Kyle Smith leaves WSU to be Stanford basketball coach

Mar 25, 2024, 9:16 AM | Updated: 11:12 am

WSU Kyle Smith Myles Rice Cougars...

WSU head coach Kyle Smith speaks to Myles Rice during an NCAA Tournament game against Drake. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Stanford has hired Kyle Smith away from the WSU Cougars to take over its struggling men’s basketball program.

Athletic director Bernard Muir announced Monday that Smith had agreed to take over the Cardinal after Jerod Haase was fired earlier this month.

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“The opportunity to serve as the head men’s basketball coach at Stanford is a dream come true, and I want to thank Bernard Muir for entrusting me with this opportunity,” Smith said in a statement. “From my perspective, Stanford has the resources and reputation to attract the ideal student-athlete who is seeking the character development aspects of what our basketball program will offer.”

Smith is coming off his first career NCAA Tournament appearance as he oversaw an impressive turnaround at Washington State that earned him Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors. He helped the Cougars win 25 games, win an NCAA Tournament game and get into the AP poll in their most successful season since 2008 under Tony Bennett.

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Smith now follows coaches like Bennett, Kelvin Sampson and George Raveling who turned their success at WSU into bigger jobs.

Smith was an ideal candidate for Stanford because of his ties to the Bay Area, success at a power conference and experience at a high-academic school.

After a longtime stint as the top assistant at nearby Saint Mary’s, Smith spent six seasons as the head coach at Columbia in the Ivy League. He then spent three seasons at San Francisco before coaching the past five seasons in the Pac-12 at Washington State.

He has a 258-193 career record and has gone nine straight seasons without a losing record.

“I am extremely pleased to welcome Kyle and his family to Stanford,” Muir said in a statement. “Kyle has an impressive track record of improving results in the programs he has led, and we heard consistently throughout our search process that he leads with great character and integrity. I look forward to working alongside Kyle and I am excited for Cardinal student-athletes to experience his passionate leadership.”

Haase was fired after he finished his eighth season at the school without a single NCAA Tournament appearance. Stanford went 14-18 this past season and finished in a three-way tie for ninth place in the Pac-12 with an 8-12 record in conference play.

Haase posted just two winning seasons on The Farm and had a 126-127 record overall since replacing Johnny Dawkins in 2016. Stanford posted a winning record in conference play only once under Haase in 2018 and never even made it as far as the Pac-12 semifinals.

The Cardinal haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2015 under Dawkins, with the drought the longest at the school since Mike Montgomery got to the tournament in 1989 for Stanford’s first appearance since winning it all in 1942.

Montgomery built a powerhouse, making 10 straight tournament trips from 1995-2004 that included a Final Four appearance in 1998 and a No. 1 ranking in three seasons.

Trent Johnson took over after Montgomery left for the NBA in 2004 and made three tournament trips in four seasons before leaving for LSU in 2008.

The Cardinal have made the tournament just once since then under Dawkins and Haase.

Smith will have the tough task of taking Stanford into its first campaign in the Atlantic Coast Conference next season, with tougher competition and more difficult cross-country travel, as well as dealing with issues facing all of major college sports from the transfer portal and NIL.

The decision by Smith is the latest blow for WSU. Ten of the 12 Pac-12 schools are departing the conference, leaving Washington State and Oregon State alone. The Cougars will play basketball next season as affiliate members in the West Coast Conference as the two remaining schools try to rebuild a new version of the Pac-12.

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