Rick Sloan has become synonymous with WSU track and field over the past 41 years, the last 20 of which he spent as the head coach of the program. Over the weekend, he coached his final meet at Mooberry Track when WSU hosted the Pac-12 championships.
While his teams didn't perform all that well on the track (the men finished ninth out of 10 teams, while the women finished eighth), off the track, WSU gave Sloan quite the send off by inviting a plethora of former athletes and coaches back to Pullman to honor him.
Among them were middle distance runner Bernard Lagat, who has gone on to Olympic glory since his days in Pullman.
“This night is about Sloan and let me tell you, I’m so happy that I get to be here because I had to see him, give him that hug and say ‘thank you’ from the bottom of my heart,” Lagat said. “Without him, I wouldn’t have had this experience of coming to America, getting a full scholarship to come here to study and get my degree so I owe him so much, he’s the greatest man."
That was the common theme of the evening, and Sloan -- who found himself overcome with emotion in the video above -- returned the love.
“The athletes that we’ve had in our program in my 41 years, I love all of them - from ’73 all the way to the current team that we have now.” Sloan said, “It’s been a great career at Washington State and it’s been my joy to work with so many athletes.”
Who replaces Sloan, however, still is up in the air. The program has slipped a bit in recent years -- although WSU walked away with a pair of champs this weekend, high jumper Charlotte Muschamp and 400-meter hurdler C.J. Allen -- and athletics director Bill Moos has been working all year on lining up a replacement. He has yet to make an announcement.
“If we’re going to specialize, where are we going to do it?” athletic director Bill Moos wondered aloud to Spokesman-Review columnist John Blanchette. “When we’ve had success in the past, it’s been in the distances and the throws. Can we still go head-to-head with Oregon, Stanford and Arizona in the distances? The question I’ll have is, ‘What is your recipe for success?’ ”
While it hasn't been the best of times lately, whoever it is that WSU eventually hires would do well to replicate the overall success and longevity of Sloan.