The ever-bouncing ball of WSU's hoops search

THE FASCINATING last 36 hours in WSU's quest for a new basketball coach took an odd twist today with the Spokesman-Review's report that Bill Moos and Elson Floyd were winging their way to Boise to talk Leon Rice, WSU grad and BSU head coach, out of staying in Broncoland. BSU's announcement a few moments ago cementing Rice's place there caps something of a PR pratfall for WSU over the last day.

"He's got a good thing going (at Boise State)," Nate Peters, editor-in-chief of BroncoNationNews.com, told CF.C today. "He's coming off a couple of pretty good seasons, has some good recruits coming in, and has excellent community support. He's not in it for the money .. I think he was genuinely interested in the opportunity (at WSU) but maybe felt the grass isn't always greener."

The recipe that created this PR pie in the crimson face started yesterday morning when ASWSU president Taylor Hennessey tweeted that WSU had made an offer to a candidate and that WSU was awaiting the candidate's decision. Hennessey did not identify the prospective hire, nor did he attribute the source of his information but CF.C subsequently learned it came from Elson Floyd's presentation to the WSU Board of Regents.

CRIMSON COMMENTARY

The natural question following Hennessey's tweet was that he's either naive to think he could take it upon himself to share that information or that President Floyd asked him to as part of the PR plan leading up to the official unveiling of the new coach.

Either way, it's fair to assume that Floyd wouldn't have shared that information to the Board of Regents if the new coach wasn't pretty well locked down.

To do otherwise would risk raising the level of expectation only to have it fall hard on the shoals of a misstep.

When reports started coming in that Rice had interviewed earlier in the week with Moos – the first such reports directly connecting any name to the WSU job -- the peanut gallery put two-and-two together and presumed the candidate Hennessey was referring to was Rice.

Based on many of the comments on Twitter and on the CF.C message boards, the notion of Rice as Ken Bone's successor was about as exciting to the Cougar faithful as a plate of day-old poutine.

WSU sources remained tight lipped about what might be afoot, so speculation mounted.

We burned up the phone lines trying to get a sense of who's on first, what's on second and so forth. We didn't find much except conjecture.

Here's a sampling of the hypotheses floated at us:

  • Rice isn't serious about the WSU job and is using it to leverage his position at BSU.
  • Moos is not serious about Rice, but wants to create some buzz about the WSU opening by getting a regionally respected name aligned with it before he announces his true pick.
  • Moos' real guy is Ernie Kent, who has both fans and detractors in the Cougar Nation, so in order to make Ernie look better, he's opting to dangle the idea of Rice, who in so many surface respects looks an awful lot like Ken Bone: about the same age; locally raised; experience almost exclusively in the Pacific Northwest; head coach success in a lower-profile conference; background as an assistant coach at familiar programs with success (Rice at Gonzaga, Bone at UW). In short, after coming face to face with the idea of Rice, Kent looks pretty damn appealing.

    If Moos and Floyd did indeed travel to Boise for a last-gasp effort to woo Rice, numbers two and three above are clearly thoughts straight from left field. The first item on that list can only be answered by Rice, though Nate Peters' comments suggest Rice was serious about the WSU job.

    Regardless, WSU now finds itself holding the bag.

    Rice, no matter how well you dressed him up, was far from being the "splash hire" type that Moos said a week ago he was looking for. Moreover, Rice is a WSU grad, he's coaching in a lower-tier conference, and he would have made considerably more money at WSU.

    And that guy didn't want the job.

    Not only that, he said he didn't want it after WSU, via it's student-body president, effectively teed up the ball of expectation.

    That is one tough news cycle of image assault for WSU and its basketball program.

    Where WSU heads from here is a question only Moos and Floyd can answer. But quite frankly, given the court of crimson opinion on Leon Rice when it looked like he might be headed to Pullman, no matter which direction they head is bound to produce a better response than the path they just went down.

    NOTABLE:
    Boise State said today that Rice's salary will climb $100,000, to $596,573 annually, plus 3 percent annually and an extra year to his contract for each season the Broncos win 18 games or reach March Madness.

    In a statement, Rice said: "I am really excited for the future of Bronco basketball. There has been a great commitment to grow this program. There's a commitment from our administration, our student-athletes and our fans. That's what has me looking forward to continuing to build what we have here at Boise State."

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