Forbes gets head coaching job at ETSU

It was the beginning of an end. The day after Notre Dame defeated Wichita State in the Sweet 16, the Shocker basketball team’s future had one certainty — seniors Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter graduate in May and won’t return to play another season.

Then the news came that hit earlier that week, but was never confirmed. Assistant coach Steve Forbes would be taking over the head coaching position at East Tennessee State University.

“I’ve been privileged enough for the last two years to coach beside who I consider the best coach in all of college basketball and he’s provided me a blueprint for winning basketball,” Forbes said. “I don’t know if you can do much more in two years to be honest with you.”

His two-year tenure at Wichita State include two Missouri Valley Conference regular season championships, one MVC Tournament championship, an undefeated regular season and a Sweet 16 berth.

Telling the team wasn’t easy for him, he said. Rather, it’s bitter sweet.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Forbes said. “You come off your last loss and feeling down about that, but you’re happy the next morning because you finally get to be a Division I head coach. I told the players that I owed them and Coach Marshall a debt of gratitude. I wouldn’t have this job if it weren’t for those guys.”

It’s a brand new start for a coach that’s been at three places in five years. Four years ago, Forbes, an assistant at Tennessee, was fired and forced to not coach at the Division I level for one year. After spending two years as the head coach at Northwest Florida State, a Division II school, Forbes received the opportunity to be an assistant at WSU.

“Four years ago, I was a little battered and bruised,” Forbes said. “I came off a NCAA situation with Tennessee and I worked 22 years in my career to have a great reputation and work hard professionally and that was damaged. The hardest thing to ever regain in your life I believe is your respect. I felt like going to Northwest Florida then coming here and working for Gregg Marshall and coaching the players the way we coach, the way we played, the way we went about our business helped me regain that respect that I had lost.”

He said he had to practice what he preached as a coach. He got knocked down, got back up and kept fighting. He dusted himself off and started swinging for the fences, he said.

“Look yourself in the mirror,” Forbes said. “Be accountable for your actions and if you made a mistake, don’t make it again and keep moving.”

As an assistant and head coach, Forbes hasn’t lost a home game since March 6, 2011. The winning’s been good, but more importantly, he didn’t play the blame game. He said he took accountability and kept going.  

When it comes to being an assistant at Wichita State versus a head coach at East Tennessee State, Forbes said he is happy with what he’s doing now.

“I like the ring of Wichita State, but I like the ring of head coach,” Forbes said. “You aspire in this profession to have the opportunity and you never know if it’s going to come or not. These jobs are really hard to get. I’m just thrilled and honored after 26 years in this profession to have the opportunity to be a head Division I coach.”

At his press conference introducing him as head coach on Monday, ETSU sold more than $20,000 worth of tickets. He’s the head coach at ETSU, but he’ll cherish the memories made at WSU.

“I’ll miss the fans,” Forbes said. “I’ll miss the players. I loved coaching our kids [who are] great people on and off the court and I’ll miss our staff. I’ll miss the camaraderie in the office every day and being around Coach Marshall and learning from him each and every day. It’s a lot of great memories.”