FORMER ABBEY COACH DIES: Payne was one of the winningest basketball coaches in school history

By Richard Walker

One of the winningest coaches in Belmont Abbey’s rich basketball history has died.

Eddie Payne is shown during his head coaching career at Belmont Abbey with one of his top players, Kings Mountain’s LaVar Curry.

Edward Gray “Eddie” Payne died Wednesday at 69 in Spartanburg, S.C., following complications due to stroke last weekend.

A 1969 East Mecklenburg High graduate, Eddie Payne was an All-ACC player in 1973 at Wake Forest who spent one year playing professionally in France before beginning a 40-year coaching career.

From 1976 to 2017, Eddie Payne was an assistant coach at Clemson (1975-78), East Carolina (1979-81) and South Carolina (1986-91), head coach at Truett McConnell (1978-79), Belmont Abbey (1981-86), East Carolina (1991-1995), Oregon State (1995-2000), Greensboro College (2000-2002) and USC Upstate (2002-17).

At USC Upstate, Eddie Payne led the program’s transition from NCAA Division II to Division I before retiring in 2017 with a 484-474 head coaching record. In 2018, the basketball court at the USC Upstate’s Hodge Center was named the Eddie and Ann Payne Arena to honor both his and his wife’s contributions to the school.

Ann Payne was Belmont Abbey’s women’s basketball head coach in her husband’s last two seasons at Belmont Abbey. She also was a women’s basketball coach at Alabama and UNC Charlotte.

Born July 10, 1951 in Winston-Salem, Eddie Payne was the son of the late Meredith and Rebecca Helsabeck Payne.

In addition to his wife Ann, he is survived by his son, Luke Payne and his wife, Amanda; a grandson, Hudson Gray Payne; brothers, David Payne and his wife, Mary, and Steve Payne; two nieces, Jennifer Scott and her husband, Doug, and Kim Kaylor; and a nephew, David Payne and his wife, Kelly. He was predeceased by a sister in-law, Susan Payne.

The family will receive friends on Sunday, July 11th from 1:30-2:45 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C. Funeral services will follow at 3 p.m. officiated by Reverend Dr. Don Wilton and Reverend Sal Barone. Burial will be held in Greenlawn Memorial Gardens.

The family would like for Eddie Payne’s former players and basketball associates to please notify a funeral home employee upon their arrival to the service. Designated seating will be provided for acknowledgement during services.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Impact Sports International, P O Box 5765, Spartanburg, SC 29304; or to First Baptist Spartanburg, Celebrate Recovery, 250 E. Main Street, Spartanburg, SC 29306.

At the Abbey, Eddie Payne coached five of the school’s 41 1,000-point career scorers – Kings Mountain’s LeVar Curry (2,044), Dempsey Cohen (1,770), South Point’s Jimmy Reeves (1,697), Jessie Fields (1,476) and Charlie Hubert (1,069). In addition to Curry and Jimmy Reeves, local products John Reeves (West Lincoln) and Brent Turner (South Point) and future coaching standouts Dip Metress and Mike Gurley were among the players on his teams.

Metress, who was Belmont Abbey’s head coach from 1996 to 2004, is currently the head coach at Augusta, Ga., and Gurley is head coach at West Rowan High School.

Eddie Payne’s teams went 103-51 at Belmont Abbey with three NAIA District 26 playoff appearances in five years, highlighted by advancing to the district title game in 1986.

His 103 coaching wins make him one of six Belmont Abbey men’s basketball coaches with 100 or more victories; Howard A. “Humpy” Wheeler (289-129), Bobby Hussey (179-111), Metress (134-93), current Belmont Abbey athletic director Stephen Miss (113-87) and Al McGuire (109-63) are the others.

At East Carolina, Eddie Payne’s 1993 team included former Hunter Huss standout Kevin Armstrong and made that school’s most recent NCAA tournament appearance.