PULLMAN, Wash. — It’s been a successful winter for WSU thus far with women’s basketball getting ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time ever this week and men’s basketball entering the week 9-2.
"They're just a reflection of Washington State. Anything and everything is possible when you have the right people," said WSU AD Pat Chun of his basketball coaches in a one-on-one interview with KREM.
It also helps when those right people beat some of the best teams in the country, which is the case for Kamie Ethridge’s 7-1 Cougar women’s basketball team this year.
"It's fun and it's inspiring at the same time because it's no secret Kamie Ethridge took over a very tough situation, historically a tough job," said Chun. "They're (the team) truly a reflection on the head coach, because they put in the work, they play unselfish, they play defense, they make the extra pass, and they’ve got guts and grit."
Grit also came up when discussing the Cougars football team with Chun, who gave glowing remarks for Nick Rolovich, despite going 1-3 this year.
"Really proud. I always remind people the context of where we were. When Coach Leach called saying he was he was leaving us, it was late January. It was late in the hiring cycle. The way it works is you make the right hire, he's going to assemble the staff, finish the recruiting class. March hits and the pandemic hits and we had no spring ball, no summer workouts, an abbreviated fall. We were a team and a league hit hard by Covid. When you see just the grit and the unity that that team showed, I mean, this is a team that hovered at around 53 players scholarship players all year. I think our last game we had 34 players not available, but they hung in there," said Chun.
Last week the Cougar men’s basketball team knelt for the national anthem after the insurrection in our capital.
Some WSU fans voiced their displeasure with the men’s teams actions. For Chun, the word proud came up once again.
"Proud of our guys. Even if it's just one member of that team who's hurting, the fact that they would unify and help each other through that is the powerful message that everybody needs to hear," said Chun.
Another thing fans want to hear is the impact of COVID on the athletic department financially.
Earlier this year they were projected to have a $22 million loss in this academic year alone. Overall, they are projected to have over a $100 million deficit by 2022.
Chun says the total damage just isn’t clear enough right now. As for if we’ll see more salary cuts and furloughs for employees next school year?
"The hope is not, but, like I said, it's early January right now. This thing is constantly changing and constantly evolving so we'll see where we land, but we asked a lot out of our staff this year, and they did not complain," said Chun.
Regardless of his athletic department's financial status, which to be fair is certainly not all of Chun’s fault, we should expect to see his name come up more and more in athletic director searches over the next few years if his coaching hires continue to see success.
Here’s his answer on if he pays any attention to that chatter:
"One of my personal philosophies a mentor gave me is to keep your head and your butt in the same place. My butt is perman--" as Chun stopped himself-- "Firmly planted in Pullman, Washington. We, as a family, are very happy here."