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Mark Montgomery to coach men’s hoops

March 24, 2011
Mark Montgomery

Mark Montgomery

Mark Montgomery, who has spent the last 10 seasons at his alma mater, Michigan State University, including the last four as associate head coach, was introduced as Northern Illinois University’s 27th head men’s basketball coach Thursday.

Jeff Compher, NIU associate vice president and director of athletics, made the announcement.

Montgomery, a Michigan native who also has experience in the Mid-American Conference in four seasons as an assistant coach at Central Michigan, has made 10 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament and three Final Four appearances with the Spartans since joining Tom Izzo’s staff in 2001. He helped coach 26 All-Big Ten players at Michigan State and six players that went on to be selected in the National Basketball Association Draft, while on the bench for 235 MSU wins – an average of 23.5 victories per season.

In 2010, Montgomery was named one of the top five high-major assistant coaches in the country by, while put him on its list of “10 Assistant Coaches Ready to Move Up.” In addition, national college basketball writer Jeff Goodman named Montgomery the top assistant coach in the Big Ten Conference based on a poll of league coaches.

Compher was thrilled to bring a coach of Montgomery’s caliber and pedigree to Northern Illinois.

“I am so pleased that we were able to attract a coach with the experience and character of Coach Montgomery,” Compher said. “For the last 10 years, he has worked under one of the finest coaches in the business in Tom Izzo, for one of the best and most successful programs in the country at Michigan State. His 14 years of experience and his knowledge of the MAC and the Midwest make him a great fit for NIU. I have learned that his work ethic is real and his ability to relate to the recruits and players is genuine.”

NIU President John G. Peters offered his endorsement of the Huskies’ newest head coach after meeting with Montgomery during the search process.

“I am very pleased to welcome Mark and (his wife) Alex to the Northern Illinois family,” Peters said. “He brings a background of success as both a coach and as a player that is invaluable. I am confident we have found the right man to lead the Huskie men’s basketball program going forward.” 

Montgomery was impressed by the support for the men’s basketball program he felt from the Northern Illinois administration. “This is an unbelievable opportunity,” he said.

“When you take into account the family atmosphere that Jeff (Compher) and Dr. Peters have developed, the location right outside of Chicago, the Mid-American Conference competition, the unbelievable academics and the great facilities, I believe Northern Illinois is a sleeping giant,” Montgomery added. “In talking to the committee and especially Jeff, you can see the commitment to basketball. Dr. Peters has a vision for the university, and also takes a great interest in athletics while recognizing the role it plays on campus. I am looking forward to helping bring NIU basketball to the national stage.”

In four seasons as an assistant coach at Central Michigan University from 1997-2001, Montgomery helped the Chippewas to a 20-8 record and the school’s first MAC Championship in 14 years in 2000-01.

Following that season, he returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach.

In 2007, he was elevated to associate head coach at MSU. In that role, he has helped develop perimeter players like Shannon Brown, Maurice Ager, Kalin Lucas, Raymar Morgan, Drew Neitzel and Marcus Taylor, each of whom earned all-conference recognition under his tutelage.

Montgomery was a four-year letterwinner and starter for the Spartans from 1988-92 and was a third-team All-Big Ten selection in 1992 when he averaged 7.0 points and 6.3 assists as a senior co-captain on MSU’s 22-8 team. He helped MSU win the 1990 Big Ten Championship, and Michigan State made three NCAA Tournament appearances and an NIT Final Four during his career. He still ranks fourth on the Spartans’ career assists chart and is third all-time in career steals. In addition, he was a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

After leaving Michigan State, he played four years of professional basketball in Europe where he averaged more than 25 points per game on teams in Germany, Lithuania and Sweden.

Montgomery said he has been ready to go since his first interview with Compher and the NIU selection committee and cannot wait to get started on his new challenge.

“Recruiting has already started,” he said. “We will hit the floor running. During that first interview, I knew that this was a job that I was very interested in, and Northern Illinois showed a lot of interest in me. I am looking forward to the challenge of running my own program, and can’t wait to begin connecting with this community and the Huskie Family.”

Compher, who has been in search mode for the Huskies’ new head man since March 10, offered his appreciation to those who assisted in the process.

“I want to thank Todd Turner of Collegiate Sports Associates for his help throughout the search,” Compher said. “I am also grateful to President Peters and our university community for their support. We welcome Coach Monty and his wife Alex to the Huskie Family!”

On Monday, March 28, Northern Illinois will hold “Mark Madness at the Convo,” to give the university community, as well as Huskie fans and local supporters, a chance to welcome the Montgomerys to DeKalb. The free event will be held in the main concourse of the NIU Convocation Center from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and include free light snacks and beverages. 

For more information on that event, as well as a complete biography, quotes from around the country on Coach Montgomery, and to watch the introduction and virtual press conference, visit