Santa Clara University coach JR Payne will be the next head coach of CU women’s basketball, taking over for Linda Lappe, multiple sources close to the program told the CU Independent. Sources said that there will be a team meeting Monday, where players will be introduced to their new head coach, and that Payne has met with the Santa Clara administration already. She was also on CU’s shortlist for coaching candidates at the start of the search.
The St. Mary’s alum played four years in college before embarking on a 14-year coaching career that included working as an assistant at Gonzaga, Boise State and Santa Clara. In 2009, she took her first head coaching job with Southern Utah University. Within five years, SUU women’s basketball went from a seven-win team to a 23-win, WNIT-bound squad, the schools’ first ever postseason appearance.
A similar story occurred at Santa Clara. Payne was hired as the head coach in 2014, guiding the team to an 11-18 record. This past season, the Cowboys won 23 games, went to the WNIT and stunned Pac-12 juggernaut Stanford by a score of 61-58. That same Cardinal team went to the Elite Eight of the 2016 NCAA tournament and beat Colorado twice this season.
Despite the impressive turnarounds in both programs, Payne only has a 101-113 career record. Her husband, Toriano Towns, has been on her staff since she took over the Southern Utah job in 2009.
“JR Payne is one of the best young coaches on the West Coast,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said in a testimonial for Payne on her Santa Clara bio. “She’s a great teacher of the game and an exceptional recruiter. Her success at building programs can only be matched by her success at building young women.”
The CU Independent will continue to provide updates as they come. There is still no word on whether Colorado coaches Mike Petrino and Jamie Carey will be retained. Both were the only assistants that didn’t leave the program after head coach Linda Lappe’s resignation.