WSU coaching search: The silence says a lot

THE SILENCE IS deafening. Bill Moos' search for a new men's basketball coach has to rank as one of the most stealth-like talent pursuits in years. Speculation abounds, but honest-to-goodness, verifiably sourced information connecting specific names to the job just isn't out there. What that leads me to believe is this ...

Somewhere along the line in the forecasting of who all might be on the target list is the name of the person who actually is going to be hired.

I say that because if Bill Moos was talking to someone like Michael White, Saul Phillips or Mark Fox, the grapevine at their schools' end more than likely would be burning up right now.

And that would be a very new piece to this process.

Instead, we have silence.

That tells me the search is honing in on guys who have a logical connection to WSU and/or the Pac-12 and whose names have been bandied about for some time now in relation to the WSU job.

The key phrase in that previous sentence is "bandied about for some time now." Why is that notable? Because speculation about them and the WSU job is old hat, meaning their names being tied to the Pullman job aren't going to suddenly catch peoples' attention.

Moos has made it clear he prefers someone with head coaching experience, but is that cast in stone? I'd say in general terms, it is, but there is one guy who I think Moos might make an exception for: Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne.

Why an exception for Payne? Two reasons:

1) Moos knows first-hand how good he is because Payne was an assistant at Oregon, under Ernie Kent, when Moos was there; and

2) Moos last week said he first and foremost wanted to hire a great recruiter, and later invoked the name of George Raveling as an archetype coach for the Cougs. Like the young Raveling, Payne is considered a top-notch recruiter and like Raveling, before he came to WSU from Maryland, Payne currently works for a national powerhouse under legendary coach.

If Moos does indeed hold the line at only hiring someone with head-coaching experience, then these are the four I'd wager he's looking at most closely:

  • Kelvin Sampson. If the former WSU, Oklahoma and Indiana head coach is in the running, the silence at his end makes sense because he's way off in the NBA, with the Rockets, not on a college campus. He's been rumored for the recent opening at the University of Houston. He and Moos worked together at WSU in the late 80s and early 90s, and the NCAA show cause restrictions on him expired a little more than a year ago. The timing could be perfect to reclaim the Cougar hoops magic of the early 90s.

  • Ernie Kent. He's the guy so many people think has the job locked up. But if it were so, why the delay in making it official? Moos needs to do zero research to know what he's getting here given their long stint together at Oregon and Kent's recruiting abilities certainly fit Moos' No. 1 requirement. Could it be that Ernie is the choice unless someone else knocks Moos' socks off in direct discussions?

  • Melvin Menzies. He's a West Coast guy with an impeccable coaching background, recruiting chops, and little left to prove at New Mexico State. He told the newspaper in Las Cruces earlier this week that he hadn't been contacted by WSU and was 100 percent committed to staying at NMSU. But a lot can happen in a couple of a days and "100 percent committed" is the telltale phrase of a coach ready to leave.

  • Leon Rice. A source close to the situation told CF.C recently that the Boise State head man and WSU graduate had been approached early on, likely through intermediaries it seems, but balked because of facilities concerns. Balking doesn't mean door-closing, especially when talking about a huge pay increase and elevation to an elite conference. Moreover, Moos is a persuasive guy.

    Next to Kent, Ben Howland has been the most speculated about possibility among Cougar fans. Moos pretty much crossed the former UCLA and Pitt head coach off a week ago when he said he thought Howland might fit better in a program that's a little farther along than WSU's. He is believed to be talking with Marquette about their opening.

    Does all this silence right now mean the floodgates of rumors and sightings are going to erupt any moment? Or that maybe Moos will just spring the news upon us with no trail left in his path?

    Hard to say. But even getting this far with the radio silence is a remarkable feat by Moos.

    REGARDLESS WHO THE NEXT coach of the Cougars is, no doubt one of his first orders of business is going to be re-securing WSU signee Tramaine Isabell of Garfield/Seattle. Both he and his coach have told CF.C the proverbial powder on what to do next will be kept dry until a new coach is in place. For those who didn't get a chance to see Isabell's MVP work in the Class 4A state playoffs, here's a sweet new YouTube video highlighting his talents.

    ELSEWHERE ON THE COUGAR basketball front ... incoming WSU women's forward Nike McClure of W.F. West High in Chehalis was named MVP of the state Class 2A vs. 1A all-star hoops game last weekend after registering 17 points, 13 rebounds and 4 steals in 2A win ... three current Cougar hoopers received Pac-12 All-Academic honors this week: Junior Longrus was named second-team on the men's side and Sage Romberg and Mariah Cooks were named honorable mention for the women.

    MARK YOUR CALENDARS: The second annual Cougsfirst! trade show is set for April 23 at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue. The organization, which is spearheaded by CouGreats Robbie Tobeck, Jack Thompson and others, is aimed at getting WSU alumni and friends to think of doing business with fellow Cougars first when purchasing products or services. For more information about attending the event or setting up a booth, CLICK HERE. is a proud co-sponsor of the CougsFirst! initiative.

    When we posted this photo of father and son Cliff and Ryan Ridgeway (both WSU grads) in Antarctica on our Twitter page last week, little did we know that it would enter the panthon of @COUGFANcom greatness -- at least unofficially. It was "favorited" 36 times, which we believe ranks it up there with a couple of memorable photos from last football season.

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