GREELEY, CO (UNCBears.com) – Northern Colorado Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced the hiring of Steve Smiley as the 20th head coach of the UNC men’s basketball program last Thursday…replacing the Coach Jeff Linder who left for WY.
“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.”
More accomplishments during that time include UNC ended up ranked in the Top 100 on the NET/RPI twice, setting a program record with 26 wins in 2017-18 and twice winning a program-best 15 Big Sky games in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
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.
Smiley’s experience in the Big Sky goes beyond his four years at UNC as he was an assistant coach at Weber State from 2014-16. The Wildcats won 39 games in those two years and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2016 by winning the Big Sky Tournament.
Before Weber State, Smiley spent six years as the head coach and Athletic Director at Sheridan College, a national junior college powerhouse in Sheridan, WY.
In the six years with the Generals, Smiley posted a 153-43 overall record and led Sheridan to four North Sub-Region 9 titles and two runner-up finishes. His teams also advanced to the Region 9 Final Four on four occasions and appeared in two championship games. Smiley was twice named the North Region Coach of the Year.
During his time at Sheridan, Smiley had 21 players sign to play NCAA Division I basketball and a total of 38 players moved on to play at four-year colleges. He coached two players who earned NJCAA All-American honors and nine players who earned All-Region honors. Several players went on to play professional basketball across the world.
“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.”
Prior to his time at Sheridan, Smiley spent two seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD, where he worked under the winningest coach in NCAA history, Don Meyer. During his time at NSU, the Wolves posted a 50-12 record. Smiley was also the head assistant coach at Black Hills State University during the 2005-06 season.
A native of Denver, Smiley graduated from Northern State in 2004. He was a three-year starter with the Wolves and led the Northern Sun league in assists for three straight seasons. He ranks second in NSU history in career assists with 537. As a senior, he was named the NSIC Defensive Player of the Year and the league tournament MVP. He helped lead the team to a 24-7 record and a trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
He played high school basketball at Pomona High School in Arvada, CO, where he was a four-year starter and earned All-State honors twice while graduating as his class valedictorian. He also led the state of Colorado in assists during his junior season.
Coach Smiley will welcome Colorado native & fellow NSU alum Houston Reed to the Northern Colorado men’s basketball staff as an assistant coach. Reed comes to UNC from Chadron State in Nebraska where he was the head coach for the past four years.
“Coach Smiley is an elite and respected coach in our profession. Mostly he is a better person and carries himself with the utmost integrity,” Reed said. “To have the opportunity to bring my family to the UNC program and continue the success of winning, culture, and developing young men is a dream come true.”
While at Chadron, Reed coached four All-RMAC players and in 2018-19 led the Eagles to their best season in program history at 12-16, including winning 10 RMAC games for the first time in seven years.
“It’s really special for me to announce the hiring of Coach Reed as a new member of our staff. He is not only a great coach, but he’s a lifelong friend of mine, my college teammate, and somebody that I’ve respected and valued for too many years to count,” Smiley said. “Coach Reed has had a fantastic career of his own, and he’s moved up the ranks of the basketball coaching world one stop at a time, always as a head coach. I’m humbled that Coach Reed has the faith in me to give up his position as a current head coach and to help us build the Bears for years to come. He will be a tremendous asset in all phases, including on the court, working with our post players specifically, in recruiting and ultimately in just helping me with all of his knowledge as a long-time head coach himself. Coach Reed is a born-and-raised Colorado guy, and he will take a tremendous amount of pride in continuing to build the tradition of UNC in his home state. The players, staff, and the Greeley community will love his energy and infectious attitude. I can’t wait for Houston, his wife Leah, and his children Olivia and Johnnie to join our UNC and Greeley community.”
Reed coached for 10 years at Otero Junior College in La Junta, CO, before arriving at Chadron State. Over his final five years at Otero, the Rattlers won the NJCAA Region IX Tournament in 2012 and appeared in the title game in 2013. Reed was the Region IX Coach of the Year in 2012 and 16. The 2012 title gave OJC their first-ever NJCAA national tournament appearance where they advanced to the Elite Eight.
While at Otero, Reed coached 29 academic all-region and 12 academic All-American players. Four of his teams finished in the top-20 nationally for team grade point average. He placed 67 players to four-year institutions, including six to NCAA Division I schools in the past two years.
Prior to OJC, Reed was head boys’ basketball coach at Rocky Ford High School in Colorado, where he took a winless team to the Colorado 2A Sweet 16 in only two seasons.
As a player from 1998-2002, Reed first starred at OJC, where he holds the single-game scoring record (46) and currently sits 15th on the all-time scoring leader board. Following his graduation from Otero, he played for two seasons at Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD, under legendary coach Don Meyer.
A Colorado Native, Reed hails from Olathe, CO, where he attended Olathe High School before becoming teammates with Coach Smiley at Northern State.