The shakeup with coaching changes in the WCC is interesting, probably needed, will present some challenges, but some things in the league will not change.
Portland, San Francisco, Pacific and Santa Clara all have new head coaches this summer as they join their peers scouring AAU tournaments and high schools for recruits. But there’s no evidence it will rock the pecking order of the league with Gonzaga as top dog, followed by either Saint Mary’s or BYU.
It’s just the way it is.
BYU and Saint Mary’s will still be the leaders in chasing the Zags. Nothing should change. Gonzaga has its way of getting elite transfers to Spokane, mingled with top-rated high school recruits, and Saint Mary’s has its Australian imports. BYU has its Lone Peak pipeline — a program built on high school seniors — and a good run of specialty transfers like Matt Carlino, Chase Fischer, Kyle Davis and expected star Elijah Bryant.
So, what’s new?
Except the Zags, Gaels and Cougars will be better in 2016-17. Gonzage is reloading, Saint Mary’s returns everybody who counted. BYU?
In Provo, Dave Rose hopes now that he has the pieces back from an ESPN No. 14 ranked recruiting class of 2013, he can make a run for BYU’s first ever WCC title and tournament championship.
For the first time in many seasons, he’ll have big athletic post players like Eric Mika and Corbin Kaufusi (back from football for WCC play) to match up with his shooters.
Rose has seen coaching changes before when competing in the Mountain West. New Mexico, Colorado State, Air Force and Wyoming turned over leadership.
“If you take a two-year span in a conference, it does remind me of the MWC,” said Rose. “But in one year, four guys? That’s probably a record.”
Rose said changes force a lot of “real intense and extra work” at the start of the season. “We’ll have to watch all of these games really closely. We’ll do that once the league starts but we have an idea of their style, their personnel, what their coaches like to do.
“But with a new coach, like this year with Lamont Smith at San Diego, we spent a lot of time in December and late November on him when we weren’t even going to play him until February but we wanted to see what he was doing. We have to do that with four teams this year. That’s probably a record.”
Santa Clara fired Kerry Keating and hired former Arizona State coach Herb Sendek; Pacific replaced Ron Verlin with Damon Stoudamire; San Francisco fired Rex Walters and brought in Kyle Smith, and Portland’s Eric Reveno was replaced by former NBA star Terry Porter.
“Kyle Smith is one guy we can get a bead on because he’s coming from Columbia. But Terry Porter is new, Damon is brand new and Herb we know something about because he’s been at Arizona State.”
Rose called all of the new coaches “exceptional hires.” They were hired for specific needs in their programs.
“I’m not a proponent of ‘if things aren’t going right change the coach.’ Coaches kind of protect each other. We all know when things aren’t going right it isn’t just the head coach. But when the AD’s make a change, they have something in mind and a lot of the time it’s just perception. At Portland, they may have felt they needed more of the community involved and they went out and hired Terry Porter. My goodness, how can you get a better guy?
“At Pacific, they wanted to get things going so they go hire a former NBA guy whose been at Memphis and Arizona. They want to interject excitement. Kyle Smith is a guy who knows this league really well and was successful at Columbia. Rex Walters has had really good recruiting classes but had a tough time keeping them there, people transferred out. That’s a great hire with Kyle. Herb is proven.
“They’ve all done a great job in the hires and I’m not saying they should have been replaced. They are all great hires.”
But will they shake up the WCC Top Three?