In a 2009 article for GoDuke.com, longtime Durham, North Carolina, sportswriter Al Featherston remarked that “Tobacco Road is not so much a geographical location as it is a basketball oasis – the one place in the South where the hardwood sport reigns supreme.”
For former Mulerider Baseball pitcher and SAU Sports Information Director Steve Forbes ‘88, the latest stop in a 30-year basketball coaching journey has sent the 1988 Southern Arkansas University graduate to that aforementioned basketball oasis. On April 30, Forbes was named the 23rd head coach of the Wake Forest Men’s Basketball program.
Before being appointed to lead the Demon Deacons, Forbes spent five seasons as head coach at East Tennessee State where he led the Buccaneers to 130 wins and two Southern Conference championships. In his final season, ETSU was a program- best 30-4 before the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Forbes earned the 2019-20 Hugh Durham Award which recognizes the most outstanding mid-major coach in the country.
Prior to his time at ETSU, Forbes served as an assistant coach at Wichita State (2013- 15), Tennessee (2006-11), Texas A&M (2004-06), Illinois State (2003-04), Louisiana Tech (2000-03) and Idaho (1998-2000) in addition to two years as the head coach at Northwest Florida State (2011-13). He led the Raiders to a combined 62-6 record and back-to-back NJCAA Division I National Runner-Up finishes.
As a Division I assistant coach, Forbes was an instrumental factor in the successes of each program that he spent time with. Most recently with Wichita State, the Shockers combined to win 65 games over his two seasons with a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2014-15, Wichita State advanced to the Sweet 16 after knocking off college basketball blue bloods Indiana and Kansas in the first two rounds.
Forbes’ coaching career began with two stints at the junior college level; first with a four year stay at Southwestern CC (1989-90 to 1992-93) and then at Barton County CC (1993-94 to 1995-98). He served as both an assistant coach and head coach at each school before jumping to his first Division I job as an Idaho assistant coach in 1998.
Before a coaching career that has spanned nearly a third of a century, resulting in 260 wins as a head coach and many more as a key assistant, while including stops at 11 different schools in nine states, Forbes and his 1987 Mulerider Baseball teammates made history. That year, the Muleriders finished 46-7 overall (25-1 AIC) and won an AIC Championship, an NAIA District 17 Championship and placed third at the NAIA World Series. In 2017, the 1987 Mulerider Baseball team became the first team ever to be inducted into the SAU Sports Hall of Fame.