Before Eastern Washington women’s basketball coach Wendy Schuller could process one of the strangest, most frustrating endings to a game in her lengthy career, Shantay Legans took to Twitter.
Legans, EWU’s second-year men’s basketball coach, had just witnessed rival Idaho clip Schuller’s club 75-74 last month in Cheney on a 3-point attempt that came well after the final buzzer sounded.
When officials ruled the shot counted because the game clock started too early, Legans, whose team was minutes from tipping off against Idaho following the women’s game, was perplexed.
“I just witnessed something I have never seen in a basketball game before in my whole life,” Legans tweeted. “I need an explanation. #FEELINGrobbed.”
A couple of hours later, Legans began his team’s news conference – the Eagles throttled the Vandals 82-57 – by lauding the women’s team.
“The first person standing up for us was him,” Schuller said of Legans. “(The men’s team) really cares about us.
“On Saturday, after we had just suffered a tough loss at Portland State, we watched the ending of the men’s game from our van and were happy after (EWU freshman) Kim Aiken’s game-winning shot.”
In some Division I athletic departments, there’s a divide between the men’s and women’s basketball programs.
Not at EWU, though, where Schuller and Legans are more than workplace acquaintances.
Legans’ wife, Tatjana Sparavalo, played for Schuller. They tailgate football games, play with each other’s kids and offer each other hoops-related advice.
Schuller, now in her 18th season at EWU, remembers when Legans was a 27-year-old assistant coach in Cheney under former head man Kirk Earlywine.
A decade later, Legans has the Eagles in the top five of the Big Sky Conference standings for the second straight season.
The fifth-place EWU men (11-17, 10-8 Big Sky) look to secure a first-round bye in next week’s tournament in Boise when they close out the regular season on Thursday at Idaho State (9-17, 5-12) and Saturday at Weber State (16-12, 10-7).
EWU advanced to the tournament title game last season and earned a berth to the College Basketball Invitational.
“I’ve known him for a long time,” Schuller said. “To watch him work his way through the ranks has been great. He has that infectious personality you can’t help but like.
“His wife played for me, so that made that bond even closer. He’s a tremendous coach.”
Legans said the same about Schuller, whose team went 6-2 in Big Sky play in February, including the controversial loss to first-place Idaho.
The EWU women (10-17, 9-9 Big Sky) are currently in sixth in the conference standings. The Eagles could potentially place fifth and earn a first-round tournament bye if they beat Idaho State (18-9, 13-5) and Weber State (5-23, 2-16) in Cheney this week.
“She knows a lot about hoops, so we bounce a lot of ideas off each other,” Legans said
“When I got the job she was giving me a lot of advice on how to handle things and how to go about certain stuff.”
They’ve texted each other during games, too, Legans said.
Last week, their messages followed an inadvertent 3-point contest between the two programs.
EWU’s men hit 14 3-pointers in a win at Northern Arizona. Later that day in Cheney, EWU’s women hit 13 treys in a win over NAU.
“You just had to hit more 3-pointers than us, huh?” Schuller’s text to Legans read.
Schuller’s been around the game long enough, she said, to know that the relationship is special.
“There are situations where there isn’t a great rapport between the programs, but at EWU it’s a family.”
“It’s just different at Eastern,” he said. “I’ve been at places and played at places where the football coach doesn’t get along with this coach, or the basketball coach doesn’t get along with that coach.
“Here, we’re close. A lot of us play basketball at noon together. Here, we all get along.”
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