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Coach May Have To Lead Temperance Movement At Ewu

Our best counsel for new Eastern Washington basketball coach Steve Aggers?

Read the contract before you sign it.

(By the way, the same goes for you, Ken Dolan.)

Perhaps that comes off as gratuitous advice, Steve, but trust us here. Revelations both recent and ancient suggest that nothing at Eastern can be taken for granted. When matters administrative and athletic rendezvous at old Cheney Normal, what you see is not always what you get.

And what we’re told is all too often fiction.

Of course, Aggers himself has already sampled from this menu - waiting with assurances that no one had been offered the job while EWU president Mark Drummond put the full-court press on Kermit Davis.

But, hey, you can’t put a price on experience.

This is a big moment for Steve Aggers, who in a determined climb through the profession has not taken the stairs two at a time. At this point in his career, he would seem to be the genuine article, and the time he’s invested in the basketball backwaters of North Platte, Neb., and Great Falls, Mont., makes him a pretty good fit for EWU. It’s a shame if he stands to be splashed even a smidge by his new employer’s credibility drain, but he’s also the man now in the best position to stop it.

And unlike the candidate who was originally offered the job, Aggers can begin stopping it immediately.

Quite predictably, he professes to be not at all concerned that he wasn’t the first one asked, but it’s hard not to be at least a tiny bit disturbed over just who Drummond romanced so doggedly.

Kermit Davis waved a magic wand in his brief stay at Idaho in the 1980s before he lunged for the big chance at Texas A&M.; And he may well have had a fast-track formula for Eastern, but he did the Eagles a favor by saying no.

Davis was caught cheating at A&M;, and then misled the school’s own investigators. He suffered through his own two-year NCAA exile while the school did its time, and since then has become adept at the glib dismissal of his sins as “an isolated incident.” Anyone who knows him, he insists, can attest to his character - and, yes, Utah State was ready to promote him this spring had Larry Eustachy jumped to UNLV.

Davis will get another job another time and he’ll deserve it. But this one?

Really now.

In the past decade, Eastern has had to fire one basketball coach for violating NCAA rules and investigate another who conveniently had his house up for sale weeks before the season even ended. And with this history the president wanted to bring in a coach who five years ago was flying some sleazy New York street agent all over the country?

There were people on his campus who begged Drummond to go in a different direction. There were also Eastern fans - casual and not so casual - who could not have cared less about appearances.

They have a point. The lack of interest in Eastern basketball at present is critical enough, you might think, to jeopardize its future. At least that seems to be the assumption Drummond is operating on - that the Eagles need to find an audience, and soon.

But with that comes the unsettling feeling that Eastern’s leaders and constituents believe winning alone will make things better. In truth, just the handling of John Wade’s rehiring last year and firing this spring illuminated problems that have nothing to do with whether the basketball team can beat Idaho.

“Winning takes care of a lot of problems,” reasoned Aggers, “but we have to be concerned about doing the best we can for our student-athletes, helping them have a good experience athletically and academically as well as putting a good product out there and rekindling enthusiasm.

“Everybody’s tired of being in last place, but we’re not going to go from six wins to winning the Big Sky. It comes in increments. I do sense the president knows where he wants to go and understands that resources need to be improved to get that done.”

One crucial resource was improved greatly Tuesday. Steve Aggers’ hiring, thankfully, is one EWU won’t have to make excuses for.


The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Blanchette The Spokesman-Review

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