M. Basketball: Linc Darner

Linc Darner

  Head Coach
  Alma Mater: Purdue Univ., '95
  E-mail: ldarner@flsouthern.edu
  Office Phone: 863-680-4252

Entering his eighth season as Florida Southern’s head men’s basketball coach in 2013-14, Linc Darner has already led the Moccasins to four Sunshine State Conference regular season titles, four SSC Tournament titles and six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. During his first seven years at Florida Southern, Darner has put together a 156-66 record on the Moccasin bench.

Overall in 11 years as a college head coach, Darner has compiled a career record of 230-111, for a career winning percentage of .674 entering the 2013-14 season. That includes four years at St. Joseph’s College (IN) where he coached from 2002-06. In his final season at St. Joseph’s, Darner led the Pumas to the Great Lakes Valley Conference regular season title, giving him five conference championships and seven trips to the NCAA Tournament in the last eight years.

In addition to the success enjoyed by his teams at both St. Joseph’s and Florida Southern, Darner has won five conference coach-of-the-year awards during his 11 seasons as a head coach. He was the 2006 GLVC Coach-of-the-Year before earning the same honor in the Sunshine State Conference in 2008, 2009, and 2010 and 2013. Darner is the only coach in the history of the Sunshine State Conference to win that award three consecutive years and one of only two FSC coaches to ever earn four SSC Coach of the Year honors.

During the most recently completed 2012-13 season, Coach Darner led the Mocs to their fourth SSC Tournament title and their second consecutive after finishing tied with Saint Leo for first in the regular season league standings with a 12-4 record. Along with winning both the regular season and SSC Tournament titles, the Mocs also won the South Regional Championship on its homecourt with a 90-88 win over two-time defending South Regional champion Alabama-Huntsville to earn the program's ninth-ever berth in the Division II Elite Eight.

FSC's season came to an end in the Elite Eight as the Mocs fell to the defending D-II National Champions, Western Washington at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky. It marked the Mocs' first appearance in the Elite Eight since 2000. On the season, FSC finished ranked eighth in the final NABC/Division II Coaches' Poll as they posted a 27-6 record and claimed the 2012-13 NCAA D-II national statistical championship for turnover margin as they finished the season with a +6.8 turnover margin. The 27 wins marked the sixth straight year that the program had won 20 or more games.

Coach Darner led the Mocs to their third SSC Tournament title under his tenure in the 2011-12 season after finishing fifth in regular season competition with a 9-7 conference recrod. For the fifth consecutive year the Mocs earned a bid to the NCAA South Region Tournament, finishing their season with a 20-10 overall record.

In the first seven years under Coach Darner, the Mocs have averaged over 80 points per game after averaging 84.9 points per game in the 2012-13 season and leading the SSC for the fifth straight season in scoring offense.

In going 23-9 during the 2010-11 season, Florida Southern also went 12-4 in conference play for a second-place finish behind Rollins. That enabled the Moccasins to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA South Region Tournament, where they immediately knocked off the higher seeded Tars in the opening round before falling to Stillman in the regional semifinals. That gives Darner a 6-6 record in the NCAA Tournament at Florida Southern, to go along with an 14-3 mark in the SSC Tournament.

The 2010-11 team also averaged over 80 points per game (81.5) for the fourth year in a row, making Florida Southern one of the highest scoring teams in the country during that stretch. They’ve led the SSC in scoring offense each of the last three seasons after doing that just three times in the previous 25 years.

Darner and the Moccasins won its 20th conference championship in 2010, when Florida Southern went 25-5 overall and 13-3 in the SSC, tying the team record for most conference wins. The Mocs averaged over 85 points per game, the third year in a row they ranked among the 20 highest scoring teams in Division II, shot 43 percent from 3-point range to rank fourth in Division II, and their .756 free throw percentage was 11th in the country. The Mocs proved impossible to beat at home too, going 17-0 at Jenkins Field House, only the fourth time since World War II they were undefeated on their home court.

In winning the regular season title in the SSC for the third year in a row, Darner again rallied his team down the stretch. Trailing Rollins a by a game-and-a-half in the standings on February 6, and having lost to the Tars already in Winter Park, the Moccasins faced them again in a match-up of nationally ranked teams at Jenkins Field House. Florida Southern led from start to finish in a game that turned into a blowout, went on to win the final six games of the regular season, and earned the top seed in the SSC Tournament for the third straight year.

Florida Southern spent that entire season ranked in the NABC Top-25, the first time in 10 years the Moccasins accomplished that, and their #2 ranking in late December and early January was their highest in nine years. They finished the year at #13.

In addition to Darner being named the SSC Coach-of-the-Year, the Moccasins had three players named to the all-conference team, headlined by senior John Thompson, the 2010 SSC Player-of-the-Year and the program’s first All-American since 2004. Thompson was the second conference player-of-the-year coached by Darner, and was also the first Moccasin selected to play in the NABC Division II All-Star Game.

Four years ago, the Mocs were 29-7 under Darner, the most wins for Florida Southern since 2000, and the third highest total in the program’s 84-year history. Among those 29 wins were two in the South Region Tournament, the Mocs’ first NCAA playoff wins since 2000 as well. That enabled Florida Southern to finish the season as South Region runner-up and ranked #11 in the final NABC national rankings.

In addition to their 29-7 overall record, the Mocs were also 13-3 in the Sunshine State Conference, equaling the most SSC wins in team history. They overcame a loss to Rollins in their SSC opener in early December, but took control of the race at the end of January after beating the Tars in a rematch. They owned at least a share of the lead the rest of the way and clinched the title before the final regular season game for the second year in a row. The Mocs then won their first two games in the SSC Tournament by a combined 60 points before edging Rollins in the championship game, 77-76 in overtime. At the end of the year, Darner became the first Moccasin basketball coach to be selected to coach in the annual NABC Division II All-Star Game, coaching the East Team in Springfield, Massachusetts.

While 2008-09 may have been a remarkable season for the Moccasins, Darner’s first two years at Florida Southern may have been even more so. After an 8-20 record in year one, the Moccasins put together a stunning turnaround in year two, going 24-9 overall, and winning the Sunshine State Conference with a 12-4 league record. They also won the SSC Tournament, were the top seed in the NCAA South Region Tournament, and finished at #17 in the national poll. Considering the history of the program, those results may have seemed like normal accomplishments, but it was the way they were done that was noteworthy, and ultimately earned Darner his first SSC Coach-of-the-Year award.

Florida Southern became the first team in SSC history to go from “worst-to-first”, and was one of only two schools in the country at any NCAA level to accomplish that feat in 2008. Their nine-game improvement in the SSC standings was also the best in league history, and the Moccasins were one of only five teams in any NCAA division that went from 20 losses to 20 wins that season. They accomplished all of that by facing a regular season schedule that included five games against different ranked opponents. The Mocs beat three of them, matching their best total in one season in the last 20 years. They also played nine games against teams that qualified for the NCAA Division II Tournament, and took national runner-up Augusta State to overtime before falling, 76-75.

Remarkable turnarounds are nothing new to Darner, who accomplished the same thing at St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana, where he coached four seasons (2002-06) before coming to Florida Southern. The Pumas saw their win total increase each year under Darner, culminating with a 31-3 record in his final season, the best in school history. When he first arrived at St. Joseph’s, the Pumas had had just one winning season in the previous 10 years, playing in a league that features perennial national powers Kentucky Wesleyan and Southern Indiana, as well as 2006 national runner-up SIU-Edwardsville.

Darner’s first St. Joseph’s team went 11-17, before improving to 15-13 the following year, and 17-12 in the 2004-05 season. His final team at St. Joseph’s not only set school records for wins, points, and 3-point field goals, it also earned its first conference title since 1992, its first outright title since 1979, and made its first ever appearance in the GLVC Tournament championship game, where the Pumas defeated Quincy, 68-67. That earned St. Joseph’s the top seed in the Great Lakes Region Tournament, the Pumas’ first NCAA bid in 14 years. The Pumas ranked 17th in the nation in scoring (84.8 points per game), and their .912 winning percentage was fourth among all college teams at any NCAA or NAIA level. St. Joseph’s was ranked as high as #2 in the nation and among its 31 victories was an 81-76 win over eventual national champion Winona State (MN).

The Pumas’ accomplishments in 2006 earned Darner the Great Lakes Valley Conference Coach-of-the-Year award, as well as the Great Lakes Region Coach-of-the-Year award from the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Two of his players were named first team all-conference and made the all-region team as well, including GLVC Player-of-the-Year Sullivan Sykes, St. Joseph’s first All-American in 18 years.

In the 94-year history of St. Joseph’s men’s basketball, Darner ranks fifth in career wins (he was fourth at the time of his departure), and third in career winning percentage among those with at least four seasons. His teams averaged better than 80 points a game during all four years of his tenure, and St. Joseph’s was one of only 11 Division II teams to do that in each of those four seasons.

Darner didn’t leave his high-scoring offense behind when he came to Florida Southern in the spring of 2006 as the 22nd head coach in the program’s history, but only the seventh since 1956. Though it took a couple of years for the Moccasins to adjust to a new offense, they too have become one of the country’s top scoring teams. In the last five years Florida Southern has reached triple digits 16 times, something it did only 16 times the previous 14 years.

In 2008, the Mocs finished the year ranked #14 in Division II in scoring offense with an 83.5 average that represented a 16 percent improvement over Darner’s first year at the helm. It was the best 1-year improvement for the Mocs in 52 years, and they didn’t stop there. The 2009 team was 19th in scoring, but saw its average rise to 84.0 points per game, the highest for Florida Southern in 21 years, and in 2010, the Mocs’ average increased again to 85.2, good for 13th in Division II. They ranked 26th in 2010 while scoring 81.5 points per game.

Florida Southern’s scoring average the last five years illustrates the type of up-tempo offense Darner runs, and 3-point shooting is a big part of it. After making 159 long-range baskets in his first year, the Mocs have exploded by making almost 1,700 in the last six. In 2008, the Mocs finished fourth in the country in 3-point field goals per game with a school and SSC-record 10.3 average, their .407 shooting percentage behind the arc was good for ninth in Division II, and their total of 340 treys shattered the previous school record by 134. They made over 300 more from long range in 2009, leading the Sunshine State Conference for the second year in a row.

Even after the NCAA moved the 3-point line back for the 2010-11 season, the Moccasins have continued to light up the scoreboard from long distance. Florida Southern is the only Division II school in the country to rank in the top 10 in 3-point shooting percentage in two of the last four seasons, finishing fourth in 2010 before the change, and fourth again in 2011. In 2012, FSC was 84th nationally and in 2013, the Mocs finished 32nd nationally in 3-pointers made.

Three-point shooting percentage was one of five statistical categories in which Florida Southern finished in the top ten nationally in 2011. The Mocs were also set a school record for free throw percentage at .779, which was good for seventh in Division II, and the highest in the Sunshine State Conference for the second year in a row.

Though Darner has only been a college head coach for 11 years, already three of his former assistants have landed head coaching jobs of their own at the Division II level. The first was at St. Joseph’s where he was succeeded by Richard Davis, who continued what Darner started and guided the Pumas to the Division II Elite Eight in 2010. The next was Randall Herbst, who served on Darner’s first staff at Florida Southern, and just completed his second season at Mary University (ND) where he guided the Marauders to their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Herbst is now an assistant coach at Division I Nebraska-Omaha and the most recent was Tom Church, who served on Darner's staff the past three seasons (2011-13), was named the head coach at St. Joseph's [IN] this past April and will enter his first season at the helm of the Pumas in 2013-14.

Several of Darner’s players have achieved national recognition as well, with two Moccasins earning All-American honors and earning invitations to play in the annual NABC Division II All-Star Game. John Thompson was the first in 2010 (Division II Bulletin Third Team), and Rion Rayfield followed him in 2011 (Division II Bulletin honorable mention). Both players were also NABC All-South Region selections, with Rayfield earning that award three times in his Florida Southern career, and Rob Eldridge earning it twice.

In his short time at Florida Southern, Darner has also brought in some of the greatest individual players in the program’s 85-year history, with three of the school’s top-ten career scoring leaders arriving under his watch. Rayfield graduated in 2011 as the Mocs’ second all-time leading scorer with 1,870 points and shattered the school’s previous record for 3-point field goals. Eldridge scored 1,411 points in just three years at Florida Southern before embarking on a pro career overseas. Brandon Jenkins totaled 1,532 points in his career to rank eighth all-time, and his brother Terry topped 1,000 points as well despite playing only three years for the Moccasins.

Along with coaching four players who rank in the top 10 of the program's all-time scoring chart, Darner has also had two other players score over 1,000 career points as Seth Evans (2011-13) finished his two years at FSC with 1,096 points, which is 24th on the all-time list and Brett Bailey (2009-13) scored 1,075 points, which is 26th on the all-time list. Two more players are nearing the 1,000 point plateau as Kevin Capers enters his junior season in 2013-14 needing just 133 points for 1,000, while Dominic Lane enters his senior campaign in 2013-14 needing just 163 points for 1,000.   

Before his first head coaching job at St. Joseph’s, Darner spent four seasons (1998-2002) as an assistant coach at Ashland University in Ohio, serving as that program’s recruiting coordinator. During that time, Ashland was 72-38. Prior to that, he had brief stints as an assistant coach at Murray State, where he helped the Racers win two Ohio Valley Conference Championships, and at Lincoln Memorial (TN) University.

As a collegiate player, Darner was a four-year letterman for coach Gene Keady at Purdue University, where the Boilermakers went 82-42 in his career (1990-94) and earned three NCAA Tournament bids. He was the first player under Keady to be named a team captain twice, and was a teammate of future NBA #1 draft pick Glenn Robinson, and current Purdue head coach Matt Painter. In 1991, following his freshman year at Purdue, Darner played in the United States Olympic Festival where he helped the North team to a gold medal.

As a senior, he captained Purdue to a 29-5 record, the Big Ten Championship, and a berth in the NCAA Division I regional finals. A 6-4 guard with the Boilermakers, Darner played in 124 games in his career, a figure that ranked fifth in school history at the time of his graduation. In 1991, he set a school freshman record for 3-point field goals made with 32, and he ranks among the career leaders at Purdue in 3-pointers, as well as 3-point field goal percentage.

The 42-year old Darner graduated from Purdue in the spring of 1995 from the Krannert School of Business with a bachelor’s degree in management. He and his wife, Kristen, reside in Lakeland with their 12-year old daughter, Layne, and 7-year old son Tate.

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