Moos has a final 5 for next WSU head coach

BILL MOOS' search for Washington State's next basketball coach is coalescing around five names, a source close to the situation told this morning. The source declined to share names, but indicated that all of the candidates are, or were, head coaches, and no one in the group is considered the front runner at this stage.

The source said the people Moos is focused on reflect the athletic director's comments Tuesday following his dismissal of Ken Bone, when he said his ideal hire will have major-conference experience, preferably as a head coach, and be a proven recruiter who can sell Washington State and the community of Pullman.

The source would not disclose whether Moos has directly talked with the candidates at this stage or simply worked through intermediaries. If there have been direct discussions, you can pretty much rule out any of the "final five" being the coach of a team currently participating in the NCAA Tournament.

Moos cited three examples from Cougar history as guys who embodied what he's looking for in his next coach: George Raveling, Kelvin Sampson and Tony Bennett.

Interestingly, Sampson is actually someone who could be on Moos' list.

He currently is in his fifth year as an NBA assistant coach, and the "show cause" restrictions the NCAA placed on his hiring -- for violations that nowadays aren't considered a problem -- expired a little more than a year ago.

Sampson and Moos worked together at Washington State in the late 80s and early 90s. Sampson took the Cougars to the NCAA Tournament in 1994 before moving on to Oklahoma, where he guided the Sooners to 11 Big Dance invitations, including one Final Four, in his 12 seasons there. He was twice named National Coach of the Year. Following his time at Oklahoma, he went 43-15 in two seasons at Indiana before leaving under the NCAA cloud for making what at the time were considered impressible phone calls to recruits. He currently is with the Houston Rockets.

Moos placed special emphasis in his Tuesday comments about the importance of his next coach being not just a great recruiter but someone who can recruit to WSU.

Sampson obviously is as proven a commodity as there is in that regard, plus he now has the glow of five years of NBA experience on his calling card. But former Oregon coach Ernie Kent is probably a close second given what he accomplished at Oregon before the school began investing big money in the program.

His first several years in Eugene offer perhaps the closest parallel to what the next coach at Washington State might aim for initially: a .500 record, then an NIT bid, and then three NCAA tourney invitations over the next four years. In all, Kent spent 13 seasons at Oregon -- none, by the way, with the sterling facilities the Ducks have now.

Asked about the report from a reporter, posted Friday on the Luxury Suites message board, saying a reliable source told her Kent is a "done deal" for WSU, CF.C's well-placed source said this morning that "no one is a done deal -- there is more work to do, some calling around to do. The list has been narrowed but no one is a done deal or a front runner."

If Kent was indeed to be Moos' choice, the case for him is strong.

  • He's taken six teams to the NCAA Tournament -- five with Oregon and one while at St. Mary's -- and two more to the NIT semifinals. Two of his Duck teams advanced to the Elite Eight -- again, without the benefit of even average facilities.

  • On the recruiting trail, he had notable success bringing Midwest talent out West, but he also scored heavily in the Pacific Northwest with players such as Fred Jones, Maarty Leunen, Luke Ridnour, Luke Jackson and Aaron Brooks.

  • He and Moos worked together in Eugene for the better part of a decade. They are philosophically and practically aligned in how best to win in basketball.

  • He's a marketing department's dream: articulate, glib, approachable, well dressed. In short, in the YouTube and Twitter age in which we live, Kent is the "walking billboard" that you'd like to have on TV representing your school two nights week during the winter.

    The source talked with today didn't offer a timeline of when Moos would like to close the evaluation process or announce his new hire.

    One incentive to move earlier than later is that the spring signing period for 2014 recruits begins April 16 and ends May 21. Barring any unexpected transfers, WSU has three scholarship slots available in the 2014 class. Two of those spots are set to be filled by Tramaine Isabell and Jermaine Morgan, each of whom committed to WSU in the early signing period this past November. The new coach will no doubt want as much time as possible to re-secure those two and weigh options on that third slot.

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