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Kyle Smith and an offseason of tumult

Smith and Co. are learning as they go.

NCAA Basketball: NIT Semifinal-Washington State at Texas A&M Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Good afternoon, and Happy Mother’s Day to all Coug moms out there, especially Mom Kendall and Mrs. Kendall. Happy Mother’s Day to some Beaver moms, a few Duck moms and precisely zero Husky moms. I don’t know what happened, but somewhere along the way, you lost complete control of your children’s future decisions.

Since it is Mother’s Day, and since we’ve been on the road all week, and since yours truly is about the most lazy person the interwebs have ever seen, we’re going to do what lazy people do best - use someone else’s work to prop up our own. In this case, that work was done by the Spokesman Review’s Washington State Cougars beat writer, Colton Clark.

Clark talked with WSU basketball coach Kyle Smith about what has been an, uh, eventful handful of weeks since the Cougars fell in the NIT semifinals. Pretty sure I don’t need to go over the comings and goings that we’re all aware of (particularly the “goings”), but it’s interesting to get a feel for what the captain of the ship thinks. Unsurprisingly, Smith struck an optimistic tone, but was candid about his roster’s turnover and how the new player movement rules are affecting his team.

Smith was pragmatic when it came to the new NIL and transfer rules in college athletics.

“It’s been tricky because, obviously, with the portal and NIL (name, image and likeness deals), it’s kind of changed college basketball as we know it,” Smith said.

“Really, since Day One, we’ve been trying to manage our roster and learn how to do this.”

“I’m OK with the portal and I understand it,” Smith said. “We’re trying to figure it out, but you have to kinda re-recruit your team. You gotta figure out the path moving forward, then you got the next class coming in, too.

“So, it’s been busier than we’d like, but it’ll all work out. I don’t think any coach prefers it, but a lot of coaches are in the same boat as us.”

It was refreshing to see a major college coach say something other than “OH MY GOD THIS IS THE END OF COLLEGE ATHLETICS AS WE KNOW IT WHAT EVER WILL WE DO??!!”

And there’s zero doubt as to which coach will not be on the group text when the password to the coach’s clubhouse is changed, given the following quote when Smith was asked about the departure of WSU stalwarts Efe Abogidi and Mouhamed Gueye, as well as the arrival of recruit Adrame Diongue:

“They have more options in free agency, if you will. As a coach, we kinda have the same options, too, so I get it. We’ll just have to adjust. Adrame helps offset that.”

I’m sorry, but as far as anyone was told, the overt hypocrisy surrounding the ability of coaches to move freely on the open market while preventing the players from doing the same thing was sacrosanct and no coach was ever allowed to admit that the players should have similar rights. What in the Sam Hell is going on around here??!!

Regarding other departures, I will be curious as to where Tyrell Roberts lands. While he could be equal parts exciting and frustrating during his time as WSU, Roberts seemed to be a guy who was on the fringes of a spot where he could get consistent playing time at the Power 6 level, so it was rather surprising that he departed. I get the feeling that the grass will not be greener wherever Roberts lands.

As for the guys (besides Diongue) who will fill out the 2022-23 Cougar bench, Smith and Co. have lots of proverbial irons in the fire.

The Cougars are “close” to picking up commitments from multiple players who Smith expects will “keep us on the same trajectory.” They are targeting a couple of prep prospects and a few experienced transfers and plan to sign a guard or two within the next week.

The most intriguing player on the next edition of Cougar Basketball is almost certainly Myles Rice. There were many times last season when it was apparent that WSU needed better production at the point, in order to free up Michael Flowers. Yet Rice remained on redshirt status. If he’s as good as we hope, next season’s team will be in a much better place than it may appear at the moment. And while I don’t think anyone expects eye-popping commits who transform the fortunes of next season’s team, it will be nice to hear about some additions, after we’ve had a pretty solid run of news regarding guys who likely won’t be on the roster moving forward.

As with most things, I remain firmly on team “Let’s see how things play out before making any sweeping conclusions.” Go Cougs

Basketball

Washington State coach Kyle Smith navigating 'tricky' offseason impacted greatly by transfer portal | The Spokesman-Review
The Cougars wrapped up their best season in a decade March 29, when they bowed out of the NIT Tournament in the semifinal round in New York with a loss to Texas A&M. Over the five weeks that followed, the NCAA transfer portal depleted much of WSU’s roster, claiming four regulars in the team’s lineup.

Cougs in the NFL

If you used to listen to KJR, you’re probably familiar with Mitch Levy. After the NFL Draft, Levy had former WSU and current Mississippi State offensive line coach Mason Miller on his podcast to talk about Seattle Seahawks draftees Charles Cross and Abe Lucas, as well as how Air Raid players translate to the NFL. It was an interesting segment, and starts at the one hour and forty-seven minute mark.

Episode 189 - Seahawks No-Table & La Canfora Draft Summary - Mitch Unfiltered
Former Wazzu and current Mississippi State offensive line coach provides a briefing about new Seahawks Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas.

Seahawks get first look at bookend tackles Charles Cross and Washington State's Abraham Lucas | The Spokesman-Review
Lucas was across the state in Pullman during the draft. He drove home early in the week and quietly spent time with family before reporting to the Seahawks.

Baseball

Cougs win! WSU beat Utah Valley for the second straight game on Saturday - rallying from a 7-2 deficit - and will go for a sweep on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. You can stream the game via the WSU Athletics website.

Smith Records Four Hits, WSU Rallies for 9-7 Win - Washington State University Athletics
Washington State received four hits from Jack Smith and the Cougars rallied with three runs in the sixth inning and four in the seventh for a 9-7 win over Utah Valley at Bailey-Brayton Field Saturday afternoon.

This Week in Parenting

On Monday, the 10 year-old read a self-authored letter to his baseball teammates and coaches, pledging to do better in the behavior area at practice. Things seemed to go ok after that, until we got another email this week regarding his school antics, this one titled “situation.” I’ll just leave it at that.

In other news, travel baseball! Many weeks back, Mrs. Kendall alerted me to a baseball tournament in Brno, Czechia that would take place 4-7 May. A quick look at the calendar revealed that most of those days are during the week. Oh, and did I mention that school is still in session? “Do these tournament organizers ever look at a freaking calendar when scheduling these events?” was my most salient question. Mrs. Kendall quickly made her case, telling me that this would be our only chance to travel with the team, as we’re moving this summer and the only other tournament takes place over Memorial Weekend which is a nonstarter, as we’ll be anywhere but a baseball diamond.

Side note - there may or may not be a tacit motivation on the part of travel sports parents to sign on to these tournaments for the side benefit of drinking socializing with other parents in a relaxed setting (read: hotel bar). Guilty as charged (I brought my own beer because there’s only so much Czech pilsner that a sane person can tolerate).

So we made our plans, and I did my best to minimize the damage to missed school by scheduling a late flight on Tuesday instead of driving, which would have meant four missed school days. The proceedings started well, as the 15U edition of the Outlaws won both games on day one, guaranteeing a spot in the semifinals. Day two brought a loss to a bunch of huge kids from Brno (no joke, almost all of them looked old enough to buy me a beer). That set up a semifinal with the Future Stars from The Netherlands. They actually had two teams there, and the Outlaws beat the brakes off the B squad on Day 1. Now it was time to face the team that was apparently the runaway tournament favorite.

When we arrived, the parents (all 5-6 of us) learned from an assistant that this team sported the top baseball prospect in The Netherlands. And man, did this kid look the part. He was all of 6 feet, and had silky smooth moves at shortstop. He was also a f***ing cocky-ass dude, and it was readily apparent that his coach had no interest in checking his ego. Oh, and it also became clear that this was definitely a “Kingdom of The Netherlands” team, as there certainly weren’t any dudes named Jan or Hendrik dotting the roster. They were boisterous and happy, which I thought was cool. They were also gigantic, and when juxtaposed with our guys (not one kid over 14), this one looked like a mismatch.

Due to an extremely gutsy effort by the Outlaws pitcher, the score was 2-1 headed to the bottom of the 6th. The time limit was set to expire if we’d be able to hold them scoreless, but things went south, and the Dutch team scored to tie it. To the 7th we went, and us parents had transformed into big masses of stress. We were also outgunned in the rooting section, as The Netherlands B Squad, the same team the Outlaws had smashed in the opener, were there to cheer on their team and taunt our coaches. One of those is acceptable. But like I told the boys at Sunday dinner, the kids will take things as far as the adults allow, so their behavior was a reflection of their coaching.

We managed to load the bases in the top of the 7th, and the defenders were all playing shallow. Then one of our guys smoked a line drive over the outfielders, scoring two. Let’s go live to the scene:

The Russian manager Dutch coach, after abiding his team’s antics for the entire game, finally realized his ass was in a fight, so he brought in the big shortstop to pitch. The kid was throwing in the mid-80s (#yikes), and his catcher was not ready. A wild pitch scored another, and it was 5-2 as we went to the bottom of the last inning.

A leadoff walk brought up the big shortstop/pitcher, and he promptly smoked a line drive to right center. The runner took off from first, assuming an extra base hit was in the offing (for the entire game, The Netherlands team played fast and loose with base running, thinking its speed would overcome any miscue). But our right fielder was positioned well enough to make the catch, then threw a laser to double off the runner at first. Mr. Superstar was so aghast that he didn’t even go back to the dugout, choosing instead to sit near the fence, all by himself. A true team leader! One batter remained, and the Outlaws reliever struck him out. Ballgame. David beat Goliath once again (seriously, those Netherlands guys looked like a pro team when standing next to our guys).

In a moment of weakness, yours truly may or may not have yelled at the Dutch coach to enjoy playing for third place as the players celebrated, as the entitled shortstop laid down in the outfield for several minutes after the game ended. We hated to see it. The best takeaway was that my oldest boy got to be part of one of the gutsiest wins I’ve ever seen on a baseball diamond, in what was probably his last event with the team (and I’ve watched a lot of baseball!) And while the end was rather anti-climactic (we lost the title game, 8-3), I’m damn glad that we decided to make the trip. So here’s to the Outlaws. I’m not kidding one bit when I say they were the youngest and least imposing-looking team in the entire field. Despite that, they damn near pulled off the whole thing.

(This was taken shortly after the title game, so the weren’t exactly in a great mood. But we’re extraordinarily proud nonetheless).

Non-Sports

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“It’s All About Choices”: Inside the End of ‘Ozark’ - The Ringer
After initially being plagued by comparisons to ‘Breaking Bad,’ the Netflix drama has separated itself, and is now set to go out as one of the streamer’s best series ever.