By Zachary Fletcher
It has become very clear that Puget Sound has an incredible women’s basketball program. The high level of play and success are creating excitement all across campus. Yet, despite a record-breaking season and a myriad of individual standouts, the team would be nowhere without its head coach Loree Payne.
Raised in northern Montana, Payne got her start in basketball at a young age. Payne attended Havre High School where she was a four-year starter, helped win a state championship, and even was a standout athlete in track and volleyball.
Payne then took on Division I basketball at the University of Washington where she was a standout basketball player for the Huskies.
According to Husky Athletics, during her time on the team Payne was UW’s career leader in three-point field goals made (245), was a three-year captain on the team, and was selected to the All-Pac-10 (before it was the Pac-12) twice in her career. She continued on as an assistant coach at the University of Portland for three years, then returned to the Huskies as an assistant coach on the women’s team.
University of Washington Athletic Director Jen Cohen speaks highly of Payne’s play. “She was such a ‘gamer’ for the UW, and she contributed to one of the most successful teams in our program’s history.”
In 2010, Payne brought her talents to Tacoma. She is now in her seventh season with the Loggers, and looks to continue the legacy of the women’s basketball program.
“I knew I wanted to be a head coach and was very excited when the position came open,” Payne said. “I wanted to stay in the Northwest and felt like Puget Sound was a great fit for me.”
Payne talks highly of the smooth transition she made from player to coach, as she went right from playing to coaching early in her career.
The trouble in being off the court for her, however, is viewing the game. “The most difficult thing is looking at the game through a different lens,” she said. “As a player you see it certain ways, but as a coach you have to always be looking at the big picture.”
Assistant Coach Joleen LaMay has high praise for Payne and very much values coaching with her, “Coaching alongside Coach Payne is fun and competitive,” LaMay said. “She is a true leader for everyone within the program.”
Payne runs very serious practices and wants them to simulate game conditions. “She wants the kids to compete and make each other better,” LaMay said.
Payne is also praised for her ability to communicate with her team, “As coaches we collaborate and discuss what needs to be accomplished and together we execute the game plan,” LaMay said. “Loree is very honest and transparent with the athletes which has allowed her the ability to be completely real with each kid,” she said.
She’s also helped foster a great environment within the entire Puget Sound athletics community. “The coaches from all the programs support one another and help each other grow and develop day in and day out,” Payne said.
UW Athletic Director Cohen also praises Payne’s approach to the game: “Loree is a competitor and has a tremendous passion for the game,” Cohen said. “Her commitment to excellence has always been a driving force in her life.”
Not only is Payne praised by her fellow coaches, but she is also very respected and appreciated among her players.
First-year student Caitlin Malvar (Portland, Oregon), speaks of the transparency Payne has with her players. “It’s easy to have a two-way conversation with her and to bounce ideas off of each other.”
First-year student Mara Henderson (Minneapolis, Minnesota), talks of Payne’s dedication and high level of effort put into her job: “She is one of the most dedicated coaches I’ve had. She will do everything she can to put her team in the best position for success.”
“Coach Payne doesn’t like to lose and with her goal oriented mentality our team is thriving,” LaMay said. “We also have high standards for our team and she keeps us accountable,”Henderson added. “She genuinely cares about her players and her coaches,” Malvar said.
When speaking with students, aside from winning and intensity, the most common thing players and coaches mentioned about Payne’s coaching was her realness. Aside from the ability to win games and practice hard, Payne is connected with her players, and cares about their lives whether they’re in the classroom and standing behind the three-point line.
“[Loree] is the realest. She is so easy to talk to. Easily the best coach I’ve ever had,” Henderson said.
Women’s basketball is on the rise at Puget Sound. Payne has rebuilt a program with a focus on winning, community, and realness. With a strong sense of respect and appreciation from her fellow coaches and players, Payne and her team are surely destined for success.