Former Gamecock assistant passes away at 69

SPARTANBURG, S.C — Longtime USC Upstate men’s basketball coach Eddie Payne passed in the early morning hours of Wednesday, July 7, 2021, following a sudden illness. The family has not announced service arrangements at this time.

Payne, who took over the Spartans program in 2002, led the men’s basketball program for 15 seasons and amassed 227 wins while at Upstate. Following his retirement after the 2017 season, the arena inside the G.B. Hodge Center was named for Eddie, and his wife, Ann, in a halftime ceremony on January 20, 2018.

Upon retirement, Payne was the only current NCAA Division I head coach to have coached at all five levels of college basketball. He was instrumental in developing players who have gone on to play professionally with 13 of those players signing contracts overseas. Over a 32-year coaching career, Payne compiled 487 career wins.

Two standouts during his time at USC Upstate are Torrey Craig and Ty Greene. Craig spent several seasons in Australia before signing a two-way contract in 2017 with the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. He became the second USC Upstate men’s basketball player in school history, joining Mike Gibson, to play in an NBA game. Craig is currently competing in the NBA Finals with the Phoenix Suns. Greene was also a third-round draft pick of the Delaware 87ers in the 2015 NBA G-League Draft.

During his time at USC Upstate, Payne’s teams made steady progress after transitioning to Division I in 2007, resulting in four wins over schools from Power 5 conferences, three appearances in the ASUN Tournament semifinals, the school’s first-ever trip to the ASUN Tournament final and four Postseason Tournament berths. He also produced two ASUN Freshman of the Year and two ASUN Player of the Year award winners.  He was named Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year in 2005, ASUN Coach of the Year in 2012 and was the recipient of the Hugh Durham Award in 2012.

Payne also championed success of his student-athletes in the classroom, with all but one of his student-athletes graduating with their degree during his time at USC Upstate.

Before joining USC Upstate, Payne served as head coach at Greensboro College (2000-02), Oregon State (1995-2000), East Carolina (1991-95), Belmont Abbey (1981-86) and Truett-McConnell (1978-79). Payne was an assistant coach at three Division I programs: Clemson, East Carolina and South Carolina.

A 1973 graduate of Wake Forest University, Payne was a member of the men’s basketball team from 1970-73. He received the school’s prestigious Arnold Palmer Award as the Outstanding Student-Athlete and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player as a senior.

After playing professionally in France, Payne earned his master’s degree from Clemson while serving as an assistant coach.

Payne graduated from East Mecklenburg High School. Eddie and Ann’s son, Luke, played basketball at USC Upstate from 2004-08 and is a 2015 inductee into the USC Upstate Athletics Hall of Fame.

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