MISSOULA — Northern Arizona University announced on Tuesday that it had extended the contract of women's basketball coach Loree Payne by five years after the latest run by the Lumberjacks this past season.
In her fifth year on the job, Payne, a Havre native and one of the most decorated athletes to come from Montana, led NAU to a 17-14 record in the 2021-22 season as the Lumberjacks advanced to the Big Sky Conference championship game where they ultimately fell to Montana State. It was NAU's first time in the championship game since 2007 and their 17 wins were a program best since that 2006-07 season. NAU also went 12-8 during the Big Sky portion of their schedule.
"Loree Payne has guided our women's basketball program on an upward trajectory over the course of her five seasons of leadership," said Mike Marlow, Northern Arizona's Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics in a press release. "She has a championship mentality, big vision for NAU women's basketball, places a high priority on academics and cares deeply about the young women in her program. NAU is fortunate to have her and I know she feels fortunate to be a part of the Flagstaff community."
It's been nothing but improvement for the program since Payne took over. In her first year on the job, NAU went 7-23 in 2017-18, and went 13-18, 16-15 and 15-14 each year after.
MTN Sports caught up with Payne ahead of the Big Sky Tournament for an extended conversation about her time in Flagstaff before the Lumberjacks went on to almost win the tournament title.
"I am incredibly excited to continue leading the NAU women's basketball program. In five years, we have taken a program that had been consistently at the bottom of the conference to becoming a Big Sky Championship contender," Payne said in a press release. "I am grateful for my staff, as well as our former players who have laid the foundation for a championship program and I am beyond excited for our current and future student-athletes to elevate our program to the next level."