New WSU Cougars coach David Riley ready to rebuild roster

Apr 17, 2024, 1:59 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)

New WSU Cougars men’s basketball coach David Riley knows he has plenty of work in front of him, but he’s excited to build off of what he views as a promising foundation put in place by the previous coaching staff.

WSU Cougars hire David Riley away from EWU as basketball coach

Riley was hired as WSU’s next coach on April 2 after spending the past three seasons leading the EWU Eagles in nearby Cheney. He replaced Kyle Smith, who left for the same position at Stanford after guiding the Cougars to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 16 years. A whopping 10 WSU players have entered the transfer portal since Smith left. The list includes standout freshman Myles Rice, who announced his commitment to Indiana last weekend.

Riley discussed the roster turnover his new squad is facing and more Wednesday on Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy.

“Well, that’s just kind of the reality of college basketball right now,” Riley said. “Especially when there’s a coaching change, there’s a lot of turnover on rosters. And I think the foundation and the culture that’s been here is something that’s special, so that’s something to build on right off the bat.”

That sort of turnover isn’t something new for Riley, however. When he took over at EWU, the team’s top seven scorers transferred, but he was able to put together a roster that produced a winning season. The Eagles then won the Big Sky regular season title and produced over 20 wins in back-to-back seasons.

“We found a way to rebuild quick,” Riley said, “and I think it’s the same mindset (here at WSU) to find the right people that want to be here, that want to develop and try to retain some of these guys, and we’ll see how that how that goes. But I think the blueprint has been set pretty well these last couple years here at Washington State.”

Riley, who is the nephew of former Oregon State football coach Mike Riley, graduated from Spokane’s Whitworth University with a degree in mathematical economics. He characterized himself as a numbers guy and praised the way Smith and his staff excelled in using analytics, but said his approach won’t be as numbers-based.

“What they did with the ‘nerd ball’ I think was really impressive. We don’t necessarily take it that far,” Riley said. “I think it’s a valuable tool that we’re going to use, but I see it as a team game. I think that’s the biggest thing is trying to get guys connected, and I know that doesn’t necessarily match up with the mathematical economics degree, but that’s kind of the beauty of the game. It’s jazz, you’ve got to improvise, you’ve got to be able to play off of each other, and I think our teams represent that.”

Listen to the full conversation at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. Tune in to Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy weekdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

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