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WSU announces Kyle Smith as men’s basketball coach

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Roughly one day after Smith’s hiring was reported by multiple outlets, the Cougars make it official.

NCAA Basketball: San Francisco at St. Mary’s Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

About one day after the first reports of his hiring trickled out, the Washington State Cougars make it official: Kyle Smith is their new men’s basketball coach.

In the release, WSU also confirmed The Spokesman Review’s report earlier today that Smith signed a six-year, $1.4 million per year deal with the Cougs, though additional terms of the contract have not yet been disclosed. Smith, formerly the coach of the San Francisco Dons of the West Coast Conference, is scheduled to meet the media at a press conference on Monday.

“When I think of Washington State basketball, I think of the great coaches that have been there, going back to Marv Harshman, George Raveling, Kelvin Sampson and then Tony Bennett, to name a few,” Smith said in the statement. “The most recent success being Tony Bennett, who actually offered me a job when his dad left and he was appointed head coach. He’s obviously done great things and he’s always been kind of a mentor of mine. I just hope I can honor the tradition of those coaches that came before me.”

Smith brings a very unique style of coaching to the Palouse. Dubbed “Nerdball”, Smith’s approach to the game is heavily driven by the numbers, relying on some 50 different statistical categories while he evaluates his team.

Smith worked with Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett for years, diving into the statistics of Ken Pomeroy from the early days. It fits the profile of what athletic director Pat Chun and university president Kirk Schulz were looking for in their next coach.

“We set a goal of finding the best head coach for Washington State University,” Chun said in the release. “Kyle Smith fulfilled all of our criteria in meeting this goal. Coach Smith has a proven record of success, a commitment to academic excellence and a passion for developing every aspect of his student-athletes. The methodology he has created in building basketball programs for sustainable excellence is like none other in the sport.”

Who Smith will bring with him coaching wise at Washington State or who he might retain from Ernie Kent’s staff is yet to be seen. Former Garfield High School head coach Ed Haskins and former WSU player Bennie Seltzer both just completed their second seasons on staff and might warrant at least a long look from Smith before he makes any final decisions.

Smith will also likely he hitting the recruiting trail hard, most notably to keep big man Nigel John, who reopened his recruiting, in the fold.

Prior to his newly-minted Washington State tenure, Smith spent three years with the San Francisco Dons where he amassed 63 wins with two postseason appearances in the CBI. He also coached at Columbia for six years, winning 20 games twice in what would arguably be the Lions’ most successful half decade in more than half a century.