Steve Hardin recently completed his seventh season as the Head Men's Basketball Coach at Lees-McRae College in 2018-19 and his ninth overall on the coaching staff.
Hardin helped guide the Bobcats to heights they have never been to before in a historic 2017-18 campaign. The 2017-18 Bobcats broke program records for wins (23), points scored (2,863), scoring average (89.5), field goals made (932), three-pointers made (342), three-point field goal percentage (.401), free throws made (657), free throws attempted (896), assists (437), blocked shots (118), blocks per game (3.7). Individually, LMC had two Conference Carolinas Players of the Week (Donte Falls and Kamil Williams), three All-Conference Carolinas players (Lepreece Lynch, Jordan Turner and Jason Saintizaire), while Quay Kimble was named the league's Freshman of the Year and Hardin himself earned conference coach of the year honors. The memorable season was capped on March 4, 2018 in Banner Elk as the Bobcats downed Belmont Abbey, 75-72, to capture the Conference Carolinas Tournament Championship to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. The Bobcats faced off against eventual Final Four participant Queens University of Charlotte in Harrogate, Tennessee in their first round matchup on March 10, 2018.
Up tempo is a good term to describe Coach Hardin on and off the court. He has the reputation from his peers as a tireless worker and relentless recruiter. His passion for the student-athlete perfectly mirrors the Bobcat Athletics’ drive for comprehensive excellence – academically, athletically and socially. Expect Hardin’s program to excel in all aspects of the student-athlete experience. His focus is on finding “winning guys” on and off the court.
“Coach Hardin will continue to do a tremendous job bringing the passion and “fire” to Lees-McRae basketball through his work ethic and energy; He is an extremely hard worker on the court and on the recruiting trail. Steve is a winner and also one of the good guys in this business that truly cares about his players”- Will Wade (Head Coach, LSU)
“I’ve known Steve for over 20 years and is a guy I grew up playing with, his dad helped teach the game to all of us in high school. He is a guy I respect immensely and proud to call a friend. Steve is a true Basketball junkie, a winner, and a grinder in this profession. Lees-McRae is extremely lucky to have him as their head coach"- Mike Morrell (Head coach, UNC Ashville)
“Steve is one of the best up and coming young coaches in our business hands down. I have known Steve since I first got into coaching at Tennessee Tech University. He is a great recruiter and an outstanding coach. I have always loved his competitive energy and spirit about the game. He is a family man and has great leadership qualities to be a successful coach. Lees-McRae has a great one in Steve Hardin.” - Orlando G.G. Smith (Associate Head Coach, High Point University)
“Steve Hardin is a builder. He has done an incredible job building the Lees-McRae basketball program from the ground up into a conference championship. He has branded “Dunk Mountain” into a household name and a consistent winner.” - Dustin Kerns (Head Coach, Presbyterian College)
“Coach Hardin eats, sleeps and lives basketball. He’s a hustler on the recruiting trail and as the son of a high school coach he’s extremely detailed on the X’s& O’s of the game. Steve works tirelessly on making LM a national contender and it shows with the first conference championship in school history. I feel many more will follow.”- Jason Allison (Recruiting Coordinator/Assistant Coach, Appalachian State University, former Lees-McRae assistant coach)
"Steve has the coaching gene in his blood being the son of a coach. I saw firsthand at Tennessee Tech his passion for the game. I am excited for his first championship at Lees-McRae as it is the first one in school history. He will take that success to new heights. There was no doubt that this profession would be his destiny."- Jeff Lebo (Retired Head Coach East Carolina, former NBA & UNC player)
“Coach Hardin is a tireless worker who has the best interest of the student athletes in mind. I knew he would bring the first ever conference championship to Lees-McRae. He recruits high character and talented players that will succeed on and off the floor.”- Scott Cherry (1993 National Champion for UNC)
Coach Hardin’s coaching philosophy and brand for the Lees-McRae Bobcat basketball team is “FIRE”, which simply means Fearless Intense Relentless Effort. Fans can expect an up-tempo, in-your-face game from Hardin and his players, as he wants to create consistent confusion in his fusion defense. Coach Hardin’s teams will have an identity with “FIRE” that can be an exciting brand of basketball for both the school and the fans.
During an incredible 2015-16 season, Hardin's team defeated then-No. 4 Mount Olive at home. After breaking the total wins and conference wins school record in 2014-15, the Bobcats accomplished the same feat while earning a No. 3 seed in the Conference Carolinas Men's Basketball Championship and hosted the first postseason game in school history. The team earned the NABC all-academic award while Hardin garnered the H.C. Evans Jr. Fidelity award. Senior Austin Anderson grabbed six postseason awards, including Conference Carolinas Player of the Year. He was tabbed to an NCAA DII All-American Honorable Mention and second-team all-district. The Bobcats had three representatives inducted into the Chi Alpha Sigma North Carolina chapter. The team boasted a GPA of 3.4.
The 2014-2015 season was one for the record and history books. Coach Hardin’s squad broke the school record for wins in a season. LMC also finished the highest ever in Conference Carolinas. Lees-McRae lead the conference and ranked nationally in steals (10.5) as Coach Hardin’s team also valued the basketball in leading the conference with fewest turnovers a game (11.2) the ‘14-15 team tied for the most points per game, (82.9). The Bobcats ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in nine categories. Coach Hardin proved that Lees-McRae basketball can defend, take care of the basketball, score and rebound extremely consistently. Coach Hardin’s seniors stepped up for the program huge while Jacquise Moore led all of the NCAA in steals (3.3). Moore earned Conference Carolinas first-team honors while point guard Sean Deniton earned third team and academic honors.
2013-2014 season under Hardin brought twelve new faces to the team. The Bobcats started off the season with the best record start in school history at 6-2 and 3-1 mark vs region contenders out of the South Atlantic Conference. Under Coach Hardin's FIRE system the team averaged 81 points per contest, shot 780 Free throws (No. 1 in Conference Carolinas and No. 41 NCAA) at 72.6%, 9.6 steals per game (No. 1 in Conference Carolinas and No. 36 NCAA). Moore (Concord, N.C.) led the Conference Carolinas in steals 2.3 per contest. A balanced scoring attack lead the Bobcats with posting five players averaging over 10 points per game.
During the 2012-2013 season, the Bobcats posted a combined grade-point average of 3.0 as a team in Coach Hardin’s first year at the helm, graduating eight seniors. Illawong, Australia native Daniel Sepokas ranked eighth in the conference in scoring to lead the Bobcats.
Hardin joined the Bobcats during the 2010-2011 season following a successful stint at Bluefield College in Bluefield, Va. as the head women’s basketball coach. During his three-year tenure at Bluefield, Hardin earned Appalachian Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors while leading the Rams to their highest finish in the AAC standings.
Under Hardin's leadership, the Rams were ranked in the NAIA for the first time in school history and also earned the program's first AAC Champions of Character award in 2010, while holding a No. 3 ranking in the NCCAA throughout the season and earning the school's first-ever berth in the NCCAA Tournament.
During the 2009-2010 season, the Rams also posted the best record in program history with a 25-10 overall mark that tops school history wins for a season. All of these accomplishments occurred in just two years as Hardin took over the program which had posted two wins the previous season, compiling a 40-26 record while at the helm.
Hardin played an integral role as the associate head coach with the men's basketball program at Bluefield, helping the Rams to three straight NAIA Tournament appearances with a squad that posted a combined 92-41 record over that span.
Bluefield claimed three straight AAC championships during Hardin's tenure while ranking eighth in the NAIA national poll, marking the first appearance in the top 10 in school history. The Rams led the nation in a multitude of statistical categories while Hardin was on the sidelines, topping the NAIA ranks in both scoring offense (91.4) and total blocks (171) in 2008-2009 while leading the nation in rejections per game (6.9) in 2005-2006.
While at Bluefield, Hardin recruited and coached 18 all-Appalachian Athletic Conference players, three AAC Defensive Players of the Year, four AAC Offensive Players of the Year, 14 NCCAA All-Americans, five NAIA All-Americans, seven NAIA Academic All-Americans, and two AAC Players of the Year.
Prior to his appointment as the head women’s coach at Bluefield, Hardin served as the associate head men’s basketball coach, junior varsity basketball coach, and head men’s golf coach at the Bluefield, Va. school from 2005-2008.
Hardin entered the coaching ranks as a student assistant with the Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech. While at Tennessee Tech, Hardin was part of back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championship squads and a quarterfinal finish in the NIT. The Golden Eagles posted a 47-16 overall record and a 28-4 mark in the OVC.
The Elizabethton, Tenn. native has coached 18 players that have played and/or still playing professional basketball with one playing in the National Basketball Association’s D-League.
Hardin is following in the footsteps of his father, Tony Hardin, a former high school coach in Tennessee for over 30 years. Prior to Tennessee Tech, Hardin served as an assistant coach with his father, who owns a career record of 520-290.
Hardin is married to the former Tanika Andrews, a teacher in Bristol, Tenn. They are the proud parents of Lyla Gail Hardin and Campbell Steven Hardin. The Hardin family resides in Elizabethton, Tenn.
Mark Polsgrove just completed his second season as a coach Lees-McRae's men's basketball staff in 2018-2019 and his first as Associate Head Coach.
Polsgrove was selected as the Lees-McRae men's basketball assistant coach on July 24, 2017. Polsgrove comes to Banner Elk after spending the past three years working for Appalachian State's men's basketball program in various capacities.
"I would like to thank Coach Hardin for providing me the opportunity to become an assistant coach," Polsgrove said. "I have a lot of respect for him both as a person and as a coach and I am excited to be a part of his staff and the great program at Lees-McRae. I cannot wait for our guys to get on campus and continue to bring excellence and excitement to Dunk Mountain!"
Polsgrove spent this past season as the Director of Player Development for Appalachian State where he oversaw that area of the program. Prior to that appointment, Polsgrove spent the two previous years as a graduate assistant for the Mountaineers where he served in a variety of roles, including video coordinator, assistant director of camps, coordinating and executing alumni and booster events and led the design of all game and practice uniforms, as well as, the design and ordering of all team gear.
Before joining Appalachian State's coaching staff, Polsgrove spent three seasons as a member of the Gardner-Webb University men's basketball program. He spent two seasons working for current Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann and one season working for current head coach Tim Craft. While at GWU, Polsgrove served as the head manager and assistant video coordinator from 2013 to 2014. He oversaw and hired student managers, developed and organized team scouting reports, assisted in player development, assisted the director of operations and served as the co-director of summer team camps.
Before being promoted, Polsgrove served as a student manager and later being promoted to head manager prior to the 2012-13 season. Beginning as a manager in 2011, he managed team gear/equipment and laundry, while contributing with film editing, scouting reports and keeping stats. He also oversaw recruiting biographies and recruiting mail-outs.
"I am ecstatic to hire Mark Polsgrove," said Hardin. "I have known him since he was 8-10 years old in my first assistant coaching position with his dad, Scott. We are blessed to have an experienced assistant in Mark with stints at Gardner-Webb and Appalachian State. Mark brings youth, expertise in individual work and knowledge of where the future is going with technology in basketball. After working two separate stints for the former Bobcat Head Coach Scott Polsgrove, it's a great honor to hire Mark. Mark is built from the same cloth as I am in being a coach's son. I am excited about the future of our program."
Polsgrove earned a Bachelor of Science degree in sports management from Gardner-Webb in 2013. He also earned a master's degree from Appalachian State in 2016.
Desean Motley just wrapped up his third season as a part of Lees-McRae's coaching staff in 2018-19, and his second year as one of the program's assistant coaches.
Lees-McRae’s Head Men’s Basketball Coach Steve Hardin announced the hiring of Desean Motley as the program’s new assistant coach on August 24, 2017. Motley spent the 2016-17 season as a student assistant for the Bobcats.
“It is truly a blessing to be able to live out a lifelong dream of becoming a college coach,” said Motley. “I grew up watching my dad coach for over 20 years, which made me want to pursue this profession. I am grateful that Coach Hardin believes in me enough to grant me this opportunity to be on his coaching staff and continue to learn.”
“I am proud to add Coach Motley officially as an assistant coach to my staff,” Hardin said. “Desean was a tireless worker as our student assistant last season, he is a graduate from Lees-McRae and a true Bobcat. Not many basketball staffs are entirely made up of coach’s sons and I feel that is an advantage for us both on and off the court.”
Motley played high school basketball under his father at Orange High School in Hillsborough, North Carolina where his father has been the coach for 23 years. Through the years of 2009-2012 he averaged 14 points per game, six rebounds, and five assists throughout his high school career.
Following his high school career, he received a scholarship from Ohio Valley University where he spent his freshmen year. Motley then transferred the next year to Lees-McRae College and played two years of basketball for the Bobcats. For his senior year he decided to start his coaching career early and follow his father’s footsteps and become a basketball coach. As a student assistant last season, Motley’s duties involved scouting, on-campus recruiting, travel, individual workouts and assisting in the day-to-day operations of the program.
“I couldn’t think of a better place to start my coaching career than at my alma mater,” said Motley. “I know the work has just begun and I am ready to get started. Go Bobcats!”