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HCA: A closer look at Kyle Smith and the ‘data raid’

Kyle Smith is bringing something Washington State basketball hasn’t had in a while: interest.

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WSU Athletics

Nerdball. Data Raid. Money (basket) Ball.

Call it what you want, but Kyle Smith fever is coming to Pullman. And things have already started to change on the hardwood.

In one of his first practices in Pullman, new WSU basketball coach Kyle Smith had his staff keep track of his players makes and misses as well as their position on the floor. In a shoot around. in April.

That’s all part of the ‘Nerdball’ program Smith is bringing to Washington State. Yesterday, in the Athletic Brian Bennett went in depth on the program, taking a closer look at how Cougar basketball will change under Smith. The entire article is well worth a read, but if you don’t subscribe to The Athletic, we’ll give you a Cliff’s Notes version here.

A large part of the piece details how athletic director Pat Chun went about his search for a new head coach and, as it turns out, he found Smith through an article on The Athletic detailing his unique system. Chun was hesitant, but he went into the interview with Smith who “knocked our socks off.”

“My mindset going into interview was, Are we gutsy enough to experiment like this?” Chun told The Athletic. “But once you go through the data, that’s when you say, ‘Wow, this guy is a proven head coach who has a tool that puts him ahead of the curve.’ In the end, he was the lowest-risk hire we could have made.”

But despite all of the analytic talk around him, Smith isn’t the numbers guy many people expect him to be. Early on, Smith wants to focus on fundamentals before diving deep into the numbers before implementing high-tech analytic tools like the pro-level motion tracking system he used at San Francisco. “That’s like Year 3, to be honest,” Smith told the Athletic. “We’ve got to slow it down. It scares our guys a little bit. I tell them, ‘Relax, it’s still basketball. It’s just a tool, a guide.’”

But while fundamentals rule the day on the court, the staff will use numbers and spreadsheets behind the scenes to get an edge. Smith, his assistant John Andrzejek and a USF math professor created an algorithm to evaluate recruits using stats and measurements from every level of play. “The formula can tell you that a guy might be playing like a Power 5 recruit but his offers are from low-major or mid-major type schools,” Andrzejek told the Athletic.

In the end, Chun was looking for a unique hire. He wanted a coach with a strong emphasis on a system, in line with Tony Bennett and Kelvin Sampson - Two guys that have found rare success in Pullman, Washington.

“We don’t believe that his system will simply make us competitive again,” Chun told the Athletic. “We believe it will get us ahead of the curve.”

Embrace the Data Raid: How Kyle Smith plans to bring success to Washington State – The Athletic ($)
In one of the first team gatherings under new coach Kyle Smith, Washington State assembled for an afternoon shootaround. It seemed like a low-stakes affair. Get some shots up, break a little sweat, call it a day.


Pat Chun makes change in Washington State dugout, firing coach Marty Lees after four seasons | The Spokesman-Review
Marty Lees is out as baseball coach at Washington State University. The fourth-year coach has been fired with three games left on the Cougars’ schedule, WSU athletic director Pat Chun announced Tuesday. WSU is 11-39-1 this season.

Cougars make change in baseball leadership - KXLY
Washington State University Director of Athletics Pat Chun announced Tuesday that Head Baseball Coach Marty Lees has been relieved of his coaching duties, effective immediately.

Pac-12 Conference

Pac-12 financial outlook still not strong
The Pac-12 released a statement that said some of the revenue loss was offset by returning to the schools some Rose Bowl money that had been withheld from previous years, in case of shortfalls.

Monson: The Pac-12 is no longer the Conference of Champions. It’s the Conference of Chump Change. - The Salt Lake Tribune
After watching a kind of State of the Sagging Union news conference regarding the Pac-12 on Monday, three notables reared up, one of which we already were painfully aware, the other two complete surprises, one a negative, the other a positive.

Pac-12's new basketball standards will force some teams to schedule stiffer | Arizona Wildcats basketball |
Four teams didn't schedule strongly enough in 2018-19 under standards starting in 2020-21.