PULLMAN – Eight years later, it’s still the most popular jersey at Washington State home basketball games and before long, Klay Thompson’s No. 1 will be hanging in the rafters at Beasley Coliseum.
A banner week for the Cougars’ basketball program started with the formal announcement of Kyle Smith as the school’s 19th head coach. Late Friday night, athletic director Pat Chun announced on Twitter WSU will be retiring Thompson’s number, hinting the school would bring the Golden State Warriors’ All-Star shooting guard back to Pullman for a game next basketball season.
Chun and Smith both took in Golden State’s 120-114 win over Cleveland Friday night at Oracle Arena.
Thompson will join former WSU center Steve Puidokas, who played in Pullman from 1973-77, as the only other Cougar basketball player to have his number retired. The school retired Puidokas’ No. 55 near the end of his senior season in Pullman, which means it’s been 42 years since WSU last feted a basketball player.
In a letter drafted to Thompson, Chun wrote: “This is in recognition of the extraordinary basketball career you’ve had both during your time in Pullman and during your professional career. The charitable work you and your family have done impacting youth in our country and the Bahamas through education and fitness is admirable. We appreciate all you’ve done for WSU and how you continue to represent us globally.”
Despite playing only three seasons in Pullman, Thompson is still third on the school’s career scoring list (1,756 points), in career scoring average (17.9 points per game) and in career field goal attempts (1,414). He’s second in both career 3-point field goals (242) and 3-point attempts (620), and ranks fifth all-time in free throw percentage (.827).
Thompson, who twice earned All-Pac-10 First Team honors at WSU, still follows the Cougars’ basketball program closely and told The Spokesman-Review last April, “I see potential in Washington State basketball. They’ve had great success before, it’s just going to take obviously a lot of patience. They’ve just got to get the right guys.”
On Monday, Chun kept an open line of communication with Thompson during the search process to hire the school’s next basketball coach and in an interview the AD said was unrelated to Smith’s eventual hire, the Warriors sharpshooter gave the new coach a ringing endorsement.
“Kyle at USF is doing a great job, I recommend him for an interview,” Thompson said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Every program he’s been at, he’s turned around, and USF was really good this year. They’ve beat some Pac-10 schools, so he’s be a great candidate.”
Said Chun: “(Klay) has a lot of pride in this program.”
A first-round pick of the Warriors in 2011, Thompson has been selected to five NBA All-Star Games and has won three championships in seven seasons. He’s also an NBA record-holder for points scored in a single quarter (37) and 3-pointers made in a single game (14).
Thompson brought the Larry O’Brien Trophy back to Pullman during a home football game in 2015 and has regularly attended Cougar football and basketball games against Cal and Stanford in the Bay Area.
In 2017, Thompson admitted he left a Golden State preseason game early to catch the end of WSU’s road football game against Cal in Berkeley.
“Yeah, I left a little early to go check out the game,” he told the S-R.
Asked if Warriors coach Steve Kerr knew, Thompson said, “He was OK with it. It’s preseason. Like I said, anytime Washington State’s in town, I try to go watch them play.”
In the same interview, held at the Warriors’ practice facility in Oakland, Thompson reaffirmed his appreciation for WSU and the time he spent there.
“I’m just very grateful I was a Coug,” he said. “If I was to do it all over again, I’d still go to Washington State.”