PULLMAN – Two years ago, in his first season at the helm, coach Kyle Smith turned the Washington State men’s basketball program into a competitive product and revived its fan base.
A season later, Smith and company brought in one WSU’s best recruiting classes of all time, and the Cougars ended up pocketing signature wins against three teams that made deep runs at the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Ahead of Smith’s third season at WSU, college hoops experts are calling his Cougars a darkhorse NCAA Tournament team.
At this rate, WSU should want Smith to stick around for as long as possible. Good news for the Cougs: He’ll be staying in Pullman for at least another six seasons.
Smith has agreed to a contract extension that will keep him at WSU through the 2026-27 season, the school announced Thursday. His original contract ran through the 2024-25 campaign.
“The rebirth in our men’s basketball program since Kyle arrived two years ago has been remarkable,” athletic director Pat Chun said in a release. “Kyle’s ability to attract and develop top talent has revitalized not only our men’s basketball program, but our fan base as well. The future of Cougar basketball is in good hands under Kyle’s leadership and we are excited he will be a Cougar for many years to come.”
The Cougars are 30-29 under Smith, who has flipped the program’s trajectory with a defense-minded, analytical approach to the game, and a knack for recruiting.
WSU went 14-13 last season for the program’s first winning record in nine years. WSU defeated five NCAA Tournament qualifiers, including national runner-up UCLA and Sweet 16 entrants Oregon and Oregon State.
The Cougs clipped No. 8 Oregon the year before – their first top-10 win in over a decade – and stomped Colorado in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament to claim their first victory at the event since 2009.
Under Smith, WSU has defeated cross-state rival Washington in three of four meetings.
“In our first two seasons we feel we have planted the seeds for a successful basketball program,” Smith said in the release. “It is nice to know that we have been given a vote of confidence with the support from our Athletic Director, Pat Chun, our President, Kirk Schulz, and the entire Pullman community.
“None of this would have been possible without the hard work and persistence of my tireless staff,” he continued. “I am forever grateful for their loyalty and hard work. I speak for everyone when I say that we are ecstatic to have the opportunity to see it through.”
Smith joins former boss Tony Bennett as the only two Cougar coaches to record back-to-back seasons at or above .500 to begin their WSU tenures after taking over a losing team.
WSU’s past two recruiting classes were both ranked in the nation’s top 60, a rarity for the program.
Smith was named WSU’s head coach on March 27, 2019, after three seasons featuring 20 or more wins at San Francisco. Before then, he rebuilt Columbia’s program and led the Lions for six years. Smith held assistant gigs at San Diego (1992-2000), Air Force (2000-01) and Saint Mary’s (2001-10).
The 52-year-old Smith is 194-151 as a head coach.
WSU announced Wednesday that women’s basketball boss Kamie Ethridge had signed a contract extension through the 2026-27 season as well.
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