Mychal Thompson talks Tony, Klay and Baynes

BASKETBALL IS A BUSINESS and coaches move around. It's a fact of life, says Mychal Thompson, the L.A. Lakers' color analyst and former No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. So as long as Tony Bennett commits to being in Pullman for Year One of son Klay's college career, then all is well, he says. And Bennett's reassuring call to Klay last week was sweet music to the Thompson clan.

"As long as Tony is there this first year, then it doesn't give us any pause about the second, third or fourth (years)," Mychal told Cougfan.com on Friday. "If he had left now, Klay would have reevaluated."

Bennett called Klay early last week. "He said he's not going anywhere," Mychal said.

Klay Thompson, a 6-7 swingman from Orange County, Calif., is part of the touted five-member recruiting class coming to WSU this fall.

While the Indiana rumors were swirling, Mychal said, he talked with his son about the facts of basketball life.

"I told Klay when you have a coach as good as Tony Bennett -- so good, so respected – you have to expect his name to pop up yearly with job openings. That's the nature of the business. You have to understand that coaches move around, so you can't hold anything against anybody."


MYCHAL THOMPSON BLOCKS A DAWG, CIRCA '88.

Mychal's first coach at the University of Minnesota, Bill Musselman, left the Gophers after Thompson's freshman year.

Thompson said Klay chose WSU over offers from Michigan, Notre Dame and others because of Bennett and Bennett Ball.

"He loves the style – they can run and they play half-court," Thompson said. As for the coach, "Tony is very personable and charismatic. He knows what he's doing and really connected on a personal basis with Klay."

Thompson said Klay had dreamed of playing in the Pac-10 and initially was thinking he'd like to stay closer to home.

"USC was his top choice. I practically begged Coach Floyd to recruit him. He wouldn't. And Tony jumped into the void."

In fact, WSU was the only Pac-10 school to make Klay an offer.

It may be a decision the rest of the league comes to regret. Thompson just concluded a magical senior season, leading San Margarita High to the state title and earning California Division III Player of the Year honors. He averaged 21 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.

His performance in the state championship game was head-turning. He scored 37 points and set a state-finals record with seven 3-pointers. He also blocked three shots.

Klay is a more advanced at this stage of his career than his dad, and could develop into an All-Pac-10 performer if he "works hard, listens to Tony Bennett and stays humble," says Mychal.

"Klay is a player, at 6-7, who can come off screens, shoot, run the point and pass," he says. "He really understands the game – he has a very high basketball IQ. And he moves his feet well – he doesn't let smaller, quicker guys go by him."

Mychal Thompson clearly knows the type of game his son brings to the court.

He talks about Klay with pride, but also with the dispassionate analysis you might expect from a guy who makes a living dissecting basketball games.

"Klay is very intense, but not in a pound-your-chest, screaming-after-the-basket kind of way," the elder Thompson told Cougfan.com. "He's the kind of kid who wants the ball when the game is on the line. He doesn't shy away from the big moment – and he's going to take that attitude to Pullman. It's a quiet confidence."

THE ELDER THOMPSON SAID he expects the Cougars to continue their roll next season despite the graduation losses of Kyle Weaver, Derrick Low and Robbie Cowgill.

"Big Aron Baynes is coming back. If Kevin (Love) goes to the NBA, Baynes will be the best big man in the Pac-10. Then there's Rochestie and all those fast young wings coming in. They'll be right back next year. I wouldn't be surprised if they're in the top two in the Pac-10."

NOTABLE THOMPSON NOTES:

• The Thompsons lived in the Portland area – Lake Oswego – until Klay was in eighth grade. One of older brother Mychel's best friends there was none other than Kevin Love. "They had sleepovers at each others' houses all the time," Mychal said.

• That's not a typo. Dad spells Mychal with an "a" near the end and Mychel spells his name with an "e." Mychel, a two guard, just concluded his freshman season at Pepperdine.

• Mychal, the dad, spent 12 seasons in the NBA, averaging 13.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He was with the Trailblazers for eight seasons, the Spurs for half a season and the Lakers for four-and-a-half seasons. He helped LA win back-to-back championships in 1987 and '88.


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