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Jim Hayford leaves Eastern Washington for Seattle U.; top assistant Shantay Legans named new basketball coach

Shantay Legans is the new head basketball coach at Eastern Washington. (Eastern Washington University)

The college coaching carrousel made another whirlwind appearance at Eastern Washington on Wednesday.

Barely two months after the departure of football coach Beau Baldwin, the Eagles turned the final page on the success story of basketball coach Jim Hayford.

And they turned it quickly.

After the first rumors linked Hayford to the vacant job at Seattle University, Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves moved with unprecedented swiftness to promote longtime assistant Shantay Legans.

The drama began and ended on Twitter. Total elapsed time: two hours and 43 minutes.

The rest of the story will be told in old-fashioned, face-to-face fashion, as both coaches are scheduled to meet the media on Thursday.

Legans, a coaching veteran at Eastern who preceded Hayford’s arrival in 2011, will be officially introduced at noon. The public is invited to attend the event, which will be held in the Red Reese Room at the EWU Special Events Pavilion.

Neither Legans nor Chaves was available for comment on Wednesday. However, both were quoted in a release from the school.

“Moving forward, we are pleased to appoint Shantay Legans as our next head coach,” Chaves said.

“Shantay has been an integral part of our recent success and he will do a fantastic job leading us into the future,” Chaves added in the release.

Legans, 35, spent all six years on Hayford’s staff and two previous seasons under former head coach Kirk Earlywine.

He becomes Eastern’s 18th head coach in the school’s 109-year basketball history, and the 10th head coach since EWU became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season.

“I am both honored and humbled to accept the opportunity to lead the Eastern men’s basketball program,” Legans said in the same release.

A former player at Cal and Fresno State, Legans has assisted Hayford in recruiting, scouting and game preparation, as well as on-the-floor coaching and the development of backcourt players.

Legans was born in 1981, in Ventura, Calif. He was married in 2014 to former Eastern women’s basketball player Tatjana Sparavalo. Their daughter, Zola Lee, was born last June.

The carrousel began to turn mid-morning, when Hayford confirmed the rumors on social media.

“I am grateful to take this next step in the journey of life and to coach at Seattle University,” Hayford said on Twitter.

“A special thank you to all my EWU players,” Hayford added.

Together, Hayford and his players carved out a record-breaking three seasons at Eastern. In 2014-15, his fourth year since moving from Division III Whitworth, Hayford led the Eagles to only their second trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Over the past three years, Eastern has won 66 games, easily the best stretch in its 33-year history as a Division I school.

Hayford, 49, went 106–91 (.538) at Eastern Washington. This season, the Eagles finished 22-12, including two wins over Seattle. They were second in the Big Sky Conference at 13-5.

“I am thrilled to welcome coach Hayford and his family to Seattle University,” said athletic director Shaney Fink.

Hayford’s salary was not disclosed, as Seattle is a private school. Hayford earned an annual base salary of $155,000 at Eastern.

“Coach Hayford has a history of success in developing programs that compete on the national level. He is a proven winner, a committed educator, and a passionate leader, and we are excited for him to bring that blueprint of success here to Seattle U,” Fink added.

After coach Cameron Dollar was fired on March 13, Hayford emerged as one of several finalists. Reportedly, the field included Ken Bone, the former head coach at Portland State and Washington State.

Seattle U., a Catholic Jesuit school, with an enrollment of 7,755 has a rich basketball history, including 11 appearances in the NCAAs. The 1958 squad, led by future NBA star Elgin Baylor, reached the title game in 1958 but lost to Kentucky.

From 1960 to1969, Seattle produced more NBA players than any other school.

However, the Redhawks haven’t reached the NCAAs since 1969.

Seattle later moved its program down to the NAIA level before upgrading again in several stages. The Redhawks returned to the Division I ranks again in 2009 and hired Dollar, a former UCLA player, later that year.

Seeking conference affiliation, the Redhawks were rejected by several leagues, including the Big Sky Conference, before joining the Western Athletic Conference as a non-football member.

Seattle plays its games at Key Arena.