Eastern Washington is in “agreement mode” on a new five-year contract for basketball coach Jim Hayford, athletic director Bill Chaves said Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s not finalized, but it’s going through the process,” confirmed Chaves, who said that the deal is both a reward and a key piece in building stability in a program that has known little since the Eagles’ move to Division I in 1983.
Since then, no Eastern coach has lasted longer than five years.
“I think we’re excited about where we are in the program, and we want to make sure from a recruiting standpoint that there’s stability in the program,” said Chaves, who said his department took a “holistic” view of the program before deciding on the extension.
The deal would scrap the remaining two years of Hayford’s current five-year contract, thus keeping him in Cheney at least through the 2018-19 season.
Said Hayford: “We’ve lived in Spokane for 13 years now, and knowing that we’re going to be a part of this community for at least five more years is very fulfilling.”
Financial terms of the new deal have not been released; Hayford’s current base salary is $99,500 a year.
The new contract goes beyond Hayford’s won-lost record, said Chaves, noting that Hayford has built community ties through fund-raising and a revived summer camp program.
“We’ve got the program turned in the right direction,” Hayford said.
More importantly, Chaves said, Hayford is rebuilding the program through four-year players instead of junior college transfers, while at the same time stressing academics. This year’s team has a cumulative 3.15 grade-point average.
“The next couple of years, we could see as many four-year starters graduate from Jim’s first five teams than in the previous 10 years – and that’s important,” Chaves said.
Since moving from Whitworth three years ago, Hayford is 40-54 overall and 25-31 in the Big Sky Conference. He inherited a veteran team in 2011-12 from the fired Kirk Earlywine, and reached the Big Sky tournament despite lacking an established point guard.
“Then we really hit the reset button,” Chaves said. With the youngest team in the Big Sky – and 14 different starting lineups – in 2012-13, the Eagles were 7-13 in league play and 10-21 overall.
This year, Eastern won seven of its last 11 games, but fell one game short of the seven-team conference tournament after going 10-10 in the Big Sky and 15-16 overall.
“We were right there,” said Hayford, whose team lost out on a tiebreaker for the last postseason berth.
That team had no seniors, which everyone returns next year, including all-conference honorees Tyler Harvey and Venky Jois.
“From that perspective now we’re going start reaping the benefits in the next few years,” Chaves said.