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Grip on Sports: Washington State’s makeover continues as Green takes charge of the baseball program

New Washington State baseball coach Brian Green, right, was formally introduced at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, June 5, 2019, at the Rankich Club Room at Martin Stadium. (Robert Hubner / Washington State Athletics)
New Washington State baseball coach Brian Green, right, was formally introduced at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, June 5, 2019, at the Rankich Club Room at Martin Stadium. (Robert Hubner / Washington State Athletics)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • If you last walked out of Bohler Gym five years ago, you may not recognize the place. Not the building, the coaching staff. Pat Chun’s makeover continued yesterday with the introduction of new baseball coach Brian Green.

••••••••••

• Across the way, in the football operations building, the man at the top, Mike Leach, would be familiar. And a few of Bohler’s denizens, for example volleyball coach Jen Greeny, would also be recognizable.

After that, though, there have been multiple changes.

A new men’s basketball coach. A relatively new women’s basketball coach and swimming coach. And now a new baseball coach.

Chun, who has been athletic director for 17 months, made the decision to replace Marty Lees before the Cougars finished their disappointing 11-42-1 season, one of the worst seasons in school history. Heck, even in 2005, when the Cougars were 1-23 in Pac-12 play, they won 21 games overall.

This season, WSU won three conference games. But the nonconference schedule was abysmally unsuccessful, quite possibly sealing Lees’ fate even before the conference season began with eight consecutive losses.

Chun has shown a willingness to put his own folks in charge, reaching out to mid-major schools for new talent, finding coaches on the rise and installing them in positions of power in Pullman. It helps when your most-visible sport – football – has continuity at the top. But in the past year, the next rung of sports has all been remodeled.

In baseball’s case, not only is Green taking Lees’ place – Green comes from New Mexico State, last season’s best hitting team in the NCAA – the facilities will be revamped soon as well.

In many cases, status quo seem to be two words no longer in vogue in Pullman.

• Speaking of status quo, why won’t the NCAA just leave men’s basketball alone? We’re not talking about playing the players or recruiting violations. We’re talking about the game itself.

It seems pretty perfect from this vantage point. But it won’t be the same next year. A couple of major changes are coming.

The most important is the 3-point line will be moving back. Again. Next season, if your Division I gym wants to host high school games, there will be one line that intersects the top of the key (the high school distance of 19-9). Another will be a foot farther back (the women’s distance of 20-9). And than a third, for the men, at 22-1 ¾, the international distance.

(Division II and Division III will wait a year to make the change, ostensibly so they can budget the cost of revamping their floor.)

The game, as exciting as its ever been, isn’t exciting enough I guess.

The idea is to spread the court more, to allow for more drives from the perimeter as the defense spreads to cover more space.

Hogwash.

The NCAA tried out the new rule in the NIT. The 3-point shooting percentages dropped.

Which means defenses aren’t going to change. If anything, they are going to sag in more. Coaches know which opponents can convert from 22 feet. They’ve always known. Their players were instructed to stretch that far to defend the ones who could make, to sag off the ones who couldn’t.

They also will know, quickly, which players can’t convert from the new distance.

Think of it this way. A 6-foot-11 center who could hit from 21 feet made it necessary for his counterpart to stretch away from the rim to guard him. No one wants to give up a 3-pointer. But if his shooting percentage drops enough from another foot back (and coaches, supported by analytical data that covers all possibilities, will know), now the opposing big can sag more, clogging the driving lanes.

Remember this: Good defenders have always guarded as far out as the scouting report tells them they need to – and no farther. With the line more than a foot farther back, there quite probably will be more bad shots taken, resulting in a decrease in offensive efficiency.

Once again a new NCAA rule may have an unintended consequences.

•••

WSU: Yes, Theo Lawson has a story on new baseball coach Brian Green’s press conference. You would expect anything less? … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, there is basketball news from Oregon, which has attracted a grad transfer, and Arizona State, where coach Bobby Hurley is getting an extension. … Arizona says it was harmed by an assistant coach. Wasn’t it helped by any players brought in by nefarious means? … Washington has a bright basketball future. … USC football has a recruiting advantage unmatched in the nation. … Colorado’s roster has strengths and weaknesses.

Gonzaga: The GU women’s rowing team just got back from the NCAA championships. Dan Thompson has a story.

Preps: The GSL’s baseball MVP was drafted on the third day. Mt. Spokane’s Brady Hill told Dave Nichols he’s still headed to WSU. … Dave also has a prep notebook. … Former Wildcat runner John Dressel, running for Colorado, finished 10th in Wednesday’s NCAA 10,000 meters.

Mariners: The power was on last night and so was Mike Leake. The result was a 14-1 rout of the Houston Astros. … The M’s have a lot to play for. Or should we say, a lot to lose for. … The outfield looked different. … Larry Stone has written a biography of Edgar Martinez, in concert with the Mariners’ best right-handed hitter. He also talked with Larry Weir yesterday for the latest Press Box pod. … As always, Gene Warnick has his Out of Right Field recap. This one was after a win. Now, that’s different.

Seahawks: The Hawks are looking for even more out of Tyler Lockett.

Sounders: Seattle led by a goal in Montreal. But two late goals by the Impact resulted in a 2-1 loss. Si triste.

•••       

• Where did our warmth go? Hopefully, when it returns from wherever it took the smoke, it will leave its companion there. After a long series of days in the low 80s or high 70s, we’re going to only hit 60 today. But I will not give in. I will still wear shorts today. It’s what I do in June (and July and August and September). I will not be deterred. Until later …

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