FROM PULLMAN -- Sat down this morning with WSU assistant coach Ray Lopes, who coached at Idaho the past four seasons. Since the Cougars play the Vandals tomorrow night, we spoke with Lopes about his time there, his role with WSU and some other things. Read on.
(What's your role on the staff?) "From a recruiting standpoint I’m trying to help us get involved with mainly national junior college prospects, transfer prospects, not just 2-year but also 4-year prospects. Then on a staff, I do everything everybody else does -- scouting, on the floor coaching. My main emphasis has probably been on the defensive end with coach (Ben) Johnson, and I work with the wings on breakdown situations."
(Was the goal to get back into the college game all along?) "Most definitely. I had a hard time getting back in, and understandably so, coming off the NCAA show-cause. There was a lot of hesitation on administrators behalves' and other coaches. It was just real difficult getting back in. I was fortunate and lucky that coach (Don) Verlin gave me that one opportunity, which I will always be indebted to him for, and I consider him a good friend. He gave me the one opportunity and that’s all I needed was just an opportunity to get back. It worked out good. We had four really successful years there under his tutelage and just out of the blue this opportunity presented itself."
(How has Idaho stayed competitive the past few years?) "I think a couple things -- one, he’s a very good coach. He’s very organized and he works very hard. He’s got a good basketball mind and secondly, I think they’ve done a good job getting good players. Those two things kind of go hand in hand. It’s going to be a tough matchup for us tomorrow. They’re a very, very solid basketball team who’s better than their record."
(Did you have to rebuild your recruiting connections when you got back?) "They were still there. I had been doing it long enough. I think I’m going on my 25th year at this level, 22 or 23 of them as an assistant coach so those contacts still remained and so it was just a matter of getting out and seeing faces and having my face being seen and reacquainting myself with those guys. Over my career I’ve built up a pretty good network of recruiting contacts that remained even though I was out of the game for three years. My three years I was out I scouted for one year and coached in the D-league for two, and really enjoyed that. It was really fun being at that level and seeing what that level was about."
(How did the WSU opportunity come about?) "I think I knew coach (Ken) Bone, not intimately but just knew him through coaching and playing him every year, and I just think the opportunity to get back at this level, high major BCS level, getting back in that recruiting arena, recruiting those level of players, that was the big appeal. And then knowing I was coming on board with another good coach and what I feel like is a very solid program. But mainly the opportunity to be back in the Pac-12, back at the high major level."
(Does it feel different recruiting at this level again?) "It does. I think we’re involved and have the interest of a different level of player, and this is not taking anything away from Idaho and that situation there, but when you’re throwing around the Pac-12 conference and you’re talking about Arizonas and UCLAs, that’s a pretty attractive selling point for recruits."
(Is there a specific region you're more comfortable in?) "I feel like I can go just about anywhere nationally when it comes to transfer prospects because I’ve done it my whole career and there’s a lot of good prospects out there, so we have to do it national."
(What makes a coach a good recruiter of transfer players?) "Just your experience in doing so and having done so a lot would be the main difference. Recruiting’s recruiting, whether you’rerecruiting high school or transfers. It’s about work, relationships and obviously identifying the right kind of guys. I’ve done it so long whether it was at Santa Barbara, Oklahoma, Idaho, now Washington State, I’ve just been in that arena quite a bit throughout my career."