New WSU coach David Riley embraces uncertainty with Cougars

Apr 4, 2024, 4:42 PM

WSU Cougars David Riley EWU basketball coach...

EWU men's basketball coach David Riley during a 2021 game. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

(AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

David Riley finally found an opportunity that made him think it was time to leave what he helped create at Eastern Washington of the Big Sky Conference. Despite uncertainty about the future, Riley made the jump in part because all it required was a short move down the road.

WSU hires David Riley away from EWU as basketball coach

Riley was introduced Thursday as the coach at Washington State, taking over for Kyle Smith, who left for the same position at Stanford after leading the Cougars to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 16 years.

“It’s just the idea of being in a college town where there’s no distractions, you have a really passionate group around you that cares about the university, that cares about the basketball team,” Riley said of his move to Washington State. “There’s a real support system here and I think it’s very conducive to building a family atmosphere with the team.”

Riley is young – he’s only 35. He spent 13 years at Eastern Washington in a variety of roles, and he’s only been a head coach for three years.

But was highly successful in that stint, going 62-30. With WSU facing a shaky foundation, David Riley could end up being an optimal hire for the Cougars to navigate the next few years.

“We’re going to have high expectations for next year, but I think we’ve got the right coach that can work with our players and make sure that we’re exceeding those expectations,” Washington State president Kirk Schulz said.

Riley led Eastern Washington to consecutive Big Sky regular season titles the past two years. Riley said he’s turned down previous offers to leave Eastern Washington. But only having to move 70 miles down the road to take over a program coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance was one he couldn’t pass up.

“I definitely passed up on a lot of opportunities, a lot of different opportunities that people on paper we’re like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’” Riley said. “But this is a place that means a lot to me and it had to be the perfect situation for me to leave. This is that.”

While the Cougars are coming off a March Madness berth, the program will look far different under Riley. Several key players have already entered the transfer portal. Standout Jaylen Wells announced Thursday that he would be entering the NBA draft while retaining his college eligibility.

There are also big questions about Washington State’s future following the collapse of the Pac-12 and the interim lifeline that will have the Cougars competing in the West Coast Conference.

“Just hearing some confidence from the leadership here was big but at the end of the day it’s Washington State, it’s a big-time program. There’s a ton of passion for the basketball program, for the university. I know it’s going to be a great spot,” Riley said.

‘Pac-2′ of WSU, Oregon State cashing in, could be more to come


NCAA college football 25 ea sports uw huskies wsu cougars...

Ryan Kryska

College Football 25 trailer revealed as UW Huskies, WSU Cougars set for return to video games

With College Football 25, fans of the UW Huskies and WSU Cougars can play as their favorite team in a video game for the first time in over a decade.

21 hours ago

WSU Cougars Jake Dickert Pac-12...

Brent Stecker

WSU Cougars football announces national TV homes, some kickoff times

The remaining members of the Pac-12, the WSU Cougars and Oregon State Beavers, have new deals to air their football games on national television networks.

4 days ago

WSU Kyle Manzardo...

Tom Withers

WSU product, top prospect gets called up to make MLB debut

Hard-hitting prospect Kyle Manzardo, a WSU Cougars product who has been bashing minor league pitchers this season, will now join a Cleveland lineup that can use some middle muscle.

12 days ago

NFL Draft UW Huskies Rome Odunze... Staff

WA NFL Draft Tracker: UW Huskies, WSU and local picks

In this tracker, we'll keep you updated on UW Huskies, WSU Cougars and others players with local ties taken in the 2024 NFL Draft.

22 days ago

WSU Cougars David Riley EWU basketball coach...

Zac Hereth

New WSU Cougars coach David Riley ready to rebuild roster

New WSU Cougars men's basketball coach David Riley is ready to tackle the challenging roster turnover he faces in his first year in Pullman.

1 month ago

Seattle Seahawks NFL Draft Jaden Hicks...

Brandon Gustafson

Seahawks Draft: A versatile WSU Cougars standout on defense

WSU safety Jaden Hicks is "awesome" and "a really good defender," PFF's Trevor Sikema said when discussing the Seattle Seahawks and NFL Draft.

1 month ago

New WSU coach David Riley embraces uncertainty with Cougars