“Do you floss everyday?”
It’s rare that a power five men’s basketball head coach faces the media and asks reporters about their oral hygiene habits. Surprisingly, everyone at the media scrum said they flossed everyday.
“Well, only one guy on my team flosses every day, and it’s Jeff Pollard,” Washington State Cougars head coach Kyle Smith told reporters Tuesday at Pac-12 media day.
No, this wasn’t some Mike Leach-esque diatribe. Flossing is just one thing the new man in charge of Washington State basketball uses to evaluate his players.
“Before I left down here, we put dental floss in all their lockers,” Smith said. “It’s the thing you have to do that you don’t want to do, and we put value on that stuff, whether it’s a loose ball or a charge. Everyone does it, but really, we’re basically negotiating for playing time on who’s doing those things.”
Welcome to the new era of Washington State basketball. Welcome to “nerd ball.”
Kyle Smith, Jeff Pollard and CJ Elleby made the trip to the Bay Area on Monday as part of the annual Pac-12 basketball media day. We’ll have more on Smith’s approach to turning around the Cougs in a moment, but first, let’s get all the news items out of the way.
Pac-12 Preseason Poll
Oregon edges Colorado as 2019-20 Pac-12 Men's Basketball favorite | Pac-12
Five teams picked up first place votes in one of the closest Pac-12 preseason media polls ever ... but none of those teams were the Cougs. Washington State was picked to finish 11th in the conference this season, finishing with 47 points. That total puts them 12 ahead of last place California in the voting.
All Pac-12 Preseason Team
Elleby Named Preseason First Team All-Pac-12 - Washington State University Athletics
After a record-breaking freshman season, WSU forward CJ Elleby was one of 10 players named to the Pac-12 preseason all-conference team. Elleby finished the year averaging nearly 15 points per game and, in total, put up a freshman record 471 points, breaking the 45-year-old mark set by Steve Puidokas.
“He just has a really wonderful attitude,” Smith said about Elleby. “He’s all eyes and ears. He has the most to lose by having a coaching change, and for him to opt back in and embrace what we’re doing is special.”
Elleby figures to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the Cougs in year one under Smith. It’s likely to be a year of adjustment as Smith implements his much talked about “data raid” or “nerd ball” game plan.
“It’s really a football thing where they grade out every play,” Smith explained. “In essence that’s kind of what we’re doing with basketball and being very transparent with our guys and showing them what they have to do to get better and what they need to do to get on the floor.”
Remember that floss thing? Sure, it’s a gimmick, but it shows that guys are buying in. And when you’re looking to change almost everything about a program, buying in is important.
“Yeah, or else you don’t get to play,” Smith said. “I’ve got to have the guts to do that. That’s the part, because there’s going to be push-back from some guys. ... That’s why I don’t mind sharing it because it’s tough. I’ve been doing it 20 years and it’s still a challenge to certain guys.”
But in the end, Smith has faith in his system and he has no doubt that he can get it to work in Pullman.
“Going back to Coach Raveling, Coach Sampson, most recently the Bennett duo, and they did it in similar fashion to where you build a program, getting guys with great attitudes, great work ethic, guys that really want to be there,” Smith said. “That’s kind of been the key at other places we’ve been, although one is New York City, one is San Francisco and now Pullman. I don’t know about the confidence, but we’re going to stick with what we do.”
You can watch Smith’s full press conference below.
You can also see Elleby and Pollard sing karaoke and play weird party games below.
But seriously, has anyone had more fun than @EllebyCJ and @jpollard43 today?— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) October 8, 2019
Download Pac-12 Now and set alerts to watch @WSUCougarMBB games on us all season. https://t.co/iECfYukZgo pic.twitter.com/7BQlZFuMzn
More Media Day
CJ Elleby makes preseason all-conference team; Washington State picked to finish 11th in Pac-12 | The Spokesman-Review
If Washington State’s basketball program is going to take a step forward in year one under Kyle Smith, the Cougars will likely need another standout season from one of their youngest players.
CJ Elleby says he never seriously considered transferring from Washington State
Regardless of what might have been said, CJ Elleby never had serious intentions on transferring from Washington State.
Player speeches after Utah loss could reflect new wave of leadership for Washington State | The Spokesman-Review
Before Leach and his assistant coaches showed up to an all-team meeting following the Utah loss, a few players used the down time to address their larger group of peers – an audience that included every offensive player, defensive player and specialist. The messages themselves were impactful, but maybe not as much as the mouths they came from.
College football odds, picks, predictions for Week 7
Arizona State is just 1-5 against the spread in its last six home games, while Washington State is 5-1 against the number in its last six games on the road.