Good riddance to Chun, and ideas for the next MBB coach

Jim Shaw, John Andrzejek should be at the top of WSU's list.

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We have had a lot of vibrant discussion about [gestures at everything]. Craig and I share what we hear as things happen, including tidbits about the coaching search. We’d love it if you’d join us.

Folks, this is a long one. A lot is going on right now. Settle in.

Good riddance, Pat

When I began writing this newsletter about coaching options on Monday night, this was my opening paragraph:

Because I would expect Pat Chun to move quickly to replace Kyle Smith as head basketball coach at WSU, I guess I also have to move quickly to make my recommendations for who should succeed our beloved and departed leader.

These are exceedingly weird times in Pullman, for so many reasons, not the least of which is yesterday’s absolutely bizarre twist that necessitates a change in that introduction:

Folks … I just can’t even. Just a heads up: There are naughty words incoming.

I don’t actually have particular feelings about the impact this will have on WSU; I think Chun was a good and flawed athletics director who also is eminently replaceable. I don’t think his departure leaves WSU in a worse place than it already was, other than the timing being pretty bad when you’re trying to hire a men’s basketball coach. Competent ADs are not particularly difficult to find, and I trust Kirk Schulz to find one.

No, the anger stems from Chun spending seven months being a first-hand witness to literally every vile and truly evil thing that Washington did to Washington State and then deciding, “Yes, actually, I would like to go work with and for those folks!” He and everyone he has now left behind have been — and continue to be! — personally, actively, and repeatedly fucked over in a professional capacity by Washington president Ana Mari Cauce and the boosters who pushed for UW’s move to the Big Ten. And in less than a week, he decided, “Actually, yes, I’m ok with being on Team Fuck WSU, and I will be commencing the fucking over of them as soon as possible.”

How desperate and awful do you have to be in order to decide that?

Kirk Schulz’s cold statement on Chun’s departure says everything you need to know about how this is being received at French Ad:

Anyone who thinks that this might not be so bad somehow because Chun will be out here extending olive branches to Pullman because he worked there has paid no attention at all to anything related to the University of Washington in its entire history. He now works for the woman who blew up the Pac-12. From now on, he will only not fuck over WSU when UW has something to gain from it — the Apple Cup agreement being a great example.

Maybe this is always who Chun was. There are a lot of people in Bohler who are shedding precisely zero tears over his departure, and I can tell you that long before he made this move, I had been told by folks in the know that there were prominent coaches who had reached a point where they were … uh … not thrilled to be working for him. People often complain about their bosses, but the common message was that Chun did not make them feel valued, and for a place that really ought to be more like a family, that’s not a great endorsement.

He screwed up the response to Tyler Hilinski’s death in every possible way, and his unceremonious firing of June Daugherty was distasteful. He also hired Nick Rolovich, and if you want to blame that whole mess on Covid, fine — but everything we saw and have seen out of him led me to conclude that he would have been a problem at some point. It was a bad hire.1

Those things get papered over to a large degree because of the hires of Kyle Smith, Kamie Ethridge, and Jake Dickert. And those were really important! He deserves credit for that. But I want to make sure we’re not deitizing what he did in Pullman.

I think it says something about Chun’s career arc that for all the success we have perceived him having at WSU, it had led only to one report of being a finalist for another job (Northwestern) and ended with him jumping at a job where his boss is an absolute snake, he will be the third AD in less than a year because the previous two ran away, and his department is facing its own kind of financial shitshow.

It smacks of desperation. It’s reasonable to conclude that Chun was never as high on other schools’ search lists as we always assumed. There was some good, there was some bad, and he is replaceable — easier to replace than, say, a really good men’s basketball coach.

As far as candidates, Bryan Blair is a name that has popped up immediately; he was Chun’s top guy for a while and has been the AD at Toledo for a couple of years. Anne McCoy, the senior deputy AD at WSU should also get a look. And Mike Marlow, a WSU alumnus who was Bill Moos’ top deputy AD has been at Northern Arizona for a while. I suspect they’ll all get a look, along with some names we laypeople can’t think of.

Back to the basketball coaching search

Ok, well … no AD to lead the hiring. I haven’t seen anything definitive, but usually in these cases the president designates a deputy AD to lead the search, and the president gets more involved in the final decision than normal. I’d assume McCoy will take the lead.

Whoever it is, I’m going to recommend that they do something to replace Kyle Smith that I normally think is a bad idea: Hire from within the “family” with the main goal of keeping as much of this year’s team together as possible.

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