Shantay Legans got his dream job, but Eastern Washington athletic director Bill Chaves figures he’s the lucky one.
For the second time in 10 weeks, Chaves was tasked with replacing a highly successful coach. And just has he did with Aaron Best in football, Chaves found the right man close at hand.
“Shantay is more than ready to take us to the next level,” Chaves said at Thursday’s press conference at the Reese Room, which drew about 100 fans, fellow coaches and players.
Sitting side by side, Legans and Chaves recounted the drama of the last few days, which saw coach Jim Hayford pursuing the Seattle University job.
By midweek, Chaves said he “knew there was the potential that something might happen in Seattle,” and consulted with university president Mary Cullinan.
Chaves said that he “didn’t know what was going to happen” in Seattle, but added that “as an AD, you hope you have someone who’s in the program, that’s had success.”
That turned out to be the 35-year-old Legans, who arrived in Cheney in 2009 as an assistant to former coach Kirk Earlywine.
Two years later, Legans was retained by Hayford. Together they turned the Eagles into a contender in the Big Sky Conference, winning 66 games the last three years and reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2015.
As Hayford negotiated with Seattle, Legans spent a few sleepless nights, hoping, texting and dreaming.
The dream came true on Wednesday. Less than three hours after Seattle confirmed Hayford as its next coach, Eastern did the same with Legans.
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.
“The biggest dream I’ve had was to be the head coach of a Division I basketball program,” said Legans, who added that Eastern has already given me my biggest gift of all.”
That would be his wife, Tatjana, a former Eastern basketball player. Their 9-month-old daughter Zola Lee also was at the press conference, cooing and clapping.
At one point, Chaves turned to Zola Lee and said, “I love it – you do what you gotta do.”
As the laughter subsided, Legans took the microphone. While hailing Hayford “as a great mentor to me,” Legans promised to maintain the program’s success on and off the court.
“Trust, to me, is the biggest pillar of our philosophy, top to bottom – if we don’t have that, we don’t have anything,” said Legans, who said he’s received hundreds of supportive texts and emails.
That support extended to current recruits, all of whom have been retained, according to Legans.
Redshirt freshman Mason Peatling – a Legans recruit – liked the choice.
“I’ve had a great year with coach Hayford … but I’m really excited for coach Legans.”
“It’s been a long-developing relationship over time, but I’ve learned a lot about him and I’m excited about him getting the reins,” Peatling said.
Looking ahead, Legans must rebuild the staff. Assistant Chris Victor is expected to join Hayford in Seattle, but David Riley is staying in Cheney.
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