USC Upstate's Payne Claims 2012 Hugh Durham Award

Friday, March 30, 2012

MACON, Ga. – After leading USC Upstate to the best one-year turnaround in Division I basketball in 2011-12, Eddie Payne was named the 2012 Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year.

The Hugh Durham award is presented annually to the top mid-major coach in Division I college basketball.

"It is an honor to be recognized for the national award," said Payne. "It is a tribute to a group of hardworking coaches and players. My thanks go out to these individuals who sacrificed tremendously for our program."

In his 10th season at the helm of the Spartan program and 26th overall, Payne is the second consecutive A-Sun coach to claim the honor. Belmont’s Rick Byrd won in 2011. He also earned A-Sun Coach of the Year honors in 2011-12, winning his 400th career game in the victory in the season finale over Stetson.

Payne has coached at all levels and divisions of college basketball, beginning his head coaching career on the junior college level and moving through the ranks in the NAIA and NCAA Division I, II and III. He is the only current D-I head coach to have coached at all five levels of college basketball and has compiled a 401-392 record.

In 2011-12 Payne led USC Upstate to 21 wins, the most for the program in the D-I era. The program also participated in its first ever Division I postseason tournaments, falling to FGCU in the A-Sun quarterfinals and defeating Kent State in the first round of the Tournament.

The Spartans recorded the best turnaround in all of Division I with a 16-win improvement over the 2010-11 season. USC Upstate is just the second team to post 20 or more wins in their first season of full NCAA D-I eligibility after completing the five-year transition from to D-I. North Dakota State posted 26 wins in their first season of full eligibility (2008-09).

Along with his Coach of the Year Honors, Payne also coached the A-Sun Player of the Year in Torrey Craig and the A-Sun Freshman of the Year in Ty Greene. Craig, also an Honorable Mention AP All-American, put together a fine season. The sophomore led the conference in scoring and finished second in rebounding while leading the Spartans to their best finish since joining the A-Sun. His put-back at the buzzer against Belmont handed the Bruins one of their only two conference losses, and eight three-pointers versus Florida Gulf Coast were two of his most notable moments. Greene picked up the pace for the Spartans in conference play, boosting his scoring average to nearly 12 points per game. He drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer in a road game at Lipscomb to help lift the Spartans to their best season in Division I.

Payne topped an impressive list of 20 other finalists for the award: Tommy Amaker (Harvard), Rod Barnes (Cal State Bakersfield), Randy Bennett (Saint Mary’s), Horace Broadnax (Savannah State), Tim Clues (Iona), John Cooper (Tennessee State), Scott Cross (UT-Arlington), Kermit Davis (Middle Tennessee State), Bryce Drew (Valparaiso), Bruiser Flint (Drexel), Gregg Marshall (Wichita State), Steve Masiello (Manhattan), Greg McDermott (Creighton), Dan Monson (Long Beach State), Scott Nagy (South Dakota State), Steve Prohm (Murray State), Joe Scott (Denver), Shaka Smart (VCU), Scott Sutton (Oral Roberts) and Sean Woods (Mississippi Valley State).

Hugh Durham was the first and only coach in the history of NCAA Division I basketball to lead two different schools to the NCAA Final Four for the first and only time in each school's history (Florida State University in 1972 and University of Georgia in 1983). Durham is the only coach in NCAA Division I history to be the all-time win leader at three different schools (Florida State, Georgia, and Jacksonville). He finished is his career with 634 wins.

Previous recipients include Byrd (Belmont 2011), Mike Young (Wofford 2010), Todd Bozeman (Morgan State 2009), Keno Davis (Drake 2008), Gregg Marshall (Winthrop 2007), Pat Flannery (Bucknell 2006) and Bob Thomason (Pacific 2005).

The Atlantic Sun Conference is an NCAA Division I league with 10 member institutions committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun meets the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement with a true balance between student and athlete. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University. Northern Kentucky becomes the newest A-Sun member n July 1, 2012.