Bill Evans 2018-19

Former Idaho State head men’s basketball coach Bill Evans talks to his team during a game in the 2018-19 season.

Two former Idaho State men’s basketball coaches have landed new opportunities.

Bill Evans, who led the Bengals for seven seasons, and Jared Phay, who was associate head coach last season, have both been hired as head coaches of junior college men’s basketball programs.

Evans is the new head coach at Utah State Eastern in Price, Utah. The move was announced Thursday by the school’s athletic department. It is his first head coaching gig since the 2018-19 season, his last at Idaho State.

Evans replaces Adjalma Becheli, who compiled a 124-122 record over eight seasons as the Eagles’ head coach.

When the search started for Becheli’s replacement, Utah State Eastern Associate Vice President Greg Dart outlined three qualities he was looking for: “One is a community supporter and who understands community basketball. Two, we are looking for someone who brings a positive energy. And third, we need someone who can recruit,” he said.

Evans, 71, heads to Price with 23 years of college head coaching experience. He went 70-141 at Idaho State after going 208-223 in 16 seasons at Southern Utah, which included one trip to the NCAA Tournament. He was named Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year in 2016.

Utah State Eastern competes in the Scenic West Athletic Conference (Region 18) in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). Last season, the Eagles rostered two players who played their high school ball in East Idaho: Tanner Worrell from Highland (Pocatello) and Dillon Sorensen from Bonneville (Idaho Falls). Both players were redshirt freshmen last season.

“We could not be more excited to have coach Evans join the Eagle family,” Dart said. “Bill is a coaching icon and brings a wealth of experience to our program.”

On Wednesday, Phay was announced as the new head coach at Missouri State-West Plains in West Plains, Missouri.

Phay was hired as ISU’s associate head coach shortly after Ryan Looney was hired to replace Evans at Idaho State. He was placed on administrative leave near the end of the season after an incident occurred during a game at Montana State and, ultimately, he and ISU mutually agreed to part ways.

Before his stint with the Bengals, Phay compiled a 136-33 record as the head coach at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. He took the team to the NJCAA national tournament three times in his five seasons, highlighted by a runner-up finish in 2018.

“We were looking for a strong leader with proven success on the court and to help our young men graduate in preparation for their next step,” said Dr. Angela Totty, Missouri State-West Plains dean of student services and athletic director. “Coach Phay has demonstrated his ability to recruit and retain players who can achieve at a high level. I believe Grizzly fans are going to have a lot to cheer about in the coming years.”

Missouri State-West Plains went 10-21 last season, but has an all-time record of 572-287 (.666). Phay is the fifth head coach in the history of the program, which started in 1993.

“I wanted to get back to junior college. I spent 18 years in the JUCO ranks and missed the atmosphere at that level and the impact you can have on student-athletes,” Phay said. “I had been a head coach for 15 years, and part of me wanted to run my own program again. Missouri State-West Plains has a history of great crowds and community support, and that’s exciting. It has the pieces needed to compete with the best junior college teams in the country.”

Missouri State-West Plains competes in NJCAA Region 16.