Eastern Washington University spent three weeks.
Steve Aggers invested 25 years.
EWU made the 44-year-old Aggers its 15th men’s basketball coach on Tuesday, signing the Kansas State assistant to a four-year contract worth $60,000 annually and ending a three-week search that athletic director John Johnson conceded seemed much longer.
For Aggers, Tuesday’s announcement was realization of a long-term goal to become an NCAA Division I head coach, a journey that began in 1970, when the Wyoming native hired on as an assistant at his alma mater, Nebraska’s Chadron State College.
“I really feel honored to have been selected,” Aggers said Tuesday from his home in Manhattan, Kan. “I have a real sense of urgency as far as getting to work and getting going.”
Aggers inherits a team that went 6-20 last season, including 2-12 in the Big Sky Conference. Upon his arrival in Cheney next week, the new coach will draw upon experiences accrued during a 25-year career in which he has been either an assistant or head coach at eight colleges.
Aggers has a 287-196 record during 15 years as a head coach - 1974-78 at Mid Plains (Neb.) Community College, 1979-85 at Montana’s College of Great Falls and 1985-90 at Wayne State (Neb.) College. He spent the last five years assisting Tom Asbury at Pepperdine (1990-94) and K-State.
“I’ve got to hit the ground running,” Aggers said, knowing EWU has been unable to recruit since John Wade was fired as coach and he resigned from the university April 5.
“I’m not a magician,” Aggers added. “I won’t come in and wave a magic wand.
“We’re going to take a team approach to get the program going where we all want it to go.” After five straight losing seasons under Wade, that would be up.
“We feel very good about hiring Steve,” said Johnson, who as A.D. was part of the search that ultimately focused on Aggers, Kermit Davis and Ken Bone. “He has the three things we were looking for - he has head-coaching experience, he’s familiar with the Northwest and he has recruiting ties around the country.”
The Eagles return eight players with experience, led by center Melvin Lewis.
“I went down to the weight room (when interviewing at EWU last week) and introduced myself to all of them,” Aggers said. “And then a bunch of the players called me today. That was a real positive thing. They were real supportive and encouraged me. They seem like a group that wants to do well - real focused, very together, working hard.”
Aggers said he senses EWU president Dr. Mark Drummond is eager to turn the program around.
“He’s been actively involved in the process from day one,” Aggers said. “I sense a real passion on his part to develop a successful program.”
To compete with 1994-95 conference champion Weber State and the other Big Sky contenders, Aggers acknowledges he’ll need improved resources.
“They made some commitments that we’re going to sit down and talk about,” he said. “I think there’s a correlation between the money spent and the recruiting budget at the Division I level and the relative success. I think we’re all aware that we need to make some changes and improvements, as we do in all programs - not just men’s basketball.”
Drummond added perspective.
“Let’s put it this way,” the EWU president said. “The board (of trustees) laid out some expectations quite some time ago about the way they expected this program to succeed. … We have an athletic review coming up in 1998 concurrent with the university’s accreditation. My opinion is that, if our athletics are not performing a little better, it’s going to be difficult (to justify financing them).”
Aggers suspected EWU will need to better court alumni.
“There’s 25,000 Eastern Washington alumni in the Spokane area,” he said. “If many of them want to have as good a program as Dr. Drummond does and the players do and the student body does, then we’ll get those people actively involved in improving the budgets.”
EWU has two scholarships to fill for next season. Aggers said his focus will be in-state.
“Our objective will be to get the very best area player we can first, and base our recruiting on that being the hub of the wheel and spokes going out accordingly,” Aggers explained.