INDIANAPOLIS – Shantay Legans’ four-year body of work at Eastern Washington has garnered notice beyond his Big Sky Conference peers.
Prior to 14th-seeded EWU’s 93-84 loss to third-seeded Kansas on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament – a game in which the Eagles’ had a 10-point, second-half lead before succumbing to the Jayhawks’ physical advantages – Legans had been mentioned on several lists as a potential hire at bigger schools.
But as the 39-year-old barked from the sideline Saturday at Indiana Farmers Coliseum, one of college basketball’s biggest pundits, Stadium’s Jeff Goodman, tossed out a major hypothetical.
“Gotta think Eastern Washington coach Shantay Legans will be the front-runner for the Indiana gig if EWU holds on against Kansas,” Goodman tweeted.
After EWU’s loss, Goodman went in a completely direction, suggesting that Legans might coach in the West Coast Conference at Portland next season.
Not a completely random take. Multiple sources close to the situation had previously told The Spokesman-Review that Portland let Legans know it’s interested in the idea.
The Pilots, who fired former Portland Trail Blazers star Terry Porter earlier this year, haven’t had a head coach leave the program with an overall winning record since 1967.
Historically, sustaining success at EWU has also been hard. Just three coaches have done it at the Cheney school in its Division I era: Ray Giacoletti (69-50), Jim Hayford (106-91) and Legans (75-49).
All three reached the NCAA Tournament.
Giacoletti bolted for Utah after his successful four-year run from 2000-2004 that included four appearances in the Big Sky Conference Tournament title game. He accepted the same job at then-Mountain West power Utah after the 2004 season, days after coaching in March Madness.
Two years after leading EWU to the 2015 NCAA Tournament, Hayford took a higher-paying – not necessarily a more prestigious – job at Seattle University. He lasted six years in Cheney.
Now there’s Legans, who has won 60 of 82 games against Big Sky teams, reached three Big Sky Tournament title games in three tries, won a Big Sky regular-season title and reached the NCAA Tournament,
He has yet to sign a contract extension (it ends April 30, 2022, according to public records) with EWU, despite returning the overwhelming majority of his talented players next season and bringing in perhaps his most impressive recruiting class.
Legans makes roughly $130,000 a year plus incentives, according to his 2017 contract, a number even a downtrodden WCC program like Portland could likely triple.
EWU, which has plenty of well-documented financial problems and has drawn scrutiny for its athletic spending, likely can’t afford to give Legans a raise.
So will Legans return in 2021-22 for a fifth season?
He didn’t say he would. He didn’t say wouldn’t.
“We’ll see,” Legans said Saturday.
Perry to return: Jack Perry appears to be coming back.
Perry, one of EWU’s two seniors, plans to return for one more season.
His roommate, Tanner Groves, told reporters Saturday that Perry will be back in 2021-22, which will be his fifth year of college because he never redshirted.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020-2021 season doesn’t count against a player’s eligibility.
Perry played as a true freshman in 2017-2018, and he’ll be a fifth-year senior.
Meadows remained consistent: In EWU’s season-opening 71-68 loss at Washington State, Mike Meadows had a wide-open look at a late, go-ahead 3-pointer, but passed.
He would’ve had the confidence to shoot that Saturday.
Against Kansas’ longer, more athletic guards, Meadows was fearless, attacking the rim on his way to 12 points and eight assists.
Meadows, who was primarily a role player off the bench earlier in the season, reached double figures in scoring in 12 of the team’s final 13 games.
Fans made the trip: Indiana Farmers Coliseum allowed 25% capacity (roughly 1,700 fans), the overwhelming majority rooting for Kansas and yelling the school’s tradition-rich chants.
There were dozens of EWU fans, too, some waving EWU flags. Even girlfriends of the players made the trip and waved an Australia flag as a tribute to Aussie players Perry and Tyler Robertson.
Several parents were in attendance.
“I’m so nervous!” Tara Groves said outside the arena, an hour before the game.
Her sons, Tanner and Jacob, went on to score career highs of 35 and 23 points, respectively, in the loss.
Best NCAA tourney showing: It’s a small sample size, but EWU’s loss to Kansas was the Cheney school’s best showing in a NCAA Tournament.
In 2004, No. 2 seed Oklahoma State handled the No. 15 seed Eagles 75-56 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Eagles were tied at 36 with the Cowboys at halftime but never led.
In 2015, No. 4 seed Georgetown beat No. 13 seed EWU 84-74 in Portland, but the Hoyas were in control in the second half, leading by as many as 23 points.
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