After coming to the Cougars from Northern Colorado, Ethridge added four newcomers to seven players remaining on the roster, whom Ethridge described as a "great foundation."
SAN FRANCISCO – After a tour of Pullman and the athletic facilities, prospective Washington State women’s basketball coach Kamie Ethridge sought to cancel her interview.
“I called back and said, ‘I’m not sure this is a good situation, just because of knowing what we would have to recruit against,’” Ethridge said Wednesday at Pac-12 women’s basketball media day, where the Cougars were picked 11th by the conference coaches in a preseason poll. “And then I walked into an interview with Pat Chun, our athletic director.”
Ethridge was so impressed with Chun and deputy athletic director Anne McCoy, she left Northern Colorado where she had coached the previous four years.
“In women’s basketball, it has very little to do with geography or the state you’re in or whatever,” Ethridge said. “It’s about the people you’re surrounded by.
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“Those two people … they’re a great representation of what makes Washington State so special, and it’s the people there and how they believe in the program, believe in the university. And if we can build on that, we’re going to do some good things there.”
It won’t be easy for WSU, which finished last season 10-20 overall and 3-14 in the Pac-12, good for 10th place.
After the season, Chun fired coach June Daugherty, who missed half of the season due to health issues. She posted a 130-217 record at WSU and finished above .500 just once during her 11 seasons in Pullman.
Ethridge had an 83-44 record at Northern Colorado, including a 26-7 mark last season that included an NCAA tournament appearance.
During the coaching change, four players transferred from Washington State: forward Louise Brown (Tennessee), forward Kayla Washington (UC-Santa Barbara), forward Taryn Shelley (Montana State-Billings) and center Nike McClure (New Mexico).
Ethridge brought in four newcomers, including three freshmen who joined seven returners, led by junior forward Borislava Hristova, who averaged a team-high 17.8 points per game.
“I think I’m walking into a really pretty special situation,” Ethridge said. “I think the seven that stayed and stuck around this program and committed to this program and wanted to stay and want it to become successful, that’s unique, even as a coach that’s walking in just to seven players.
“I think they represent a lot of the things that I want to be about. I think they give us a great foundation. They’re committed players. They love to play. They love to practice. They want to be coached.”
The Cougars finished the season with a seven-game losing streak.
“We don’t really know what to expect in the season,” said junior guard Chanelle Molina, who averaged 7.7 points and 2.9 assists last season. “You know, we just know that we’re going to go out there and give it our all, always compete, compete, stay together, and it’s kind of like our foundation.”
Asked about her concerns heading into the season, Ethridge said, “Concerns are Stanford, UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State. Name all 11 of them.
“I know we’re facing some of the best teams in the country. Unbelievable challenges.
“We don’t have quite all the pieces that we want eventually. We have 11 players. But we have a lot of really good pieces, and I’m thrilled that we can — we’re going to put a competitive team on the floor.”
Biggest roster in the Pac-12
Oregon State coach Scott Rueck proudly proclaims he’s 5 feet, 4½ inches wearing shoes.
And yet, the Beavers coach is fixated with size. In fact, OSU boasts the biggest front line in the Pac-12 – if not the country – in three players who are 6-7 or taller.
“The shortest coach and the tallest team,” Rueck quipped. “It’s kinda ironic. We always want what we can’t have, I guess. So if I can’t be tall, I’m going to align with tall people.
“Early in my career, at a Division III school, you don’t always get to pick who you get to coach because you don’t have scholarships to offer. And then you stumble into a team that has a 5-11 center one year and a 6-4 center one year. And you just learn how to make it work. I’ve learned that I really like tall posts.”
Rueck should love this Oregon State team that features 6-foot-8 senior center Joanna Grymek and a pair of tall freshmen in Andrea Aquino (6-9) and Patricia Morris (6-7).
“They’re going to be amazing players,” Rueck said.
During Rueck’s nine-year tenure, Oregon State has risen to prominence with former centers Ruth Hamblin and Marie Gulich.
Less depth, same expectations for Ducks
Depth could be a problem for defending Pac-12 champion Oregon, which was picked as the overwhelming favorite to win a second straight title.
The Ducks have just nine active players due to four players who left the program unexpectedly. The departed include: Mallory McGwire (Boise State), Sierra Campisano (Cal Poly), Anneli Maley (TCU) and Aina Ayuso, who returned to Spain.
Still, Oregon is loaded with All-American guard Sabrina Ionescu, All-Pac-12 forward Ruthy Hebard and All-Pac-12 guard Maite Cazorla.
“We have a thinner roster,” coach Kelly Graves said. “But the reality is most of our production is back. We never like players to leave our program, and they all did for different reasons.
“We’ve really tried to focus on looking forward, and from the coaches that I’ve talked to … they’ve told me that once you go with a smaller roster, actually it’s hard to go back because of the benefits.”
Cal coach has Golden wedding
California coach Lindsay Gottlieb, who included the Golden Bears in her Sept. 22 wedding ceremony, said it was a special to have her team at her nuptials.
“I can tell you I was never the young person dreaming about a wedding growing up. I was more concerned about back screens,” said Gottlieb, who wore her wedding-day shoes at Wednesday’s media day. “This team has always been a part of my family, so when Patrick and I chose to do a wedding, it was a no-brainer that we were going to include the team.”
Cal forward Kristine Anigwe emotionally said of the wedding, “It felt like a movie.”
Golden Bears guard Asha Thomas added: “It was definitely a special day. I’m happy that everyone decided to show up for her. … It was definitely an emotional day, but we had our fun too.”
Due to the impending renovation at KeyArena, the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament will move to the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas for at least the next two years.