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Colorado hires JR Payne as women's basketball coach

By: The Associated Press
March 28, 2016 Updated: March 28, 2016 at 1:50 pm
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photo - New Colorado women's basketball coach JR Payne led Southern Utah against the Buffs in a 2014 WNIT game played in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)
New Colorado women's basketball coach JR Payne led Southern Utah against the Buffs in a 2014 WNIT game played in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer) 

BOULDER — Colorado has hired JR Payne from Santa Clara as the replacement for women's basketball coach Linda Lappe.

Athletic director Rick George announced the decision on Monday as Payne becomes the eighth coach in the history of the women's basketball program. She signed a five-year deal that's pending approval from the board of regents.

"After interviewing JR and hearing from several coaches that have worked with her, she rose to the top and we're excited to name her as our head coach," George said.

Payne is coming off a season in which she led Santa Clara to a 23-9 record and made the WNIT field. It was a season filled with highlights for the Broncos, who won at Pac-12 power Stanford for the first time in three decades.

The 38-year-old Payne was 34-27 in two seasons at Santa Clara. During her first season, the Broncos upset Louisiana State — the program's first win over a Southeastern Conference school in 18 years.

She takes over for Lappe, who stepped down after six seasons and with three years left on her contract. The Buffaloes finished 7-23 in 2015-16 and went 2-16 in Pac-12 play.

A former player at Colorado, Lappe was 105-92 while in charge and guided the team to the NCAA Tournament in 2012-13.

Payne graduated from St. Mary's (California) in 1999 with a degree in French. Her real name is Ali-Marie, but was given the nickname "JR" because, "when I was 2, I was always fighting with my older brother," she said. "My dad used to watch 'Dallas' and J.R. Ewing was a tough guy, so he started calling me J.R. It's just stuck through the years, though you'll find I'm not anywhere as mean as the character on television."

Her first head coaching job was at Southern Utah University, where she went 67-86 in five seasons. Payne's squad turned in a 23-10 mark in 2013-14, which set a school record for victories.

"There is such a rich tradition within the women's basketball program that I cannot wait to immerse myself in," Payne said. "I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to be here in Boulder and cannot wait to get started."

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