Pilots score big with hoop hire

When the University of Portland announced its hire for men's basketball coach Monday night, it didn't take long to figure out they pretty much - in hoop terms - drained a Damian Lillard-esque 3-pointer from 40 feet with Shantay Legans.

Legans comes to Portland after four years as head coach at Eastern Washington, and of significant note - after taking the Eagles to the NCAA Tournament and a knockdown, dragout battle with Kansas Saturday, a 93-84 loss.

In his four seasons as head coach, Legans was 75-49, won the Big Sky Conference regular-season title twice and the tournament this season to reach the Big Dance. Legans was at the school eight years prior, so he's been in Cheney, Wash., the past 12 years. Taking the Portland job seems like a great career move, even if there's plenty of reason so think it isn't.

The bright side for Legans is that he's 39, and even modest success with the Pilots might make him an attractive hire for a mid-major conference school such as Dayton. The West Coast Conference could be considered a mid-major conference, but rarely does it put two teams into the NCAA Tournament even if its top team, Gonzaga, is among the best in the nation. And, success at Portland is going to be easy to judge because the program is so far removed from ninth in the 10-team league. In his five years at Portland, head coach Terry Porter led the school only as high as ninth one time. When the school finally let him go in February, the Pilots had just been beat the night before 105-60 in large part due to being outrebounded 46-12.

Success at the University of Portland will be easy to guage.

Success at the University of Portland is not going to be easy to create. The school hasn't been to the NCAAs since 1996, and that's going to be a hard task with Gonzaga on top and Brigham Young right behind it. The Pilots have had some success, even as recently as 2015 when they reached the Collegeinsider.com Tournament for the fourth time in seven seasons. But all those appearances were one-and-done and led the team finished as high as third only twice in coach Eric Reveno's 10 seasons. The school wanted more from its program and fired Reveno, who has become a significant factor in recruiting at Georgia Tech.

Porter had the name and local buzz from his Trail Blazers career, but never had the skills as a recruiter, and he simply did not seem to exist on social media or any media in a way that coaches need to exist these days. Porter was 43-103 in his days at Portland. The Pilots won just five conference games under Porter.

Legans' ability to wipe the program clean from Porter's failures will be key to his success, but that's what a new coach can do. And he's got the Rose City to sell to prospective recruits, including those looking to transfer and wanting an up-close glimpse of Damian Lillard. Coming off a tournament run is a big deal in that cleansing process.

Portland seems like it made a great hire in Legans, which also brings up if Legans is successful in Portland as he was at Eastern Washington, how long will he be in Portland?

 

 

 

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