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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 27, 2010

Rice will take over at Boise State

 •  Tennessee advances

Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Boise State signed Leon Rice to a five-year deal worth $400,000 annually.

JOE JASZEWSKI | Idaho Statesman via AP

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Boise State has named Leon Rice, a skilled recruiter and longtime assistant at Gonzaga, to be the next head basketball coach.

Rice, 46, was introduced yesterday as the seventh coach in school history hours after signing a five-year deal that will pay him an annual base salary of $400,000.

For the past 11 years, Rice has served as the top recruiter and assistant under Mark Few, who led Gonzaga this season to a 27-7 record and 12th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.

For Rice, the challenge will be turning around a program that has been inconsistent the past decade and has struggled to put fans in the stands and emerge from the shadow of the successful Broncos football team.

A self-described "Northwest guy," Rice said he rarely sought head coaching opportunities during his time with Gonzaga. But his ambitions changed when the job in Boise opened earlier this month.

"I was fortunate enough to be in a terrific job," Rice said yesterday. "So I've been able to be very, very selective. I've not pursued jobs. But when this job opened up, I knew it was a good fit for me."

Rice takes over a team that finished 15-17 and in a lackluster performance was eliminated in the first round of the Western Athletic Conference tournament.

The next day, athletic director Gene Bleymaier fired Greg Graham after eight seasons at the helm.



Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen says he was much more excited than he was tired.

As draining as the Wildcats' double-overtime win over Xavier was in the West Regional semifinals on Thursday night in Salt Lake City, Pullen said his thoughts were racing too much for him to fall asleep. Pullen just stayed in his hotel bed, remembering what he and the Wildcats had just done and could still be on the verge of doing.

Kansas State plays Butler today in the regional final.

"We're antsy to play. Any team would be antsy to play. It's a big game," Pullen said. "At the same time, we're still focused. We're still calm. We feel like we're taking another step toward where we want to be at the end of our season."

Kansas State (29-7) is trying to get back to the Final Four for the first time since 1964. Butler (31-4) has never been there.

The second-seeded Wildcats had to withstand Xavier's rallies at the end of regulation and the first overtime before finally winning, 101-96. The fifth-seeded Bulldogs advanced by upsetting Syracuse the No. 1 seed in the West.



Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves has written "Elite Eight!!!" on top of his dry-erase board all season long, complete with three underlines and a circle.

"We weren't settling for just the Sweet 16 this year," guard Courtney Vandersloot said yesterday.

It's a pretty audacious goal for a school that had never won a game in the women's NCAA tournament before upsetting Xavier in the first round last season. But that 74-59 victory got the Zags (29-4) thinking big and they've made it all the way back to a rematch with the third-seeded Musketeers (29-3) in today's Sacramento Regional semifinals at Arco Arena.

Gonzaga junior guard Tatriana Lorenzo is a Kamehameha Schools alum.

The seventh-seeded Zags overwhelmed the West Coast Conference yet again before beating North Carolina and Texas A&M last week in Seattle.


West Virginia: West Virginia star Da'Sean Butler says his injured right hand won't affect his play in the East Regional final today against Kentucky in Syracuse, N.Y. Butler says he wrapped his hand and wrist in ice after yesterday's practice as a precaution. Butler clutched his right hand in pain after a hard fall in West Virginia's 69-56 win over Washington in the NCAA tournament Thursday night.

USC: Southern California coach Kevin O'Neill has promoted Tony Miller to men's basketball assistant. Earlier this month, O'Neill fired assistants Gib Arnold and Phil Johnson, who were holdovers from Tim Floyd's staff. Arnold, a Punahou School alum, has since become head coach at Hawai'i.

Michigan: Michigan junior wing Manny Harris is expected to declare himself for the NBA draft, multiple people with knowledge of the decision told the Detroit Free Press yesterday. Harris was an all-Big Ten first-team player as a sophomore and averaged a career-high 18.1 points as a junior.