August 20, 2011

Legendary NAIA head coach Happy Osborne completes Tech staff

Longtime Georgetown (Ky.) coach has roots with Payne

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Tech head men's basketball coach Steve Payne has added national championship NAIA head coach Happy Osborne to his staff for the upcoming 2011-12 season.

Osborne comes to Tech from Georgetown College, an NAIA school in Georgetown, Ky., where he posted a 456-84 career record and led the Tigers to the 1998 national championship.

At Tech, Osborne joins assistants Russ Willemsen and David Boyden in recruiting, coaching, developing players and cultivating and maintaining relationships in the community.

"He brings a special energy to recruiting, so he'll be involved with that, but he's also very good at developing people on and off the floor, so there won't be any part of our program he won't be involved with, just like coach Boyden and coach Willemsen," Payne said.

Payne served as an assistant on Osborne's staff at Georgetown from 1996-2000, where the two became close friends. In the four years the pair coached together, Georgetown won 26, 37, 30 and 35 game for a total of 123 wins in four years. They played in two national championship games, winning one.

"Obviously his record is one of the best all-time in college basketball, but more than that, we're getting a guy who has a great passion for young people and a great passion for basketball and coaching," Payne said of Osborne.

"A lot of my philosophy and foundation was developed in my time at Georgetown College working with coach Osborne the first time," he continued. "I'm lucky to have a special relationship with him. There's nobody better to be around, hang out with, and as far as I can imagine, that will be pretty seamless on the floor. The last time we were together, we had a pretty good record, and I'd like to match that."

Osborne echoed Payne's excitement in re-uniting with an old friend.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to coach at Tennessee Tech," Osborne said. "Steve Payne is like a brother to me. We had a lot of good times together here at Georgetown, and he's one of my best friends in the whole world. He's someone I really enjoy being around."

A native of Lynch, Ky., Osborne began his tenure at Georgetown as an assistant coach in 1980, serving for 14 years before being promoted to the head position in 1996.

In his 15 years as head coach, Osborne has been named the Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year six times, won nine of the last 12 MSC titles, and posted at least 25 wins each season.

Osborne holds the distinction of being the fastest coach at any college basketball level to post 100 career wins. He holds the same distinction among coaches who have won 400 games.

Due in large part to his leadership, Georgetown is the all-time winningest men's basketball program in NAIA and has made a record 20 consecutive NAIA Tournament appearances. More than 40 Georgetown players have gone on to professional careers overseas, many of whom played under Osborne.

Most recently, Osborne led the Tigers to a 32-5 record and the Fab Four, the NAIA national semifinals, in 2010-11.

He said he is excited to work not only with Payne, but also with fellow assistants Russ Willemsen and David Boyden.

"Russ is an up-and-coming coach and does a tremendous job recruiting, and I've known David a long time," he said. "All of them have just been super to me, and I think we'll make it a great family."

Osborne, who has spent his entire coaching career at Georgetown and played an active role in the community, spoke of the importance of visibility in the community for the program.

"It's very important to me that we get out and help Cookeville to 'own' Tennessee Tech basketball," he said. "They know we have a very good team coming back, and we want to get out and shake every hand and invite everyone to support this team."

Osborne played high school basketball at Lynch High School, where his father was the school superintendent. He went on to serve as a student assistant at both Pikeville College and Morehead State.

He is married to Bobbi Osborne and the couple has one daughter.