The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Kyle Smith leaving WSU, hired by Stanford

Head basketball job vacant for first time since 2019
WSU men’s basketball head coach Kyle Smith speaks to the crowd during ZzuMania, November 3, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

WSU men’s basketball head coach Kyle Smith accepted the Stanford head coaching job Monday morning. Just two days after ending their NCAA tournament run, the Cougs are without the coach who led them there.

It is the nature of dreams to end. When Smith was hired to the WSU job in 2019, he was taking control of a program that had not been above a .500 record for seven seasons. Through his five seasons in crimson and gray, the Cougs did not have a record below .500 once. 

They made two NITs and the first NCAA tournament for the program since 2008. They were ranked, getting as high as No. 18 and finishing their season still sitting at No. 25. 

The Cougs had two players drafted to the NBA during Smith’s tenure. That does not seem like a lot, but WSU has had only three other players drafted since 2000. Two in five years is significant.

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That kind of work attracts the eyes of bigger programs. There were questions asked about extension talks throughout the season, and the answers were never particularly meaningful. 

With the conference collapsing and the athletics budget decreasing, Smith was staring down the barrel of several more years of uncertainty. Now, he will have actual conference membership along with a salary increase.

Smith released a statement via WSU social media Monday.

“It has been an honor to lead the Coug basketball program to the NCAA tournament. This has not been a one-year run, but a slow build-up of sustained success and growth year over year,” Smith wrote. “I think our greatest accomplishment was restoring the pride in the Cougs. With our success, there was a deeper connection between our students, our community, and our team.”

He is right. This season, WSU had games with fans not just in the upper-level seats, but filling them. The national media turned their attention to a program that had not been relevant since the Pac-10 era.

Smith closed his statement by expressing gratitude.

“I want everyone to know how appreciative me and my family are and will always be. We have been loved unconditionally in this community and we will always be grateful,” Smith wrote. “I often talk about how my ‘why’ is to empower people to empower themselves. Washington State empowered me to fulfill my dreams, and it is time for someone else to have this opportunity. Once a Coug, always a Coug!”

 Now, it is interim athletic director Anne McCoy’s job to find his replacement. In the era of the transfer portal, these hires need to be fast. A coach needs a roster, and if the position sits vacant for long there will be transfers out with nobody to recruit anyone in to replace them.

An internal hire could help to retain players, while an external hire could have a higher ceiling as a coach. There are many decisions to be made, and fans will not be privy to any of them until the hire is made. They can only hope that comes soon.

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About the Contributors
HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, Evergreen sports co-editor
Hayden Stinchfield is a senior in Criminology from Washougal, WA. He is considered by some experts to be the greatest to ever spot birds. Hayden began working at the Evergreen in fall 2022, and became Sports Co-Editor in summer 2023.
COLE QUINN, Evergreen Sports Photographer
Cole Quinn is a photographer and columnist for the Daily Evergreen. Cole primarily shoots sports for the Daily Evergreen and writes album reviews in his spare time. Cole is a junior broadcast production major and sports communication minor from Snoqualmie, Washington. Cole started working for the Evergreen in the fall of 2020 as a photographer. Cole was the Photo Editor during his sophomore year and Deputy Photo Editor for the fall 2022 semester.