Steve Hardin is in his third season as the head men’s basketball coach at Lees-McRae College.
Up tempo is a good term to describe Coach Hardin on and off the court. He has the reputation from his peers as a tireless worker and relentless recruiter. His passion for the student-athlete perfectly mirrors the Bobcat Athletics’ drive for comprehensive excellence – academically, athletically and socially. Expect Hardin’s program to excel in all aspects of the student-athlete experience. His focus is on finding “winning guys” on and off the court.
“Steve is one of the best up and coming young coaches in our business. I have known Steve since I first got into coaching at Tennessee Tech University. He is a great recruiter and an outstanding coach. I have always loved his competitive energy and spirit about the game. He is a family man and has great leadership qualities to be a successful coach. Lees-McRae has a great one in Steve Hardin.” - Orlando G.G. Smith (Head Coach, Loyola University)
"Steve has the coaching gene in his blood being the son of a coach. I saw firsthand at Tennessee Tech his passion for the game. There was no doubt that this profession would be his destiny."- Jeff Lebo (Head Coach, East Carolina)
“Coach Hardin is a tireless worker who has the best interest of the student athletes in mind. He recruits high character and talented players that will succeed on and off the floor.”- Scott Cherry (Head Coach, High Point University, 1993 National Champion for UNC)
“Coach Hardin eats, sleeps and lives basketball. He’s a hustler on the recruiting trail and as the son of a high school coach he’s extremely detailed on the X’s& O’s of the game.”- Jason Allison (Recruiting Coordinator/Assistant Coach, Appalachian State University, former Lees-McRae assistant coach)
“Coach Hardin will do a tremendous job bringing the passion and “fire” to Lees-McRae basketball through his work ethic and energy; He is an extremely hard worker on the court and on the recruiting trail.”- Will Wade (Head Coach, Virginia Commonwealth University)
“I’ve known Steve for over 20 years and is a guy I grew up playing with, his dad helped teach the game to all of us in high school. He is a guy I respect immensely and proud to call a friend. Lees McRae is lucky to have him as their head coach"- Micheal Morrell (Assistant coach, University Of Texas)
Coach Hardin’s coaching philosophy and brand for the Lees-McRae Bobcat basketball team is “FIRE”, which simply means Fearless Intense Relentless Effort. Fans can expect an up-tempo, in-your-face game from Hardin and his players, as he wants to create consistent confusion in his fusion defense. Coach Hardin’s teams will have an identity with “FIRE” that can be an exciting brand of basketball for both the school and the fans.
The 2014-2015 season was one for the record and history books. Coach Hardin’s squad broke the school record for wins in a season. LMC also finished the highest ever in conference Carolinas. Lees-McRae lead the conference and ranked nationally in steals (10.5) as Coach Hardin’s team also valued the basketball in leading the conference with fewest turnovers a game (11.2) the ‘14-15 team tied for the most points per game. (82.9). The Bobcats ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in nine categories. Coach Hardin proved that Lees-McRae basketball can defend, take care of the basketball, score and rebound extremely consistently. Coach Hardin’s seniors stepped up for the program huge while Jacquise Moore led all of the NCAA in steals (3.3). Moore earned Conference Carolinas first-team honors while point guard Sean Deniton earned third team and academic honors.
2013-2014 season under Hardin brought twelve new faces to the team. The Bobcats started off the season with the best record start in school history at 6-2 and 3-1 mark vs region contenders out of the South Atlantic Conference. Under Coach Hardin's FIRE system the team averaged 81 points per contest, shot 780 Free throws (No. 1 in Conference Carolinas and No. 41 NCAA) at 72.6%, 9.6 steals per game (No. 1 in Conference Carolinas and No. 36 NCAA). Moore (Concord, N.C.) led the Conference Carolinas in steals 2.3 per contest. A balanced scoring attack lead the Bobcats with posting five players averaging over 10 points per game.
During the 2012-2013 season, the Bobcats posted a combined grade-point average of 3.0 as a team in Coach Hardin’s first year at the helm, graduating eight seniors. Illawong, Australia native Daniel Sepokas ranked eighth in the conference in scoring to lead the Bobcats.
Hardin joined the Bobcats during the 2010-2011 season following a successful stint at Bluefield College in Bluefield, Va. as the head women’s basketball coach. During his three-year tenure at Bluefield, Hardin earned Appalachian Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors while leading the Rams to their highest finish in the AAC standings.
Under Hardin's leadership, the Rams were ranked in the NAIA for the first time in school history and also earned the program's first AAC Champions of Character award in 2010, while holding a No. 3 ranking in the NCCAA throughout the season and earning the school's first-ever berth in the NCCAA Tournament.
During the 2009-2010 season, the Rams also posted the best record in program history with a 25-10 overall mark that tops school history wins for a season. All of these accomplishments occurred in just two years as Hardin took over the program which had posted two wins the previous season, compiling a 40-26 record while at the helm.
Hardin played an integral role as the associate head coach with the men's basketball program at Bluefield, helping the Rams to three straight NAIA Tournament appearances with a squad that posted a combined 92-41 record over that span.
Bluefield claimed three straight AAC championships during Hardin's tenure while ranking eighth in the NAIA national poll, marking the first appearance in the top 10 in school history. The Rams led the nation in a multitude of statistical categories while Hardin was on the sidelines, topping the NAIA ranks in both scoring offense (91.4) and total blocks (171) in 2008-2009 while leading the nation in rejections per game (6.9) in 2005-2006.
While at Bluefield, Hardin recruited and coached 18 all-Appalachian Athletic Conference players, three AAC Defensive Players of the Year, four AAC Offensive Players of the Year, 14 NCCAA All-Americans, five NAIA All-Americans, seven NAIA Academic All-Americans, and two AAC Players of the Year.
Prior to his appointment as the head women’s coach at Bluefield, Hardin served as the associate head men’s basketball coach, junior varsity basketball coach, and head men’s golf coach at the Bluefield, Va. school from 2005-2008.
Hardin entered the coaching ranks as a student assistant with the Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech. While at Tennessee Tech, Hardin was part of back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championship squads and a quarterfinal finish in the NIT. The Golden Eagles posted a 47-16 overall record and a 28-4 mark in the OVC.
The Elizabethton, Tenn. native has coached 18 players that have played and/or still playing professional basketball with one playing in the National Basketball Association’s D-League.
Hardin is following in the footsteps of his father, Tony Hardin, a former high school coach in Tennessee for over 30 years. Prior to Tennessee Tech, Hardin served as an assistant coach with his father, who owns a career record of 520-290.
Hardin is married to the former Tanika Andrews, a teacher in Bristol, Tenn. They are the proud parents of Lyla Gail Hardin and Campbell Steven Hardin. The Hardin family resides in Elizabethton, Tenn.
Keith 'Mister' Jennings enters his second season as assistant men's basketball coach and first as head JV coach at Lees-McRae.
“We continue to make great strides in turning around our men’s basketball program and today is no different. To be able to hire Keith and watch his relationship with Coach Steve Hardin grow, will be fun for all,” praised Vice President Director of Athletics and Club Sports Craig McPhail. “I am especially looking forward to the growth and development of our young men on our team as I see their progression reaching new heights.”
Jennings is no stranger to success while playing in the National Basketball Association with the Golden State Warriors (1992-95) and the Denver Nuggets (1996-97). During his time at Golden State, Jennings was an assist machine while dishing out 614 while grabbing 248 rebounds. He shot 85.2% from the charity stripe and appeared in 164 games in three seasons. During the 1994-95 season, Jennings knocked down 75 three-pointers while amassing 589 points and turning in 1722 minutes.
He earned All-Star accolades on four occasions while playing European Professional Basketball. He led Brandt Hagen (Germany) to a playoff appearance in 1991 before garnering the three-point champion award and a second round playoff appearance with Estudiantes (Spain) during the 1995-96 season.
In 1999, Jennings was tabbed Player of the Year while playing for Le Man (France) and took his squad to the second round of the playoffs.
Prior to playing professionally, Jennings wrote his name in the record books at East Tennessee State University. He led the Buccaneers to three consecutive Southern Conference championships (1989-91), while earning the Southern Conference Player of the Year and Southern Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player award as a senior (1991). In 1991, he earned Second-Team All-American merits by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and the Associated Press.
Jennings ranks fourth all-time in ETSU program scoring (1,988 points) and holds multiple records, including career totals for assists (983) and steals (334), single season records for assists per game (9.1) and steals per game (3.4), and single game marks for assists (19) and free throws made (18). Jennings was lights out from beyond the arc, owning a career 3-point field goal percentage of 49.3. His mark of 59 percent from 3-point-range led the country in 1991.
"Coach Jennings is a close and loyal friend and I am extremely excited to have him. We have talked about building a program together for some time and now we have the opportunity! Keith brings a wealth of basketball experience: his playing resume speaks for itself and is very knowledgeable about the game,” said Hardin. “'Mister' is a valuable asset in all phases and embodies our FIRE program. I am extremely blessed to add Coach Jennings to the staff."
Following his playing career, Jennings has stayed close to home while being the head coach for the boy’s varsity team at Highland School in Warrenton, Va. (2004-07) and the assistant coach at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn. (2008-09). Jennings returned to ETSU in 2008 as a graduate assistant coach.
Jennings wore multiple hats at Bluefield College (2009-14) in Bluefield, Va. while he was the head coach for the men’s JV team and assistant coach to the varsity squad. The Rams won the Appalachian Athletic Conference Championship in 2009-10.
Eppley is entering his first season as assistant men’s basketball coach at Lees-McRae.
Chad returns to the Bobcats’ men’s basketball program after graduating from Lees-McRae in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
As a player, Eppley suited up for Coach Hardin during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons. Chad earned a starting spot in several games throughout his senior year. During a game against Brevard College on December 8th 2012, Eppley scored his Lees-McRae career high of 21 points.
During his senior year, Chad shot 41% from the three-point line and 57% from the field. “Playing for Lees-McRae and Coach Hardin was a blessing,” said Eppley. “After my health declined in San Francisco I was thankful Coach Hardin faught to give me an opportunity and then stuck with me through my struggles while I worked to get my health back on track.”
Prior to finishing his playing career with the Bobcats, Eppley spent a semester as a walk-on at the University of San Francisco where he benefited from the tutelage of Kansas Jayhawk legend, Rex Walters. “I learned priceless things about basketball but more importantly about leadership from, Coach Walters during my short stint as a USF Don,” said Eppley.
For his freshman and sophomore playing campaigns, Chad competed for the Caldwell Community College Cobras where he was named to the Tarheel Conference All-Academic team. Eppley helped keep the team consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally while serving as the starting point guard for the majority of his career as a Cobra.
As a prep hooper, Chad competed for the Watauga Storm basketball club where he played for his father, West Eppley. Chad averaged over 21 points, five assists, and 80% from the free throw line while leading the Storm to a North Carolina USSSA state title as well as a division-three USSSA national championship crowning. The team also earned a birth in the USSSA division-two national championship tournament as the only team comprised solely of players from a single high school, as well as the only division-three squad.
Eppley was a student-athlete for nearby Watauga High School in Boone, North Carolina during his prep career as well. As a Pioneer, Chad played for coaches Rob Sanders and Clay Anderson.
For the past two seasons, Chad has served as the head men’s basketball coach for Hardin Park School. During those two campaigns the Golden Eagles won two regular season championships, finished as runner-up in the postseason tournament in 2014, and capped an undefeated season (16-0) by winning the tournament championship in 2015. Under Eppley’s watch the Golden Eagles had a total record of 31-2. “Building relationships with my players at HP helped me grow as a leader of men and helped me realize coaching was my passion and what I wanted to commit my life to,” said Eppley of his Hardin Park players. “I couldn’t be more thankful for the great people I was blessed to coach and interact with at Hardin Park. To me, they’ll always be family.”
Chad also has extensive coaching experience in the field of skill development, having worked with many players from the junior high to collegiate levels since 2010. Eppley is capable of developing players of all positions and skill sets.
What They’re Saying About Eppley:
“I’ve known Chad since his playing days and therefore have witnessed his persistence, work ethic, and commitment to excellence. These traits will serve him well as he continues his basketball career on the other side of the ball.” – Steve Schanwald, Chicago Bulls, Vice President of Business Operations
“I’ve been a professor for 27 years and I’ve been a working artist in the entertainment business for five decades, and I was trained to survive by quickly noticing the personalities that surround me. A gift Chad has is that he listens and observes, and knows when to step up on and off the court, and when to ‘just be’ in the moment, always thinking clearly.” – Robby Benson, star of the hit 1977 film “One on One” and professor at Indiana University
Eppley’s duties will include: Strength and conditioning, skill development, scouting, video coordinator, recruiting, day-to-day operations of the program, fundraising, local outreach, and assisting in every phase of our program.
Waln enters his ssecond season as men's basketball assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Lees-McRae.
During Waln’s first season at LMC, the Bobcats put together a season for the history books by winning a school-record 15 games. LMC finished fifth, marking the highest finish in school history as members of Conference Carolinas.
Lees-McRae led the conference and ranked nationally in steals (10.5) while Coach Steve Hardin’s team valued the basketball by leading the conference with fewest turnovers a game (11.2) and the 2014-15 team tied for the most points per game. (82.9).
The Bobcats ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in nine categories. Waln helped groom point guard Sean Deniton, who earned third team and academic honors and guard Jaquise Moore, who earned Conference Carolinas first-team honors and led the nation in steals per contest.
The signing class of 2015 was Waln’s first class for Lees-McRae College and it ranks as one of the best in the country.
It features two players from the state of Florida, one being from Orlando a first-team All-Central Florida Player and District Player of the Year. The other reigns from Tampa, Fla., who put up top-10 numbers in the state for block shots and rebounds and was one of the best power forwards in the state of Florida. Both members of Waln’s classes were named two-star prospects by Verbal Commits. He is well known throughout the state of North Carolina and Southeast as being one of the top recruiters.
Before coming to Lees-McRae, Waln was the coach at Ashe County High School where he won three MVAC championships. Along with coaching high school, Waln spent time coaching a highly regarded AAU program in the East Coast Fusion 17U squad, based out of Richmond, Va., that competed in some of the nation's most prestigious prep basketball tournaments.
He graduated from Appalachian State in Fall 2014 with a degree in Physical Education and Health.
What they're saying about Waln:
"Daniel is a excellent addition to our staff! Having the opportunity to play and coach for Coach Marc Payne at Ashe County, Daniel is seasoned in the day-to-day coaching regiment and ready to take the next step in his coaching career. Coach Waln is a young enthusiastic relentless recruiter and a high energy personality that brings added passion to our rising program. He has recruiting ties in Florida, Virginia, and locally by playing, coaching in the area at the high school and AAU level. Daniel will be a valuable asset in every phase of the program. Coach Waln is the perfect fit for my FIRE system and I am blessed to have Daniel apart of Lees-McRae and our basketball program."
Steve Hardin, Lees-McRae College, Head Coach
"Daniel will be a great addition to the Lees-McRae staff. He will add an amplified amount of passion to their program. I know he will bring a ton of energy to the recruiting trail, and will excel through persistence. I look forward to watching his and Lees-McRae's progress." – Tyler Sanborn, Hampden-Sydney College Assistant Coach
“I have known Daniel for a few years now and during that time he has demonstrated an uncommon enthusiasm and passion for the game of basketball. This passion and ability to recruit paired with his work ethic will bode very well for success at Lees-McRae.” – Tim Lawrence, Robert Morris University, Assistant Coach
"I'm very excited about Daniel getting his chance to put his mark on a college basketball program. I knew it was only a matter of time before he broke into the profession. In Daniel's short time as a coach, he has developed a body of experience and knowledge that will bring continued success and growth to whatever program he is associated with. He will do an excellent job and represent Lees-McRae College in a first class manner." – Rhett Bonner, Virginia Wesleyan, Assistant Coach
Waln's duties will include: Recruiting coordinator, scouting, coaching point guards, day-to-day operations of the program, local outreach and assisting in every phase of our program.