Steve Forbes became the 16th head coach in ETSU's 95-year history on March 30, 2015.
In 2016-17, Forbes and his staff added to the winning tradition of the Buccaneers’ program, earning the team’s 10th trip all-time to the NCAA Tournament with a victory over UNCG in the finals of the Southern Conference Tournament. The victory marked a championship sweep for the Bucs, who also claimed a share of the regular season title after going 27-8 overall and 14-4 in SoCon play. The Bucs’ 27 wins matched the second-highest total in school history and gave ETSU 51 victories overall in Forbes’ two seasons in Johnson City – the most wins by any team in the Southern Conference during that time frame. For his efforts, Forbes was named the NABC District 22 Coach of the Year.
Forbes and his staff wasted little time reinvigorating the ETSU program during his first season with the Buccaneers, combining an energetic style of play, an engaging approach with the fan base, and plenty of success on the court. In all, the Bucs finished the 2015-16 season with 24 wins – which marks the program’s third highest win total in the modern era – and collected 14 victories in Southern Conference play, which is second only to the 15 collected by the Bucs’ 2003-04 squad. ETSU also reached the Southern Conference Tournament finals, which marked the 12th time the program has played in a conference championship game, and the team also earned a postseason tournament berth for the 14th time with an invite to the inaugural Vegas 16 Tournament.
Prior to ETSU, he served two seasons as an assistant coach at Wichita State where he helped take the Shockers to the Sweet 16 in 2014-15. When the Bucs hired Forbes following the 2014-15 season, then ETSU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Richard Sander said Forbes’ recruiting ties and his extensive background as an assistant coach at the NCAA Division I level – which included a five-year stop at the University of Tennessee – made him the perfect fit for ETSU.
"As we talked to the inner circle of college basketball coaches, it was clear that Coach Forbes was one of the preeminent coaches in the country,” Sander said. “The profile we had for our next coach led us directly to Wichita State and to Coach Forbes. With his guidance, our teams will play with great energy and passion, and they will show what it means to be a great teammate. When you look at his accomplishments, it’s easy to see that Steve Forbes and winning are synonymous.”
Forbes said he has worked his entire life for this opportunity.
“Being named the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at ETSU is a dream come true,” Forbes said. “Over the past 26 years I’ve worked so hard for an opportunity like this and I can’t wait to get started. I want our fans and loyal supporters to know my staff and I will work diligently each and every day to perpetuate the excitement and passion that has surrounded Buccaneer Basketball throughout the years.
“We will provide ETSU and our community with a program that will make everyone proud. We will play hard, we will play smart, and we will play together. Together we will make Freedom Hall an electrifying environment and a true home court advantage.”
Forbes also thanked those that made this day possible.
“I’ve been blessed throughout my career to work alongside so many outstanding administrators, coaches, and players,” Forbes said. “The past two years I’ve had the honor and the privilege to work for the best coach in all of college basketball, Gregg Marshall. He provided me with a blue print for success that I will use at ETSU. If it wasn’t for Gregg Marshall, I wouldn’t be standing here today.
“Most importantly, I want to thank Dr. Noland, Dr. Sander, and Scott Carter for believing in me and believing in my vision for the future of ETSU basketball. The future is bright!”
At Wichita State, Forbes helped coach the Shockers to two of the most successful seasons in program history.
This past season, Wichita State went 30-5 on the season and recorded its third consecutive season of 30 wins or more. The No. 7-seeded Shockers advanced to the Sweet 16 before falling to No. 3 seed and ACC champion Notre Dame.
In 2013-14, Wichita State won a NCAA record 35-straight games before losing to eventual National Runner-up Kentucky in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers' 35-1 record also shattered all of WSU's and the MVC's winning streak records, including Indiana State's 33-game record in 1977. WSU entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed, a first for the program.
Forbes came to Wichita State from Northwest Florida State, where he coached the Raiders to a 61-6 record during his two-year tenure in Niceville, Fla. Five of his junior college players recently transferred to Division I schools in the offseason.
Forbes’ Division I experience includes five years at Tennessee, two seasons at Texas A&M, one year at Illinois State and three years at Louisiana Tech and one year at Idaho.
In the five seasons at Tennessee, Forbes helped coach the Vols to an average of 26 wins per year, and advanced to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments – making three Sweet Sixteen appearances and advancing to the program's first-ever Elite Eight in 2010.
The Vols won a school-record 31 games in 2008, and their 14-2 league record gave the program its first outright SEC championship in more than 40 years. Following a 66-62 win at top-ranked Memphis on Feb. 23, 2008, UT earned the first No. 1 ranking in school history.
Forbes’ experience also helped Tennessee's 2006, 2008 and 2010 recruiting classes to a top 10 national ranking by multiple ratings services.
Forbes came to Tennessee after spending two seasons at Texas A&M, where he helped turn the Aggies from a team that had posted a 7-21 record the previous season and hadn't received a postseason invitation in 11 years, to a program that averaged more than 21 wins in his two seasons and advanced to postseason play both years.
A&M posted back-to-back seasons with the most Big 12 Conference wins in school history with Forbes on the bench. Picked to finish last in the Big 12 prior to the 2004-05 season, the Aggies won their first 11 games and went on to a 21-10 record and made an appearance in the National Invitation Tournament. In 2005-06, Texas A&M advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1987 while recording a 22-9 record, the third-most wins in school history. The Aggies defeated Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual Final Four participant LSU on a last-second shot.
Texas A&M's recruiting also benefited from Forbes' experience, as each of the Aggie's two recruiting classes during his time in College Station were ranked among the top 10 in the nation.
Before joining Billy Gillispie's coaching staff at Texas A&M, Forbes coached at Illinois State (2003-04) and spent three years at Louisiana Tech (2000-03), where he helped sign two nationally-ranked recruiting classes, including a top-10 class in 2003. In 2002 the Bulldogs posted a 22-10 record and went 2-1 in the National Invitation Tournament, their first postseason appearance in 10 years.
In 1998 Forbes joined the Idaho coaching staff as an assistant coach before being promoted to associate head coach for the 1998-99 season. In his first season, the Vandals improved to 16-11 and signed a nationally-ranked recruiting class.
Forbes compiled a 68-28 record in three years (1995-98) as the head coach at Barton County Community College in Great Bend, Kan.
During his three seasons competing in the Jayhawk Conference, the Cougars produced three All-Americas, twice finished the season with a national ranking and earned victories over 15 nationally-ranked teams.
After spending two years (1989-91) as an assistant coach at Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa, Forbes was promoted to head coach in March 1991.
A native of Lone Tree, Iowa, Forbes graduated from Southern Arkansas University with a degree in secondary education in 1988. A former baseball student-athlete for the Muleriders, Forbes spent one year at his alma mater as the sports information director before embarking on a coaching career.
Forbes and his wife Johnetta have three children, Elizabeth (27), Christopher (21) and Johnathon (13).
What others are saying about Steve Forbes …
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State head coach: "I'm very happy and proud of Steve Forbes as he takes the reins of a Division 1 program as the Head Coach at East Tennessee State University. He is very well qualified. He is a great recruiter and builds tremendous relationships. The Johnson City area will quickly embrace his personality, style of play, and character of the individuals within his program. We appreciate Coach Forbes’ contributions to our recent success."
Bill Self, Kansas head coach: "Steve has won at all levels and has played a major role turning around programs. Fans of ETSU should be excited about the basketball programs journey ahead."
Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech head coach: “I think in five years, Steve Forbes will be on the same level as Dr. Sanders’ other hires, Anthony Grant and Jeff Capel. He’s a tremendous person … kids trust him, parents love him, he’s a great on the floor coach, and nobody works harder at preparing his team. He is the perfect fit in Johnson City and will be involved 1000 percent in the community.”
Ron Baker, Wichita State guard: “I couldn’t be happier for Coach Forbes. He’s a great guy to play for and works hard to build trust and lasting relationships with his players.”
Fred VanVleet, Wichita State guard: “He’s fun. He’s real. I think of him as a mentor first and a coach second. He obviously is a great basketball coach, but I enjoyed our off the court relationship just as much – if not more – than our basketball relationship. Just a great guy and we’ll miss him.”