Northern Colorado Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced the hiring of Steve Smiley as the 20th head coach of the UNC men’s basketball program Thursday. He will be formally introduced through a virtual press conference at 3 pm Friday through this link.
“We are extremely excited to keep Steve, his wife Nikki and Madden and Avery as a part of the Northern Colorado family,” Dunn said. “Steve has been an integral part of building the men’s basketball program into one of the best in the Big Sky and no doubt will continue that process. His ability to connect with our student-athletes and build champions for life made it an easy decision for us to elevate him to lead our men’s basketball program.”
Smiley takes over the program after a four-year stint as the associate head coach.
“I am beyond excited to be named the next head coach here at the University of Northern Colorado. I can’t thank both our Athletic Director Darren Dunn and his administrative team and President Andy Feinstein enough for this opportunity and for their faith in me to continue building upon our current success,” Smiley said. “Four years ago, Jeff Linder gave me the opportunity to join him in the new era of UNC basketball and our entire staff worked tirelessly to build our program up from the depths that it was experiencing at that time. The past few years have been an absolute blast and I can’t wait to work with our current and incoming players to build upon the special tradition that is UNC basketball. Our university is a special place, Greeley is a phenomenal community, and I truly believe that we’re only beginning!”
Northern Colorado men’s basketball held an 80-50 record over the past four years with Smiley as the associate head coach. In that time frame, the Bears won the 2018 CollegeInsider.com Tournament and strung together three-straight 20-plus win seasons.
He helped guide the Big Sky MVP, Defensive Player of the Year three times, Newcomer of the Year, Top Reserve and Freshman of the Year over those four years.
“I would like to thank our current and former players for believing in our staff and for allowing our staff to coach them and push them. Good players make good coaches, and for players such as Jordan Davis, Jonah Radebaugh, Kai Edwards and many others to allow a new staff at that time to coach them from day one and build a foundation was something that was truly special and something that all of us coaches are truly grateful for,” said Smiley. “I want to thank Jeff Linder for being a great mentor and for giving me the responsibility that he did, which has allowed me to be prepared for this opportunity. And I would like to thank our day one staff of Ken DeWeese, Vinnie McGhee, Taylor Green and recent addition Dorian Green for helping all of us to continue our tradition throughout the past several years.”
Tasked in leading Northern Colorado’s defensive efforts, Smiley led the Bears to rank fourth in the nation in 3-point percentage defense at 28.0 percent and 22nd in scoring defense at 62.7 points per game in 2019-20.
His Colorado roots were integral to the Bears recruiting efforts, including landing current Bears Sam Masten and Bodie Hume. Masten was the 2018 Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year and 5A Player of the Year and Hume the 2018 3A Player of the Year.
“On a personal note, I can’t thank the coaches and administrators that have believed in me and given me a chance throughout the different stops in my career, including the greatest college coach of all-time, Don Meyer, Tarvish Felton, Paul Sather, Mark Englert, Randy Rahe, and Coach Linder,” Smiley said. “For the assistant coaches that I had the pleasure to work with during my first head coach stop at Sheridan College (thank you, Luke, Ryan, Aaron, Dan, and Matt), and for the assistants that I’ve been in the trenches with for the past 6 years (Coach Duft, Coach Lever, Coach Red, Coach DeWeese, Coach McGhee, Coach Taylor Green, Coach Dorian Green, Coach Brad Klump, and Coach Brett Cloepfil) and our trainers and strength coaches as well – Hendo, Joel, Maddie, and Jimmy. We’ve all been a family and I cherish all of our relationships.”
What they’re saying about Steve Smiley
Jeff Linder, Head Coach, University of Wyoming
“This is an incredible hire for Northern Colorado. Steve has been instrumental in the success over the last four years. His passion, energy, and hard work will help the Bears contend for future Big Sky Championships. My family and I could not be happier for Steve, Nikki, and their family. We wish them all the best.”
Paul Sather, Head Coach, University of North Dakota
“Great hire by the University of Northern Colorado. Steve’s a total package coach that can teach, communicate, and build relationships throughout his community and in his basketball program. UNC hired a proven winner with high character and expectations for himself and those around him.”
Randy Rahe, Head Coach, Weber State University
“I couldn’t be happier for Steve and his family to get this opportunity and no one deserves it more. Steve has worked extremely hard and is very well prepared for this next step. I know that he will do an outstanding job!”
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