According to multiple reports ranging from just about all the college basketball insiders in the country, Eastern Washington head coach Shantay Legans is heading to Portland.
Jon Rothstein seems to have reported the news first, which was quickly confirmed by other media members.
Sources: Eastern Washington's Shantay Legans is finalizing a deal to become the next head coach at Portland. Official announcement expected soon.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 22, 2021
Just about 48 hours after EWU had a near-upset against Kansas in the 14-3 game, Legans accepted the head coach job in Portland. Legans led EWU to its third NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the Big Sky Conference tournament.
The exact terms of Legans’ deal at Portland have not been reported, but Oregonian columnist John Canzano tweeted the deal is four years with a fifth-year option.
UP talked with 17 candidates, per AD Scott Leykam. Official interviews with four. Legans accepted the job today. It’s four years with an option in year No. 5. https://t.co/acDv4Fgilx— John Canzano (@johncanzanobft) March 22, 2021
It seems that Portland has more money to throw at Legans than EWU did, which was paying Legans $130,000 base salary — the second-lowest in the Big Sky despite Legans’ success. EWU of course has had reported athletics budget issues and speculation about cutting athletics dropping back to Division II over the years, but nothing has come out of that besides more rumors as the school continues to evaluate its budget.
Heading to Portland, a WCC bottom-dweller, sounds like a tall task. The Pilots have been stomped on by the likes of Gonzaga (everyone has been stomped on by ‘Zaga let’s be fair), BYU, St. Mary’s and even lower-level teams like Pacific. EWU meanwhile nearly beat St. Mary’s, Arizona and Washington State this season.
So, the big and way-too-early question, is it a good move?
In short, in my own opinion, it is a steal for Portland and a big risk for Legans.
EWU’s athletics is a massive question mark going forward, despite the long-looming uncertainty that hasn’t turned into much. Maybe Legans leaving is a domino that leads to more issues at EWU, but we just can’t predict that without looking silly or uninformed.
Legans was a winner at EWU. Plain and simple. He went 75-41 with two 20-win seasons in four years. EWU has been a Big Sky power in that time and a consistent threat to win the title each season since he was promoted in Cheney.
On the other hand, Portland has not been a winner. Far from it actually. The Pilots haven’t had a winning season since 2010-11. The Pilots failed to hit the 10-win mark the past three seasons, naturally leading to Terry Porter’s dismissal after he went just 43-107 in five seasons. Legans walks into a rebuild.
If anyone can turn Portland around, Legans might be able to. But Portland hasn’t been nice to coaches who couldn’t make the rebuild happen.
It is unclear if Porter will get another shot after an abysmal tenure in Portland. His predecessor Eric Reveno is an assistant at Georgia Tech — not bad! — and his predecessor Michael Holton isn’t a coach in the NCAA right now — not great, but he is a broadcaster for the Trailblazers in the NBA so that is neat. If anything, the move for Legans is high-risk, but also very high-reward if Portland can become a viable and competitive team.
It is also pretty safe to say that any of Legans’ EWU teams were better than any of Porter’s Portland teams.
The last time EWU lost a head coach it was also a move within the pacific northwest. Jim Hayford, who Legans replaced, left after 2017 to take over Seattle’s program and has since gone 64-55.
If Legans can make Portland a viable team, that would be a massive accomplishment. He has proven to recruit the area at a high level, and can coach his butt off. But he enters a loaded league some big names to look up at.
If anything Legans gets to live in Portland, which sure seems nice.
What about EWU?
This puts EWU in a weird spot. When Hayford left, Legans was already there and was promoted from within. It makes sense that the Eagles go the same route. It would be cheaper for a cash-strapped school, and could keep some top players from following Legans to Portland if a familiar face takes over.