Taking stock of the WSU basketball coaching search

Saul Phillips opened some eyes in the NCAA tournament. - Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There's not a lot of information coming out of Bohler Gym these days, but that won't stop us from trying to read the tea leaves in the internet rumors.

It's been a week since WSU athletics director Bill Moos fired men's basketball coach Ken Bone, and any hopes that fans had that Moos already had a Mike Leach-type hire lined up have been put to rest. Not only is there no coach, there really aren't any strong rumors coming out of Pullman.

Here's what we do know.

As he said a week ago on the conference call and reiterated on Tuesday during his weekly radio show, Moos wants to make the hire before the end of the NCAA tournament. He said that he has a short list, and -- like the football coach search -- Moos is the search committee: He noted that he knows what a good coach looks like and knows what kind of coach he wants.

He just doesn't yet know which coach that actually is.

"I'm working my way through the short list and I don't want to jump the gun," Moos said. "Maybe the No. 3 person on the short list is more impressive than No. 1. I'm working through that, and we'll see how it lays out. There's interest in this job, and there are people who believe we can win at Washington State."

Moos is a politician, so I'll leave it up to you to decide if this means he's truly vetting everyone or if it actually means he struck out on his initial targets.

He also reiterated that a coach who can recruit is paramount -- something that shouldn't come as a shock in the wake of the tenure of a coach who is considered an excellent basketball mind but finished at or near the bottom of the standings in three of his five years.

"I'm one that believes that those 68 teams that are playing in that tournament, there are a lot more of them that are there due to good players, rather than good coaching," Moos said.

When you combine the fact that the search is taking more than a week with Moos' reminders that recruiting rules, I think we now can make some educated guesses about where this is heading -- or, at least, where it's probably not heading. And, like last time, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list; it's merely a look at guys whose status might have changed in the last week.

Leon Rice, Boise State

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Rice was at the top of our list last week, and while it's possible he's still a candidate, it's hard to imagine it would take this long if he was the guy. Boise State didn't play in a postseason tournament, and not of lot of vetting needs to be done with a guy who was well respected as a Gonzaga assistant and has taken Boise to the NCAA tournament. His resume speaks for itself at this point, and if it was speaking loud enough, Moos probably would have moved quickly here -- unless Rice turned Moos down. The fact that there's no deal here yet leads me to believe Moos is likely looking in another direction.

VERDICT: STOCK DOWN

Edit, 3/29: Indeed, Rice is out.

Edit, a bit later on 3/29: Maybe not!

Edit, a bit later on 3/29: Yep, he's out.

Ernie Kent

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Similar story here with Kent: There's absolutely no reason why this deal wouldn't be done by now if Kent was who Moos truly wanted ... assuming Kent wants the gig, which he might not. Moos knows what he's getting -- and Kent certainly fits the bill of a recruiter -- but if he's holding out hope that "No. 3 might be better than No. 1," that doesn't say much about how he views Kent -- unless, of course, Kent already turned him down. Either way, despite a report by Scout.com's Lindsey Thiry on the Cougfan.com message boards that Kent was a done deal, it's pretty obvious that he's not, and every day that passes probably makes that a more remote possibility.

VERDICT: STOCK DOWN

Saul Phillips, North Dakota State

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Every year, there's a coach whose stock skyrockets thanks to the NCAA tournament. Phillips is one of those guys this year. One upset does not a reputation make, but it's hard not to be impressed by what Phillips has done at North Dakota State; Tim Miles (now making noise at Nebraska) handled the transition to Division I, and two years after Miles' departure, he had the Bison in the Big Dance. Beyond that, consider that Phillips' team -- in his second tournament appearance -- sent Oklahoma packing in Spokane ... right in front of Moos. Phillips is a Wisconsin native, so he could be a candidate at Marquette. But it would be surprising if Phillips didn't open Moos' eyes over the weekend to get on the "short list."

VERDICT: STOCK UP

Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State

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Similar deal to Phillips -- the No. 13 seed Aggies put on an impressive performance to nearly knock off No. 4 seed San Diego State, and they did it in front of Moos in Spokane. Menzies has gotten New Mexico State in the NCAA tournament three consecutive years, and four of the last five. And he's done it by mining unusual places for talent -- notably Canada, where he was able to find star guard Daniel Mullings and 7-foot-5 center Sim Bhullar. As someone who advocated for this kind of outside-the-box thinking in recruiting, I approve of Menzies being a part of the discussion. A potential red flag? NMSU didn't actually win the WAC regular season title in any of the years of the NCAA tournament. Bright side? Maybe WSU could actually win a Pac-12 tournament game!

VERDICT: STOCK UP

Rodney Terry, Fresno State

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There's no indication that Terry is on Moos' short list, but he fits the bill of what he's looking for -- namely, a strong recruiter. He's made huge strides at a traditionally downtrodden program, culminating with a deep run in the CBI this year. We know all too well that the CBI isn't exactly a predictor of future success, but it is a validation of the work Terry is doing there. For that, his stock should be up -- we just don't know if it's enough to seriously be in the conversation. But he should be.

VERDICT: STOCK UP

Photos: Rice - Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports; Kent, Phillips, Menzies - Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports; Terry - Ethan Miller.

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