Don Verlin joined the University of Idaho family as head coach of the Vandal men’s basketball team in March 2008 and brought an immediate change to a struggling program.
In his seven seasons with the Vandals, Verlin has won more games than any previous coach at Idaho, including three top-three Western Athletic Conference finishes, three CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournaments, a 2-3 record against Associate Press Top-25 opponents and a 55-32 (.632) record in home games. Additionally, Verlin’s players have earned eight all-WAC honors, one NABC All-District honor, one WAC Player of the Year, one honorable mention All-American honor and five have gone on to play professionally.
In 2014-15, Verlin led the Vandals back into the Big Sky Conference where they finished with a 13-17 overall mark, which includes an 8-10 record in league play and 0-1 in the post-season tournament. The year was marked by Connor Hill continuing as one of the nation’s best long-range shooters, as he knocked down a school-record 108 3s, and Mike Hill emerging as one of the NCAA leaders in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. They were joined by Bira Seck as the only seniors on a team laden with underclassmen, but used their leadership to aid in the development of the youngsters into players Idaho could count on more and more as the season progressed. Hill and Scott both were honored by the league’s coaches as second team all-conference players. The 2014-15 squad set a school record for team 3s in a season with 236 (11 more than the previous record set by the 2006-07 team), an average of more than seven per game. That helped the Vandals account for the school’s third-highest scoring average in program history of 76.7 points per game.
In 2013-14, Verlin led the Vandals to a late-season charge that produced wins in six out of seven games, propelling Idaho to the WAC championship game. The Vandals defeated WAC regular-season champion Utah Valley in the conference semifinals to reach the program’s first conference championship game since 1990. Senior Stephen Madison averaged 19.9 points per game for the season to lead the WAC, and was a consensus first-team all-WAC selection. Off the court, Verlin and his Readers as Leaders campaign were honored at the 2014 Final Four with the NABC’s annual Literacy Champion Award, which recognizes the coach who has used the game of basketball, his program and his players to promote to children the importance of reading, writing and technological skills.
Verlin’s first year at Idaho saw the team earn one of the NCAA’s top turnarounds. The Vandals hadn’t produced a winning season in a decade and were picked to finish last in the WAC. Idaho went on to post a 17-16 overall record and a 9-7 WAC mark, finish third in the conference and earn its first postseason victory since 1982 at the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. The team had a nine-win improvement and an RPI jump of 164 places.
In his second season at Idaho, the Vandals went 15-16 overall, picked up their first victory over a ranked opponent in nearly 30 years, won games at Utah, Seattle University and North Dakota State for the first time in school history and posted the biggest road win in the Idaho-Boise State rivalry series.
In Verlin’s third season in 2010-11, Idaho went 18-14 overall and again took third in the WAC with a 9-7 record. The Vandals qualified for postseason play a second time in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, put two players on the all-WAC squad and defeated a nationally ranked opponent for the second straight season.
In 2011-12, Idaho was picked to finish fifth in the WAC, but the team won seven of its final eight games and finished the year at 9-5 in conference play for a third-place finish. The Vandals were the only team to beat league champion Nevada during the regular season and, along with the Wolf Pack, were one of just two teams to beat every other WAC squad during the year. Idaho qualified for its third postseason appearance under Verlin with a berth in the CollegeInsider.com and knocked off UC Santa Barbara in the first round at Cowan Spectrum before falling in the second round.
The 2012-13 Vandals boasted the program’s first WAC Player of the Year in senior Kyle Barone, who also earned honorable mention All-America honors. The Vandals also improved to 5-0 on Senior Night and picked up their fourth BracketBuster win under Verlin.
Before Verlin, Idaho hadn’t beaten a ranked opponent since 1982, but the Vandals have two wins over ranked opponents in the last five seasons. He’s also the first Idaho coach since Larry Eustachy (1990-93) to reach 50 victories in just three seasons.
Since Verlin took over for the 2008-09 season, Idaho’s average final RPI ranking is 185, with a high of 137 and three years in the top-150 overall. In the previous seven seasons of Vandal basketball, Idaho didn’t crack the top 150 once and had an average final ranking of 270th in the rating system.
Also noteworthy under Verlin is that Idaho is 7-0 on Senior Night, 6-1 in home openers, and 23-5 in games played at Memorial Gym. Idaho’s 101-47 win over UC Irvine on Nov. 28, 2008 is the team’s largest ever over an NCAA Division I opponent, its 77-47 win over Louisiana Tech on Dec. 31, 2010 is the team’s largest over a WAC opponent and its 79-55 victory at Boise State on Feb. 6, 2010 is the team’s largest WAC road win.
Verlin also helped improve the culture of the program off the court by spearheading the Readers as Leaders program and participating in the YES Clinic. Readers as Leaders became a very successful program in its first year as the entire Idaho basketball program helped Moscow’s elementary-aged children find joy in reading. Since its inception, the total number of school and student participation in the program has increased significantly every year.
Prior to coming to Idaho, Verlin was the longest tenured assistant coach in Utah State history and had served under Aggie head coach Stew Morrill for 15 years, which includes their four years together at Colorado State University. The offensive guru for the Aggies, Verlin was a key component in Utah State’s nine successive post-season appearances and nine-successive 20-plus-win seasons. The Aggies were among the best shooting teams in the nation throughout his tenure. They led the NCAA in field goal percentage in 2005 and ranked in the top five nationally in four of his final five seasons with the team.
Prior to Utah State, Verlin spent two tenures at Colorado State, as he was an assistant at CSU during the 1992 season before moving to CSU Bakersfield for the 1993 and 1994 seasons. During his two seasons as an assistant in California, Bakersfield won back-to-back NCAA Division II national championships.
Verlin returned to Colorado State ahead of the 1995 season and then spent the next four seasons in Fort Collins. Prior to his first stint at Colorado State, Verlin was an assistant at Columbia (Calif.) Junior College from 1989-91. Columbia posted an 81-23 record in his three years there and won two conference championships.
Verlin graduated from Cal State Stanislaus with a degree in physical education in 1991. He earned a master’s degree in education from Colorado State in 1993. Born June 15, 1965 at Roseville, Calif., Verlin graduated from Del Oro High School at Loomis, Calif. He and his wife, the former Serena Shumway, have one son, Jacob, and one daughter, Sydnee. He also has a twin brother (Ron) who is the head basketball coach at Pacific.