FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Loree Payne was formally introduced as the new Northern Arizona women's basketball head coach on Tuesday during an introductory press conference in the Walkup Skydome. In front of Flagstaff's local media, Payne was met with positive response beginning with opening remarks from Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Lisa Campos.
"We had a deep and strong applicant pool for the head women's basketball position," Campos said. "As we began the search, we knew we wanted someone who fit the values and goals of our department, would develop students on the court and in the classroom, had a competitive spirit and would do the job with integrity. These themes emerged every time we had a conversation with Loree. It became very clear that Loree was the right fit for NAU and that NAU was the right fit for Loree."
Payne's enthusiasm for the job was front and center as she readies for the task at hand at turning around an NAU women's basketball program who has posted a winning season in 10 years. The Lumberjacks are coming off a 9-21 campaign including a 5-13 record in the Big Sky Conference – which was a three-win improvement from a year ago.
"It was an exciting process and there's incredible energy surrounding the program right now," Payne said. "This department, under incredible leadership, is going very far. I can't say enough how excited I am to be here and to get started. It's absolutely invigorating to be a part of what's going on here and it couldn't be a better fit for me. I can't wait to get started here."
Payne – who was announced as the 12th head coach in program history last Friday – inherits a program returning its leading scorer in redshirt junior Olivia Lucero, its leading rebounder in sophomore Kaleigh Paplow and one of the Big Sky's top freshmen in Raina Perez among others. NAU also signed four incoming freshmen to National Letters of Intent in the fall and will continue to fill out its roster – something that excites Payne.
"There's a lot of talent returning," Payne said. "I know they lost a lot of close games last year and it's a small roster returning which also gives us the ability to still recruit for this year. That's something that is a priority for us. We have the foundation with our returners and they understand the NAU philosophy and what it means to be successful here."
Later Tuesday evening, Payne was introduced to Northern Arizona University's and the Athletics Department's key constituents during a formal meet-and-greet session.
For a full transcript of Tuesday's press conference, click on the link above. A video including clips of the press conference is available here.
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