a culture of excellence that will lead NAU to athletic and academic success that is a pride point for NAU and the Flagstaff community."
In addition to her coaching credentials, Payne was a standout player at Washington where she was a two-time All-Pac-10 First Team selection, District VIII Kodak All-American and Verizon Academic All-District VIII honoree. A three-year team captain, Payne helped the Huskies reach two NCAA Tournaments, including an Elite 8 appearance in 2001, and one berth in the WNIT. Her name still appears in Washington's record book with spots in six career categories.
In 2000, Payne was also a member of the USA Women's R. William Jones Cup gold medal team.
A native of Havre, Mont., Payne earned her bachelor's degree in Psychology from Washington in 2003 and is currently pursuing her master's degree in Counseling at Puget Sound.
"As a Montana native, I grew up around the Big Sky Conference and appreciate its unique character and rich history," Payne said. "I am so excited to lead NAU women's basketball to the top of 'the Sky' and beyond. My family and I look forward to joining the NAU family and being part of the Flagstaff community."