Jared Phay, former men’s basketball head coach at the College of Southern Idaho (CSI), has been tapped as the fifth head coach of the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball program.
University officials announced the hiring today. It is subject to approval by the Missouri State University Board of Governors. Phay’s (pronounced “Fay”) first official day on the job will be May 1; however, due to COVID-19 it may be early June before he is physically on campus, officials said.
“The Grizzly Athletics program is excited to welcome Coach Phay and his family to West Plains,” said Dr. Angela Totty, dean of student services and athletic director.
“We were looking for a strong leader with proven success on the court and to help our young men graduate in preparation for their next step. Coach Phay has demonstrated his ability to recruit and retain players who can achieve at a high level. I believe Grizzly fans are going to have a lot to cheer about in the coming years,” Totty said.
Phay comes to the Grizzlies with 20 years of coaching experience, including 15 as a head coach. He has had 14 consecutive winning seasons as a head coach and 357 career wins. He is a five-time Scenic West Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, a two-time NJCAA District 1 Coach of the Year and a 2018 NJCAA All-Star Division 1 Head Coach.
During his five seasons at the helm of the CSI Golden Eagles from 2014 to 2019, Phay led the team to a 136-33 record and three appearances at the NJCAA Division I Men’s National Championship Basketball Tournament. The Golden Eagles were the national runners-up in 2018.
More importantly, Phay’s teams at CSI earned NJCAA Team Academic All-American honors in four of his five seasons.
Prior to his tenure at CSI, Phay served as head coach of the North Idaho College Cardinals in Coeur d’Alene for 10 years, racking up 221 wins along the way. The Cardinals won three conference championships and received their first-ever No. 1 ranking in the NJCAA Division I men’s basketball poll during his tenure.
His coaching resumé also includes a season as assistant coach at North Idaho, a season as assistant coach at Motlow State Community College in Tullahoma, Tenn., a season as graduate assistant coach at the University of Idaho in Moscow and two seasons as head boys basketball coach at Falls Christian Academy in Post Falls, Idaho.
This past season, Phay moved to the NCAA Division I ranks as associate head coach at Idaho State University in Pocatello. He assisted Head Coach Ryan Looney in all day-to-day activities, including scheduling, recruiting, practice and game planning.
Phay said his season at Idaho State helped him realize where his heart really lies in coaching. “I wanted to get back to junior college. I spent 18 years in the JUCO ranks and missed the atmosphere at that level and the impact you can have on student athletes,” he explained. “I had been a head coach for 15 years, and part of me wanted to run my own program again.”
Although Phay has spent most of his life and coaching career in Idaho, the Post Falls native said he is eager to come to Missouri and coach the Grizzlies.
“Missouri State-West Plains has a history of great crowds and community support, and that’s exciting,” he said. “It has the pieces needed to compete with the best junior college teams in the country.
“This first year will be interesting, though, with the coronavirus,” he added. “I haven’t had a chance to talk with the returners yet, but we’ll get the program going in the right direction right off the bat.”
Fans can expect to see a disciplined, fast-paced Grizzly team on the floor once the season starts, Phay said. “We will play very fast. Nowadays, that’s what players want to play and fans want to watch. We will still be disciplined, though. My teams have always had very balanced scoring. Once the players understand how to play unselfishly, then I let them take off,” he said.
Bill Wood, a member of the Grizzly Booster Club Executive Committee and a search committee member, said Phay was his top choice among the candidates. “He hit all the boxes. He’s experienced, he had a lot of energy, and I sensed in him a sincere desire to work with the young men at this level,” Wood said.
“Junior college ball is a different animal than NCAA Division I. The fact that he went to an NCAA Division I school and realized his heart and passion lay somewhere else says a lot about him,” Wood added.
MSU-WP Chancellor Shirley Lawler thanked members of the search committee for finding an impressive coach for the program.
“We had a tremendous number of applicants, and the committee spent hours reviewing resumés and letters of application and in Zoom interviews. I’m incredibly impressed by the committee’s selection to lead our Grizzly Basketball program,” she said. “We look forward to Coach Phay and his family joining the Missouri State University-West Plains family, and we are excited about the 2020-2021 basketball season!”
Phay earned an associate of arts in general studies from North Idaho College in 1997 and a bachelor of science in physical education at the University of Idaho in 1999. He received a Master of Science in Sports Pedagogy in 2002 from the University of Idaho.
His wife, Tamara, is an elementary teacher. They have three children – Carson, a fifth grader; Mackenzie, a fourth grader; and Colton, a third grader.
For more information about the Grizzly Basketball program, visit www.msuwpgrizzlies.com or call 255-7991.