NBA street cred and Cougs' next hoops coach

YOU CAN TALK academics or proximity to home or personal connection with the coaching staff all you want, but at the end of the day one of the most pressing factors in a high school basketball player's decision on where to play college ball is this: the school's track record of sending players to the NBA.

Klay Thompson is a bona fide NBA star, which is good news for Washington State. But prior to him, the last Coug to stick in the league for any length of time was Craig Ehlo, who retired back in 1997.

In fact, going back to the NBA's launch in 1946, WSU has produced only five guys who played at least 200 games in the NBA: Thompson, Ehlo, James Donaldson, Don Collins and Gene Conley.

So with Ken Bone likely on his way out at Washington State, an interesting question in a search for a successor might be this: Since WSU doesn't have much of an NBA calling card, why not bring NBA cred to WSU in the form of the new coach?

Tom Crean, the Indiana coach and former Marquette head man, once told ESPN he lost a top prospect to a rival school with this explanation from the young man: "I want to learn from someone who actually played the game."

Running with that notion, there are at least five good names to toss onto the fanciful list of candidates for the head job at WSU. And by "good names," we mean people who played in the NBA, have excellent coaching credentials, and West Coast ties. We have four such people listed below. In addition, there's a fifth name at the bottom who didn't play in the NBA but has a coaching history there.

Without further ado:

The former Arizona All-American was a 1995 first-round draft pick and Rookie of the Year who played 13 seasons in the NBA. He has been an assistant coach in the NBA and in college at Rice, Memphis and his alma mater, Arizona, where he currently serves. Known as a dynamic recruiter and excellent on-court instructor.

A 1989 first-round draft pick, he played four seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and another six overseas. In college, helped lead Louisville to the 1986 NCAA title. He spent six seasons as an assistant coach at Oregon under Ernie Kent, where the Ducks advanced to two Elite Eights, and he's been with John Calipari at Kentucky the last three years. Considered one of the top recruiters in the nation. Also known for skill in developing forwards. Widely viewed as a head coach waiting to happen.

The former Wooden Award winner and 1988 first-round NBA draft pick won a national title as a player at Kansas in 1988 and as an assistant there in 2008. He played 15 seasons in the NBA, much of it on the West Coast with the Clippers, Suns and Jazz. Spent nine seasons on the staff at Kansas under Bill Self and built a reputation as a gifted developer of big men and excellent recruiter. Became the head coach at Tulsa two seasons ago. Took the Golden Hurricane to the CBI last year and they'll be in some form of the post-season again this year.

This 1988 first-round draft pick and three-time NBA All-Star played 14 seasons in the league, much of it with Phoenix, and later spent five seasons as the Suns' assistant head coach. "Thunder Dan" became the head coach at Grand Canyon University a year ago, just as the school elevated its program to the Division I level and joined the WAC. The Lopes this week accepted an invitation to play in the CIT.

Currently the associate head coach at Arizona State, he didn't play in the NBA but his professional resume is perhaps the most unique in all of basketball -- he's been the head man in four different pro leagues (the NBA, NBA D-League, CBA and USBL). In the NBA, he has been head coach of the Warriors and Kings. In 2002-03 he was the runner-up for NBA Coach of the Year after leading Golden State to one of its best records in years. He is considered a master at player development and a standout offensive strategist. He has been with Herb Sendek at ASU the last two seasons, and is responsible for opponent scouting, on-court player development and recruiting. As a player, he was on two NCAA Tournament teams at San Diego in the mid 1980s.

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