Advertisement

David Riley embraces the uncertainty that comes with taking over at Washington State

David Riley finally found an opportunity that made him think it was time to leave what he helped create at Eastern Washington of the Big Sky Conference. Despite uncertainty about the future, Riley made the jump in part because all it required was a short move down the road.

Riley was introduced Thursday as the coach at Washington State, taking over for Kyle Smith, who left for the same position at Stanford after leading the Cougars to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 16 years.

“It’s just the idea of being in a college town where there’s no distractions, you have a really passionate group around you that cares about the university, that cares about the basketball team,” Riley said of his move to Washington State. “There’s a real support system here and I think it’s very conducive to building a family atmosphere with the team.”

Riley is young – he’s only 35. He spent 13 years at Eastern Washington in a variety of roles, and he's only been a head coach for three years.

But was highly successful in that stint, going 62-30. With Washington State facing a shaky foundation, Riley could end up being an optimal hire for the Cougars to navigate the next few years.

“We’re going to have high expectations for next year, but I think we’ve got the right coach that can work with our players and make sure that we’re exceeding those expectations,” Washington State president Kirk Schulz said.

Riley led Eastern Washington to consecutive Big Sky regular season titles the past two years. Riley said he’s turned down previous offers to leave Eastern Washington. But only having to move 70 miles down the road to take over a program coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance was one he couldn’t pass up.

“I definitely passed up on a lot of opportunities, a lot of different opportunities that people on paper we’re like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’” Riley said. “But this is a place that means a lot to me and it had to be the perfect situation for me to leave. This is that.”

While the Cougars are coming off a March Madness berth, the program will look far different under Riley. Several key players have already entered the transfer portal. Standout Jaylen Wells announced Thursday that he would be entering the NBA draft while retaining his college eligibility.

There are also big questions about Washington State’s future following the collapse of the Pac-12 and the interim lifeline that will have the Cougars competing in the West Coast Conference.

“Just hearing some confidence from the leadership here was big but at the end of the day it’s Washington State, it’s a big-time program. There’s a ton of passion for the basketball program, for the university. I know it’s going to be a great spot,” Riley said.

___

AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness