Search Firm: Predicting Washington State’s Next Head Basketball Coach

Ernie Kent made it five seasons in Pullman as Washington State’s head basketball coach – largely due to former Athletic Director Bill Moos. Kent never won more than 13 games in a season, and was fired following an 11-21 campaign in which the Cougars won just four Pac-12 contests and finished second from the bottom in what was a miserable Pac-12.

 

JOB DESCRIPTION

Washington State has gone to the NCAA tourney just three times since 1983: Kelvin Sampson took the Cougars once in his seven seasons in 1994, and Tony Bennett did it twice – in 2007 and ’08. It’s considered arguably the worst gig in the Pac-12 and a graveyard for most coaches.

 

THE DECISION-MAKER

Patrick Chun – Hired in 2018, previously at FAU (2012-18)

Men’s Basketball Hires: Michael Curry at FAU – The former NBA player and coach was 39-84 in four seasons at Florida Atlantic before being let go a year ago.

 

TAKE A SHOT

Eric Musselman, Nevada – He’s revived his career in Reno, going to the NCAA tourney the last two seasons and en route to a third this year. He’s got the right disposition for what Washington State needs: someone with energy ready to build it. But even losing the core of his team, I’m not sure he’d take this one. In fact, I’d be shocked.

Craig Smith, Utah State – I doubt he would take it with a strong team coming back next season in Logan, but if the payday were enough Smith might take a look. Remember, he was at South Dakota just a year ago.

 

STRONG CANDIDATES

Leon Rice, Boise State – The 55-year-old former Mark Few assistant has been at Boise for nine years and has taken the Broncs to a pair of NCAA tourneys and a couple of NITs. He’s also a Washington State alum. He turned it down before Kent took the job last time, but it could be different now.

Mark Fox – Went to the NCAA tourney three times in five seasons at Nevada and twice while he was the head coach at Georgia.

Tim Miles, Nebraska – This one will obviously depend on whether he’s let go, but Miles is no stranger to difficult jobs, having had them at North Dakota State, Colorado State and Nebraska.

Travis Decuire, Montana – The Seattle native went to the NCAA tourney last year, his fourth as the head coach at Montana. Decuire was also an assistant at Cal.

T.J. Otzelberger, South Dakota State – Has taken the Jackrabbits to the NCAA tourney in two of his three seasons and has experience in the state of Washington as an assistant under Lorenzo Romar for a couple seasons with the Huskies.

Russell Turner, UC Irvine – The former Mike Montgomery assistant at Stanford – and former NBA assistant, too – has been the head coach at Irvine for nine seasons. Has only gone to one NCAA tourney, but has won a bunch of games with the Anteaters.

Justin Hutson, Fresno State – He recruited at a high level while as assistant at San Diego State, and did an impressive job this season – his first as the head coach at Fresno.

Kyle Smith, San Francisco – The 49-year-old has been an assistant on the west coast at Saint Mary’s and San Diego, and also the head coach at Columbia and San Francisco.

Chris Jans, New Mexico State – Won 21 games in his lone season at Bowling Green before being let go for an off-court incident, but has been dominant in his two seasons at the helm at New Mexico State.

Randy Rahe, Weber State – He’s 58, but he’s had plenty of success at Weber, going to a trio of NCAA tournaments.

David Richman, North Dakota State – Has gone to a pair of NCAA tourneys since taking over the Bison program five years ago.

 

MY PICK

Leon Rice – He’s an alum who knows the landscape and it wouldn’t necessarily be a springboard to a bigger gig.

 

WHO I THINK THEY WILL WIND UP HIRING

Leon Rice – He’s done a terrific job at Boise evaluating and developing talent, and he’d probably leave Boise for a bigger payday in Pullman.

 

MORE: Indiana’s NCAA Tournament Hopes in Jeopardy After Loss to Ohio State