WSU Men’s basketball, Kyle Smith add Wayne Hunter to staff

Hunter replaces Derrick Phelps as assistant coach, provides valuable connection to Bay Area

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ABIGAIL LINNENKOHL | THE DAILY EVERGREEN

The new men’s basketball head coach, Kyle Smith, gives a “Go Cougs” at the introductory press conference in the Rankich Club Room of Martin Stadium on Monday morning.

DAYLON HICKS, Evergreen reporter

Kyle Smith’s coaching tree has gained a familiar limb.

On Tuesday, WSU Men’s basketball officially announced they had hired Wayne Hunter as assistant coach.

WSU head Men’s basketball coach Smith spoke about the addition of Hunter and his past success with Saint Mary’s College.

“We are extremely fortunate having Wayne on board,” he said in a WSU Athletics article. “He is coming from a St. Mary’s program that has been in the NCAA tournament or NIT the last 15 seasons.

This is not Hunter’s first time on the Palouse. In 2021, he joined the Men’s basketball staff in the role of recruiting coordinator before he decided to head back with the Gaels as an assistant coach.

Hunter and Smith will reunite together as Smith previously coached Hunter when they were both at Saint Mary’s. As a player, Hunter was a combo guard where he assisted the Gaels with three appearances in the NCAA Tournament including a magical run to the Sweet 16 in 2010 when he was a senior. He averaged 7.5 points per game and had 49 starts during his time with the Gaels.

“I have had the pleasure of recruiting and coaching Wayne as an assistant, and I am thrilled to work with him as a member of our staff,” Smith said in the article. “Wayne will play a big role on the floor coaching. He will have a hand in all facets of our program, and he will specialize with working with the guards. His familiarity with our coaching style and our analytics will be vital.”

Hunter replaced former assistant coach Derrick Phelps, who announced his departure with the team to move closer to family. Smith spoke about that aspect with CougFan.com Tuesday.

“Derrick’s got to get back to his family,” Smith said to CougFan. “He spent six years away, they didn’t move out to San Francisco and he’s got a young son. He just thought it was best for him to take the next step and get closer to home.”

Outside of the addition of Hunter and departure of Phelps, Smith stated that everything amongst the WSU basketball coach staff plans to remain the same.

“Hunter will take over Phelps’ job as assistant coach with the rest of the staff remaining the same,” Smith said. “Jim Shaw will still be the associate head coach, John Andrzejek will be an assistant, Derrick Wrobel will be the recruiting coordinator and Anthony Lorenzo will be the director of operations.”

Prior to WSU and Saint Mary’s coaching jobs, Hunter started his collegiate coaching at UC Riverside as an assistant coach in 2020-21 where he helped the Highlanders play their most successful season in program history. With Hunter’s leadership in scouting opponents and specializing on the defensive end, the Highlanders ranked among the elite defensive teams in the country ranking 28th in scoring defense and 23rd in defensive field goal percentage.

Before his college coaching took off, he was an acclaimed high school coach, coaching in the AAU and high school ranks at Kennedy, Oakland Technical, James Logan and Miramonte high schools as well as AAU’s West Coast Elite Basketball Nor-Cal. His early work of AAU and knowledge of being around talented players is an asset for the Cougars.

“Wayne will also play a key role in recruiting,” Smith said. “He has strong ties in the West with a strong connection to the Bay Area. Wayne is a talented assistant with a bright future. We are thrilled to have him with us. Go Cougs!”