Montana State Bobcats hire one of the nation’s best assistant coaches

Posted at 1:25 PM, Jun 29, 2018

(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)

BOZEMAN – Montana State 14th-year head coach Tricia Binford might’ve just pulled off one of her best recruiting achievements on the College Hill with the addition of Sunny Smallwood to fill her associate head coaching vacancy. Smallwood replaces Nate Harris, who left the Bobcat women’s basketball program for an assistant position at Angelo State University.

Considered one of the best assistants in NCAA Division I basketball, Smallwood served as associate head coach at the University of Arizona the past two seasons. In addition, the 30-year veteran has also served as an associate head coach at Nebraska, California and Boise State. Smallwood also worked as an assistant at Washington and Washington State.

“With Nate (Harris) leaving, the current staff and I really took an in-depth look at what attributes we needed in a coach to fill that spot,” Binford said. “It was humbling to get an amazing pool of candidates and a testimony to the success of our program that we could attract some outstanding people.

“In the end, Sunny (Smallwood) stood out as the right fit for our program, staff and team,” Binford stated. “I have tremendous respect for her. She’s a proven recruiter and possesses a savvy basketball mind. Her core values are in line with our culture at Montana State and she’ll play an instrumental role as we continue to build our program into something very special.”

In her second season at Arizona last winter, Smallwood helped the Wildcats land the nation’s fourth best recruiting class and the top haul in the Pac 12 according to It was the highest ranked class in Arizona history led by McDonalds All-American Cate Reese, who is considered among the top five incoming post players in the country.

On the court, Smallwood served as Arizona’s defensive coordinator and the Wildcats saw an increase in steals and blocks, while its field-goal percentage defense was the schools’ best in five seasons.

“It’s an honor to come work for Coach Binford, who I believe has always pursued purpose over success,” Smallwood said. “She has core values in place and her mission and vision are clear for her student-athletes, the staff and the community. She has built and sustained success.

“I have always admired Coach Binford and she’s someone I’ve always believed in, and for me, it just happened that the timing was right. I could not be more grateful for this opportunity.”

Prior to her two-year stint in Tucson, Smallwood was the recruiting and defensive coordinator at Boise State. In her final season with the Broncos, BSU posted an overall record of 19-11 and a 12-6 ledger in Mountain West Conference action. Smallwood was pivotal in the development of Brooke Pahukoa and Shalen Shaw, who were selected to the All-Mountain West team, while Miquelle Askew earned honorable mention accolades. In addition, Marta Hermida was named the Mountain West Freshman of the Year.

During her first year with Boise State, Smallwood helped lead the team to a Mountain West Tournament championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance posting an overall mark of 22-11. She helped Deanna Weaver to WBCA All-Region and All-American honorable mention accolades. Off the court, nine players combined to receive 13 academic honors.

Prior to her stop at Boise State, Smallwood spent nine seasons at the University of Nebraska, including the last six as associate head coach. During her time in Lincoln, she helped the Cornhuskers to eight postseason appearances, which included six trips to the NCAA Tournament.

In six of her nine seasons, Nebraska won at least 20 games capped in 2009-10 as Nebraska went 32-2 overall earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before advancing to the Sweet 16. Cornhusker head coach Connie Yori swept all five National Coach of the Year awards that season, as well.

At NU, Smallwood helped lead the charge in recruiting two-time Nancy Lieberman Award finalist Lindsey Moore. She also assisted in the development of All-Americans Jordan Hooper and Kelsey Griffen.

In her last five seasons at Nebraska, the Huskers averaged 24 wins per year, which was the most successful stretch in Nebraska history. Prior to Smallwood’s coaching tenure at Nebraska, no team had ever won 24 games in one season.

Smallwood spent one season at the University of California prior to her stint in Lincoln. She was named the associate head coach for the 2004-05 season and helped the Bears bring in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes.

Prior to her time at Berkeley, Smallwood spent 11 years as an assistant coach at Washington. She served as recruiting coordinator, and for the last eight seasons, as the lead assistant coach. During her time in Seattle, she helped lead the Huskies to six NCAA Tournament appearances, which included a trip to the Sweet 16 in 1995 and an Elite Eight appearance in 2001.

In her tenure at Washington, Smallwood coached at least one All-Pac-10 player in all but one season. Some of her top recruits included Havre standout and current Northern Arizona head coach Loree Payne, former Bozeman Hawk all-state performer Andrea Lalum and former Montana State assistant coach Giuliana Mendiola, who was named the 2003 Pac-10 Player of the Year.

Smallwood began her Division I coaching career in 1990 as an assistant coach at Washington State. In her first season in Pullman the Cougars earned their first ever bid to the NCAA Tournament.

After graduating from Boise State, she spent seven years as head coach at Boise High School and led the team to two state tournament appearances in 1986 and 1989.

Smallwood earned her degree in secondary education from BSU in 1983. As a student-athlete she was a two-time first-team All-Mountain West Academic selection.

Smallwood attended Carbon High School in Price, Utah, where she was a multi-sport athlete and earned 16 varsity letters.