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The next steps

By the time you read this you will know who the men’s NCAA basketball champion is. All I can say is that the two best teams are playing for the crown. I’ll watch as I always do because it’s the right thing to do. It was a great season and an interesting one. Whereas the women’s champion was undefeated the men’s’ teams stubbed their toes a few times, Purdue 4 times and UConn 3. It has been a long time since the men had an undefeated champion mainly due to talented rosters and the three point line. It will be even tougher with the transfer portal, in my opinion.

For WSU, they lost their head coach to Stanford and their Athletic Director Pat Chun moved across state to become the AD at UW. The timing was not very good to say the least. President Kirk Schulz named Anne McCoy as the interim AD and her job was to find a new men’s basketball coach. She would name EWU Eagle coach David Riley as the next Cougar head coach.

Riley played at Whitworth University for Jim Hayford and when Hayford went to Cheney to coach the Eagles he was a grad assistant. After 3 seasons he became an assistant. When Hayford left for Seattle U, Shantay Legans was named as the head coach. After Legans took over as the University of Portland Pilots head coach, Riley would be announced as the new EWU head man and would lead the Eagles from 2021-24. He had to rebuild his first team since most of the players transferred out. His second squad was another rebuild but his last two teams won the regular season Big Sky championship.

So now Riley will need to do another rebuilding job as several have entered the transfer portal, announced for the NBA draft and one 2024 commit announced he was now going to Stanford. To me it is pretty amazing that the players jump ship or announce that they will be leaving before finding anything out about the new guy. Riley has proven that he can build a winning team in Cheney and one that has played well together. The Eagles did falter at the Big Sky tournament but those things happen especially when the 3 point shot doesn’t fall and the opponent’s shots do.

I know that one of the WSU assistant coaches wasn’t hired and that may have made some players upset but that’s the way it goes. Riley wasn’t the first coach to be offered the job but he knows that the timing is right to take over a program and it also gives the team that he leaves a chance to find a replacement. I know that his teams have been fun to watch and that he works very hard in putting together a team. And he has done it at a school that is not gushing with excess money. So a frugal coach that understands how to build a team and winning program just might be what WSU needs.

It will also be interesting when WSU joins the WCC for basketball next season as that will be the first time that Riley and Legans will meet as opposing coaches. That should be very fun to watch.

There has been some interesting news in the last week or so. USC Trojan coach Andy Enfield is leaving Los Angeles and will be the next SMU Mustang coach in Dallas. Now I’m not sure if he didn’t want to be part of the Big Ten with all of the travel across country or if he likes the challenge of the Big 12. It is going to be very interesting how these new teams in different leagues will be able to compete. Only time will tell.

So Eric Musselman will leave the Arkansas Razorbacks to take over at USC and John Calipari will leave Kentucky and go to Arkansas. That is good news for Kentucky since many fans wanted Coach Cal gone after the loss to Oakland in the first round. But the buyout was pretty expensive. It will be interesting to see how the coaches will do in their new locations. Coach Cal isn’t changing conferences but the SEC is adding Texas and Oklahoma to the mix.

WSU, OSU and the WCC will battle for a couple of years in basketball and I think it could help the conference. There are a lot of rumors as to how all of this will shake out in the future. I might be wrong but I’m sure a majority of the teams will wish the Pac 12 would have stayed in place but it’s too late now. The next steps might be rough and expensive.

— Dale Anderson is a sports columnist from Ritzville. To contact him, email [email protected].


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