A late darkhorse in race for WSU hoops job?

STEW MORRILL MAY just be looking for an Aggie pot sweetener, Mike Davis may be angling to be rescued from Birmingham, and Ken Bone may be wondering what's taking so long. All the while, could WSU end up hiring its new hoops coach from the same state that the old one just left for? A source tells CF.C a former Pac-10 assistant who has made 20-win seasons a habit down south has interest in WSU.

And like the Bennetts, he's a coach that preaches defense, runs a deliberate offense, and wins.

Reading the tea leaves would seemingly indicate either Portland State's Bone or Utah State's Morrill -- each of whom interviewed in Seattle with WSU on Sunday -- would have the inside track to become the Cougs' next head coach. But if you're looking for a darkhorse candidate, this one might be it. And it might have some legs.

Blaine Taylor, 51, has compiled a .627 winning percentage at Old Dominion over the last eight seasons. A source tells CF.C that Taylor is interested in the job but Washington State had not yet spoken to him as of late Saturday night.

Prior to coming to Old Dominion, Taylor was an assistant coach with Mike Montgomery at Stanford from 1998-2001, and served from 1991-98 as the head coach at Montana (141-66, 68.1 percent).

A transition from Bennett to Taylor, whose name has surfaced for numerous job openings the past few years, might not have too many bumpy spots in terms of philosophy -- Old Dominion under Taylor has had a tendency to slow down their offense and emphasize defense.

But, unlike Washington State under the Bennetts, Taylor will employ some zone defense from time to time, particularly when his team is ahead. Taylor also emphasizes the inside game and likes his guards to look first for driving layups to the rim before hoisting up 3-pointers.

ODU ranked No. 19 in the nation in defense this past season, at 60.2 points per game. Washington State led the country at 55.4 in 2008-09.

Unlike WSU, Old Dominion was very proficient in cleaning the glass, ranking No. 7 in the country in rebounding differential this past season.

Taylor's teams have won 24 or more games four of the last five years and gained two NCAA Tournament berths during that stretch. ODU belongs to the Colonial Athletic Association, which also includes such teams as George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth. This season, ODU went 25-10 and won the CIT Tournament.

IN RELATED NEWS ON the Cougar coaching front, Bud Withers of the Seattle Times reports that WSU assistant coach Ben Johnson isn't necessarily headed to Australia to coach, as Tony Bennett reported last week. Johnson and fellow assistant Ken Woodley are believed to be waiting to see who WSU hires and whether there might be a chance of staying in Pullman. Johnson played professionally in Australia and has been the point man for WSU's recruiting Down Under. His wife is from Australia.

Another WSU assistant, Ron Sanchez, has been reported to be heading to Virginia with Bennett but that has not been confirmed. There has been no word on the plans of Mike Heideman, WSU's director of player development and operations.

Morrill signed a contract extension with Utah State after the 2007-08 season that pays him a base salary in the $400,000 range with incentives that can push it beyond $600,000. The new contract includes a significantly increased buyout, according to the Deseret News in Salt Lake. One of the primary reasons for the new contract was Don Verlin's departure for the head job at Idaho, the Deseret News days. While he was at Utah State, Verlin was Morrill's heir-apparent.


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