Washington State has hired Kyle Smith as its new men’s basketball coach following the disappointing tenure of Ernie Kent.
A person with knowledge of the hiring said Wednesday that Smith was given a six-year deal. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the hiring had not been formally announced.
The 49-year-old Smith comes to Washington State after a successful three-year run as the head coach at San Francisco. Smith also was a head coach at Columbia for six seasons and has strong West Coast ties with his time as an assistant at Saint Mary’s for nearly a decade.
Smith went 63-40 in his three seasons at San Francisco, winning at least 20 games in each season and finishing in the top half of the West Coast Conference standings.
Smith’s hiring may not come with much sizzle but he could be the perfect coach to turn around a Cougars program that slumped to the bottom of the Pac-12 during Kent’s time in Pullman. Kent was 58-98 in his five seasons in charge and 22-68 in Pac-12 play. Washington State lost its final six games to close this season as apathy seemed to overtake the program. The Cougars never finished higher than a tie for eighth in Pac-12 play and each of the past two years finished the regular season in 11th place.
Washington State’s last winning season came in 2011-12 when the Cougars finished 19-18 under Ken Bone.
That’s the situation Smith will inherit in landing his first major conference head coaching job. But Washington State may be the perfect spot for Smith to bring his analytics-based system.
Smith got an unexpected and unsolicited recommendation for the job from former Washington State star and current Golden State Warriors standout Klay Thompson last week.
“Every program he’s been at he’s turned around. … I think he’d be a great get,” Thompson said.
The most successful coaches at Washington State have all had specific systems and found players that fit. Tony Bennett was the latest example, taking the Cougars to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances a decade ago before leaving for the job at Virginia.
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Before landing the job at San Francisco, Smith went 102-81 in six seasons at Columbia, capping his run in New York by leading the Lions to the CIT title in 2016.
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed.
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