FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Head Coach Loree Payne went to an established presence and a familiar face in her first steps toward building her staff with the hiring of Kellee Barney and Brandon Huntley as assistant coaches. Payne officially announced the initial hires to her Northern Arizona women's basketball coaching staff on Friday.
"I'm very excited to have Kellee and Brandon on board," Payne said. "We want to make sure that our staff is a cohesive unit and it's something that I put a lot of due diligence into. We want to establish a team camaraderie and both bring great dimensions to our staff."
Barney brings nearly three decades of Division I coaching experience including several stops in the Pac-12 Conference. Most recently, Barney was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Montana State from 2012-15, providing her extensive knowledge and insight of the Big Sky Conference. While at Montana State, Barney recruited and was part of the developmental process of two players – Jasmine Hommes and Peyton Ferris – who would go on to be voted the Big Sky Most Valuable Player.
"First and foremost, the opportunity to get back into the sport that I love is exciting," Barney said. "I took a break away from the sport and realized that basketball is my passion and coaching is what I do. Loree Payne is an amazing person and coach who did tremendous work at Puget Sound, in addition to her work as an assistant when she got started in the business. I believe in her systems, how she treats people and her vision for the program."
Barney is well-known within the coaching ranks, especially in the western United States, with prominent stints at Oregon State, Arizona and Washington State. Between her 17 seasons in the Pac-10 (now Pac-12), she was a part of four 20-win seasons, four NCAA Tournament teams and a WNIT qualifier. By the end of her tenures, Barney was elevated to Assistant Head Coach at Arizona and Associate Head Coach at Washington State in addition to serving as recruiting coordinator at both institutions.
Her credentials also include six years as the women's basketball head coach at Gonzaga from 1994-2000 and her initial job as an assistant at Portland State. Barney's 1998-99 Gonzaga team ranked in the top 10 nationally for overall team grade point average. She was also an assistant coach for the Pac-10 All-Star Team during foreign tours in 1989 and 1992.
"Kellee has a plethora of experience dating back nearly 30 years at the Division I level," Payne said. "She was at Arizona for many years, so she's familiar with the state and her time at Montana State is a crucial piece with her being comfortable with the Big Sky. Her experience will be incredibly helpful moving forward as we build our program."
Huntley follows Payne to Northern Arizona after serving on her staff at Puget Sound over the last seven seasons. He was a vital member of Payne's staff where the team reached the Northwest Conference Tournament in six of seven seasons including the championship game in the last three years. Puget Sound advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament in two of the last three years.
Specifically working with Puget Sound's guards, Huntley coached Emily Sheldon to Northwest Conference Player of the Year and WBCA All-American honors in 2016. He was also responsible for coaching Samone Jackson to the all-conference first team after finishing this past season as the second-leading scorer in the conference. Huntley also was the recruiting coordinator for a program that won nearly 70 percent of its games over the last seven years.
"Brandon was my assistant for seven years and there's a lot of trust that goes into that relationship," Payne said. "He has incredible recruiting ties, specifically in the Northwest with a lot of AAU connections. He's tapped into the recruiting side, but he's also an incredible on-court coach and is a true basketball junkie."
Prior to Puget Sound, Huntley was the associate women's basketball coach at Johnson & Wales from 2007-10 where he helped produce three 1,000 point scorers, including the program's all-time leading scorer. Huntley also has experience as an AAU coach and elite trainer with Excel Sports Academy in Tacoma, Wash. and as the head coach of Student Athlete World's U19 and U16 USA teams at the 2016 United World Games.
"I'm excited to be here at Northern Arizona University and to meet with the players," Huntley said. "Working with Loree over the last seven years has been amazing and we know each other inside and out when it comes to basketball. I'm very intrigued with the conference, with the winning environment here and the support this university has given us so far."