Leon Rice's dalliance with WSU appears to finally be over: Boise State has announced that Rice has accepted a $100,000 raise to remain the coach of the Broncos.
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"I am really excited for the future of Bronco basketball," Rice said via news release from Boise State University. "There has been a great commitment to grow this program. There's a commitment from our administration, our student-athletes and our fans. That's what has me looking forward to continuing to build what we have here at Boise State."
On the surface, this appears to be the typical leveraging of an offer for a raise that coaches engage in annually. However, I think it's a little tough to figure out exactly what happened here.
To recap one more time, here's what (we think) we know:
- Rice interviewed for the WSU vacancy.
- WSU extended an offer to Rice.
- There was some negotiating between the two sides.
- Rice turned WSU down.
- Athletics director Bill Moos and president Elson Floyd wouldn't take no for an answer.
- Rice turned WSU down again.
The popular interpretation appears to be, "Wow, how embarrassing for WSU!" And I can see why people would feel that way: Moos and Floyd put on the full-court press to land Rice, only to be rebuffed -- twice! -- by an alum who decided he'd rather stay at Boise (freakin'!!) State.
But something just feels a bit odd here. Yes, we know that WSU is not a great basketball job at the moment. But that raise Rice received? It's a pretty small relative amount -- 20 percent -- and certainly much less in terms of raw dollar figures than you typically see in these sorts of situations.
I understand that $100,000 is nothing to sneeze at, but it's certainly less than the ~$500,000 raise he'd have likely been in line for if he'd accepted WSU's offer. And coaches can only go down this road of flirtation so many times before the AD loses patience, and now he's done it once ... for this? He really went through all the headache of the negotiations with WSU while using the necessary political capital with BSU just to squeeze an extra hundred grand out of the Broncos?
And then there's this: No way Moos and Floyd get on that plane unless they feel like they have a legitimate chance to get their guy. Floyd likely doesn't tell the Board of Regents about the contract offer unless he feels like it's probably getting accepted, and it's even a bit odd to know that Moos and Floyd were even on that plane at all -- Bohler Gym is typically locked down as tight as the Stalin-era Kremlin on this sort of stuff. There's no way that info gets out unless Moos wants it out. So why did Moos want it out? Were they already very close, and Rice changed his mind at the 11th hour?
This all just seems ... odd.
Perhaps it's just what I said it might become at the very beginning of this process: Rice was intrigued, but ultimately got cold feet as he didn't see WSU as a good bet to forward his career, given the rebuild job that was ahead of him, and decided he'd rather bet his future on the four starters that are coming back to Boise next season to make another run at the NCAA tournament.
This is an odd year for major conference basketball in that WSU is the only job open out west. You'd think that might make a guy more likely to jump -- the Pac-12 is still the Pac-12. But Rice is in a somewhat unique position in that he can return to a strong situation. Beyond that, it figures that there likely will be multiple jobs open next year, and if he can put the Broncos back in the tournament with a senior-laden team, his stock is going to be a lot higher than it is now, and he can almost certainly get himself a better contract than what WSU was offering and at a place that probably isn't as challenging to win.
And honestly, it became less of a gamble when Boise State agreed to reduce the win total necessary to roll over his five-year contract -- only 18 wins, which isn't all that difficult when playing at least 31 games a season. BSU won 21 games in this "disappointing" season; even if next year's team similarly disappoints, he'll still have a five-year contract.
So, where does WSU go from here? Fans seem to think that if an alum turned us down for such a small raise at Boise (freaking!!) State, perhaps the job is perceived much worse than we all wanted to believe. That might be true. If it is, it will be interesting to see if Moos sticks to his "head coaches only" manifesto. And if he does, expect names like Marvin Menzies, Wayne Tinkle and the like to start to gain some momentum. I'd also love it if Rodney Terry was in that mix.
But it will be interesting to see if Moos backs off from that stance -- there's a part of me that wonders if WSU wouldn't do best by finding a young, eager assistant looking for his shot. This might not be a great job for a guy who already has a head coaching gig. But for an assistant who's making about what Rice just picked up in a raise? You might be able to get someone with a lot of potential.
If nothing else, going that route increases the intrigue within a fan base that exhibited a collective "yawn" when word started to get out that Rice was the target.