Veteran head coach Ricardo Patton has been named the 26th men's basketball head coach in Northern Illinois University history, NIU Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics Jim Phillips announced Monday.
Patton, who led Colorado to new heights in 11-plus seasons at the helm of the Buffaloes' men's basketball program, joins the Huskies after averaging nearly 17 wins per season and taking CU to six postseason berths, including a pair of NCAA appearances, between 1995-96 and 2006-07. Colorado advanced to postseason play in three of the last five seasons.
"To be certain, I am absolutely thrilled to introduce Ricardo Patton as our new men's basketball coach," Phillips said. "This is a historic hire for Northern Illinois University basketball, to bring not only someone with his level of coaching success and experience, but someone who will exemplify our core values and provide our student-athletes with a world-class experience."
Patton, who finished his CU tenure as the second-winningest coach in Colorado basketball history, announced in October that the 2006-07 campaign would be his last at the school.
In joining the Huskies, the Tennessee native said that he was impressed with the potential of the Northern Illinois program.
"In coaching, you look for an opportunity where you think you have a chance to be one of the best teams in the league year in and year out," Patton said. "After meeting Jim Phillips and President Peters, there was no question in my mind that Northern Illinois University is committed to being the best team in its conference and looking each year to play well into March. That is an opportunity every coach wants. I see no reason for our program not to reach new heights."
In all, Patton spent 14 seasons at Colorado. He arrived in Boulder as an assistant coach to Joe Harrington in 1993 and took over head coaching duties on Jan. 16, 1996. He was promoted to head coach on March 5 of that same season, just prior to the 1996 Big Eight Conference Tournament, and went on to compile 184 victories. His teams won 18 or more games six times and collected 15 or more wins in eight seasons. Of 11 18-plus win seasons in Colorado men's basketball history, Patton-coached teams claimed six of them, along with three of the school's four 20-win campaigns. His 2006-07 Buffs' roster included eight freshmen, making it the youngest team in school history.
Patton led the Buffaloes to their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1969 in 1996-97, his first full season as head coach, behind All-American and future NBA star Chauncey Billups, who Patton recruited to Boulder as a CU assistant. The 1996-97 team set a school-record with 22 victories, including a win in the NCAA tourney over a Bobby Knight-coached Indiana team, earned a second-place finish in the Big 12 Conference with an 11-5 record and broke into the rankings for the first time in 25 years.
He returned to the NCAA Tournament with his 2002-03 CU team, whose accomplishments included a 20-12 mark, a victory over No. 3 ranked Texas and four victories over ranked opponents. His 2005-06 Colorado team also reached the 20-win plateau and compiled a 9-7 record in the Big 12. That team was one of four of Patton's Buff squads to be selected to the National Invitational Tournament along with the 1998-99, 1999-2000 and 2003-04 units.
In addition to Billups, Patton protégés David Harrison (2004), a 7-footer from Nashville, Tennessee, and Jaquay Walls (2000) were selected in the NBA draft during his time at CU.
Renowned as a teacher who is dedicated to developing all aspects of his student-athletes, Patton also tirelessly worked to promote Colorado basketball during his time in Boulder. His team initiatives included instituting a preseason etiquette class for his players, taking them to different denominations of churches and exposing them to life in the Denver County jail.
Phillips said that Patton brings the total package to Northern Illinois.
"When I entered into this search, I was looking for someone who matched five criteria," Phillips said. "...unquestioned personal character, Division I head coaching experience, proven success in terms of taking his team to postseason play, a strong recruiter and a fit for our institution, academically as well as athletically. Without a doubt, Ricardo Patton possesses each of these qualities."
On the court, Patton promised a team that will work hard and play entertaining basketball.
"My philosophy is that our team will play hard from start to finish," he said. "We spend a great deal of time in the preseason preparing for success, and we talk to our players about your effort matching your goal. If you want `A's, you have to give `A' effort. Fans will be entertained by our style of play, by our pressure defense and by our offensive team chemistry. Our offensive philosophy is that the right man to have the ball is the open man."
Prior to going to Colorado, Patton served as an assistant coach at Middle Tennessee State (1988-90), Arkansas-Little Rock (1990-91) and Tennessee State (1991-93). While at MTSU, the Blue Raiders upset fourth-ranked Florida State, while his Tennessee State recruits included Carlos Rogers, who went on to earn the No. 11 pick in the NBA Draft. The 48-year-old native of Nashville, Tenn. earned a bachelor's degree from Belmont College, where he was an All-American as a senior, in 1980 and has a master's degree from Trevecca Nazarene College. He and his wife Jennifer have two sons, Ricardo II and Michael.
Patton replaces Rob Judson, who spent six years at the helm of the NIU program. Northern Illinois concluded a 7-23 season in 2006-07 with a loss in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.