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Roundtable: Taking stock of WSU basketball

In which the authors are really, really not encouraged by the direction of the program.

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

This is what the authors talk about when y'all aren't around ...

Jeff Nusser: Let's start here: General feelings about the current state of the basketball program?

Kyle Sherwood: toe tags. like, Paul Graham dead.

Nusser: Wow. You just cut right to the chase. How dead? Totally dead until there's a coaching change, or mostly dead until Kent maybe turns this around?

Craig Powers: Depressed, as in I have often looked back at the Paul Graham years, which ended just before my freshman year in Pullman, and thought that was the floor for our basketball program. Maybe it isn't!

Sherwood: It's hard to see this program having any life for at least a couple more years. And that's being generous. This team was terrible last year; and departures have made them demonstrably worse for next year. And nobody is coming.

Craig: Yeah, that's the worst part. There is no help on the way. No immediate impact recruit, or even impact in a year or two recruit.

And what little talent the program has left is transferring or leaving after next season.

Nusser: I'm with you guys -- I don't see how it's possible they could be better next year, unless Kent adds an impact grad transfer or something -- it's not like they had some emerging young talents this season who just needed a little more seasoning. Literally every guy Kent brought in last season looked like he was in over his head, and while I think they obviously can improve, I don't know how reasonable it is to expect massive improvement. And I also don't know how much more we can expect out of Ike Iroegbu or Josh Hawkinson. So, all that said, do you either of you have any faith at all at this point that Kent can turn it around?

Sherwood: Like is it possible? Sure. But he'll have to change up how he's doing things. He'll need to hire younger/better recruiters. He'll need to find talent internationally. He'll need to assure everyone involved that EVERYTHING IS FINE and there is a concrete plan to turn things around. Or he might just get super lucky. I'm sure that's happened before, too.

I'm just not sure there's any expectations to win. Dude got a contract extension after going 1-18. I think I'd just like to know what I SHOULD be expecting here. If the goal is to fill the stands and win basketball games, he's failing. If the goal is to recruit good kids, be good stewards in the community and graduate everyone on time, then be upfront with that, too. Because literally anyone could do option 2 and it wouldn't cost $1.4M.

And if I'm supposed to give this team time, when is the cutoff? Because they way things look, this program won't have any semblence of competitiveness until at least his fifth year and that's like the literally most optimistic outcome. And you'd have to put together a Glengarry sales pitch to convince me that possibility is even remote.(edited)

Craig: You aren't drawing me into any bold statements, Nuss, but nice try. I always thought the regular Doritos were just fine, even could deal with the Spicy Nacho. But those bold flavors aren't for me. But as the programs is being operated now, I see no happy future, as Sherwood states so eloquently above. The one thing we had to hold onto was Kent's up tempo style, that even in defeat we might see the team hit some dang shots. Unfortunately, Kent went full Ken Bone at the end of the season and slowed his team down because of its massive talent deficit. Well, that deficit isn't getting any smaller. So, let's all look forward to a year of boring, bad, slow-for-the-sake-of-being-slow basketball.

Looking at the overall picture: WSU has a coach that was out of the game for four years, and clearly doesn't have the recruiting contacts he once possessed. Add that he is recruiting to facilities that aren't on par with his competition--and not just Pac-12 recruiting competition, but Mountain West as well. Oh, and the team is coming off one of the worst seasons in the program's recent history, and the task of drawing in the right talent--and Kent needs top talent to succeed--seems near-impossible.

But hey at least we owe Kent another $6 million.

Sherwood: $7 million, actually.

Craig: Oops. bad at the maths

Good thing WSU is raking in all that Pac-12 Network cash, so it really doesn't matter how much the basketball coach costs.

Nusser: I'm so on board with what you said about style, and I think that actually ties in a little bit with what Kyle said about recruiting. I'm on record as saying that I think WSU needs a system coach of some variety in order to be successful, given the obvious inherent disadvantages in recruiting -- you better have a clear sense of how you want to play and an exceptional talent for recruiting athletes who fit that profile. I thought I had a keen sense of what Kent wanted to do after that first season, but last year just blew that all to pieces.

One thing that I think makes Mike Leach successful is that if he's going down, he's going to go down his way, and go down swinging, as we saw in 2014. Is Kent's talent just that poor that he'll just straight up abandon what he wants to do? Or is he that weak in his convictions about how to play the game that it doesn't take all that much to get him away from it? I tend to think it's the latter, given that they were going to get their teeth kicked in last year no matter what style they played. And that's as depressing as anything, because I don't think a coach can effectively lead a program that way.

Sherwood: I was not on board with the Kent hire, but I started reading about his early offense setup at Oregon and thought he could replicate that anywhere. Get the ball and get out in front of the defense and get a good shot before they get set up. That's a system. You can do that at WSU. But like you said, Jeff, they completely abandoned that this year and the guys he brought in didn't seem to fit that mold. Like, how does Connor Clifford fit into that strategy? I think Connor is a fine player, but I don't understand how he fits into the system. He's not a particularly good defender and needs extra time to establish himself on the block. Two things antithetical to what Kent has traditionally wanted to do.(edited)

Nusser: I kinda think he just is recruiting anyone who has some talent because recruiting is going so badly.

Craig: Yep, last year's group of newbies featured plenty of guys who can do one thing. Derrien King can shoot, but what else? Clifford can score on the block, but what else? Izundu could block shots, but what else?


(but you're right)

Nusser: Thing is, that's not the end of the world, if those one things work together. Like, if you recruit five shooters and you're going to shoot 35 threes a game.

Sherwood: Let's do that!

Nusser: I'm 100% on board with this.

Craig: Yes, absolutely. Let's be weird.

Sherwood: We could play with a volleyball

Craig: That's perfect. We play with a volleyball everyday in practice, when teams visit Pullman they won't have that edge.

Nusser: More embarrassing: Trying to play basketball with a volleyball because that might be the only way we can compete, or the way Ernie is handling these transfers?

Sherwood: Poor Que. We were so excited when he showed up.

Craig: Nice transition, Nuss.

Sherwood: Que stuck with it at WSU and went from late qualifier to four-year graduate. Ernie didn't recruit him. Let him go be on a team that can win some ballgames. If another Pac-12 school wants him, fine.

And we don't know the schedule for next year, so saying "any of our opponents for next year" just means he can't go to the Bahamas. YOU ARE DENYING QUE THE BAHAMAS.

Craig: Ernie is inventing new things, like "tampering" in college basketball. That's real innovation the university can be proud of. No embarrassment there.

Sherwood: I am as shocked as you are that a college kid would enjoy San Diego.

Craig: I've been to San Diego a few times this year. What a terrible place. Beaches within a short Uber distance. Perfect weather year round. Great night life. What college kid wants any of that?

Sherwood: Do they have Senior Golf?


Craig: Maybe Que did Senior Golf last year. HOW DID WE MISS THAT SCOOP?

Sherwood: (this is when I realize my age and that Senior Golf probably hasn't been around for a decade and nobody knows what I'm talking about)

I bet if you brought the recruits around on Senior Golf weekend, they'd sign immediately.

Craig: When I was in school, the cops were cracking down it pretty hard

Sherwood: How long can we keep this up until Jeff steers us back?

Craig: The over/under is "Until another player leaves the program"

Sherwood: Clifford is gonna get drafted by the Raptors, isn't he?

Craig: Just what they need to take down the Cavs in the East. Clifford is automatic buckets on the block, and I have no doubts that would transition to the NBA.

Sherwood: Assuming nobody new cracks the lineup, who is WSU's starting 5 next year? Ike, Hawkinson, Clifford, King, ....Franks?

I'm not gonna lie, i had to look up a fifth player. This team is so bad

Craig: If our offense is Franks shooting nothing but step-back 3s, I'm back on board.

Has a big man ever played 90 percent of a Pac-12 team's minutes? Is Hawkinson definitely going to do that, then have to have all of his joints replaced after the season?

Sherwood: Well no Pac-12 team has played with a volleyball either, but you don't see me holding back. NO BAD IDEAS.

Craig: So far, ideas for fixing the program: 35 3s a game, mostly taken by Robert Franks, all with a volleyball. Hire us now, WSU.

Sherwood: One million dollars, please.

Craig: Really giving them a discount, there. The alum discount. We are all about the university.

Sherwood: Just trying to get our innocence back.

Craig: If innocence is defined by "rampant cheating", then I think we'd do just that at the helm.

Sherwood: Yeah, that million isn't for me. It's for the bags.

Craig: This is almost as genius as the last time we tried to solve WSU's basketball problems.


Sherwood: How far into this did Nuss just say "Eff these guys" and started writing his own column?

Nusser: What in the Sam Hill is going on around here?

Craig: Somewhere between "Bahamas" and "Senior Golf."

Sam Hill had a 19-21 record coaching at Wichita State, but that was in the 20s, so he's probably dead.

So, terrible suggestion, Nuss

Nusser: That sounds like an upgrade, imo.

Sherwood: A dead guy?

Craig: Sherwood and I are here trying to have a serious discussion and you are using chatspeak!

Nusser: Any final thoughts?

Sherwood: I'm glad Britton didn't weigh in.

Craig: Same.

Sherwood: Odds that we roll with just ten scholarships next year? Non-zero number?

Nusser: I'll go with zero. Kent's demonstrated he's perfectly willing to give the scholarship to a guy who will never be able to play at this level and then watch him leave and/or run him off so he can give it to another guy who will never be able to play at this level.

Craig: And on that note, my final thought: WSU basketball is so bad that I care about Spring Football for the first time!