Kyle Smith attends a news conference for his introduction as...

Kyle Smith attends a news conference for his introduction as Stanford men's basketball coach, Wednesday, March 27, 2024, in Stanford, Calif. Credit: AP/Karl Mondon

STANFORD, Calif. — Ever since Kyle Smith watched Mike Montgomery turn Stanford from an also-ran into a national basketball power, he has viewed the Cardinal job as the dream destination in his coaching career.

The dream has now been realized with Smith being introduced Wednesday as Stanford's new coach, tasked with getting the program back to the heights it enjoyed under Montgomery.

“It’s the best job," said Smith, who took the job after leading Washington State to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2008.

“You can be so good here. You attract the people you attract here. You can be great. You’ve got to sell it and believe in it, and you don’t understand, those people are elite. They’re workers. They’re achievers. ... It’s easy for me to believe that. I’ve been saying it for 30 years so I’d better back it up.”

The transfer portal, NIL money and conference realignment have brought about a sea change in college basketball since Montgomery took Stanford to a Final Four in 1998 and then a No. 1 ranking in three out of five seasons starting in 1999-2000.

But Smith is adamant that the Stanford education and brand can still attract top players, even if finding those able to get into the difficult school takes more effort.

Stanford has been unable to duplicate the success it had under Montgomery in recent years, with the school getting one NCAA Tournament berth in the past 16 seasons under Johnny Dawkins and the recently fired Jerod Haase.

Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir, left, introduces Kyle Smith as...

Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir, left, introduces Kyle Smith as men's basketball coach, during a conference in Stanford, Calif., Wednesday, March 27, 2024. Credit: AP/Karl Mondon

The Cardinal went 14-18 this past season and had three key players already enter the transfer portal in Maxime Raynaud, Andrej Stojakovic and Kanaan Carlyle.

“People are here at Stanford, not for the dollars they can earn in NIL, but for the degree, for the experience, for lifetime relationships,” he said. “We got to keep selling that to the players in the program and people in the portal.”

Smith believes his style fits "like a glove” with the players who are attracted to Stanford. He relies heavily on analytics with his style of play often described as “Nerdball” for its use of about 60 metrics to create a signature stat called HPPP — Hustle Points Per Possession — that he uses to grade players in practice and games.

Now he brings that to a school whose athletes proudly refer to themselves as “Nerd Nation.”

Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir, left, listens as Kyle Smith...

Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir, left, listens as Kyle Smith speaks after being introduced as Stanford men's basketball coach, during a news conference in Stanford, Calif., Wednesday, March 27, 2024. Credit: AP/Karl Mondon

Smith is coming off his first career NCAA Tournament appearance as he oversaw an impressive turnaround at Washington State that earned him Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors. He helped the Cougars win 25 games, win an NCAA Tournament game and get into the AP poll in their most successful season since 2008 under Tony Bennett.

“The last week or so we’ve been scouring the country to try to find the right coach,” athletic director Bernard Muir said. “We quickly found it."

Smith was an ideal candidate for Stanford because of his ties to the Bay Area, success at a power conference and experience at a high-academic school.

After a longtime stint as the top assistant at nearby Saint Mary’s, Smith spent six seasons as the head coach at Columbia in the Ivy League. He then spent three seasons at San Francisco before coaching the past five seasons in the Pac-12 at Washington State.

He has a 258-193 career record and has gone nine straight seasons without a losing record.

Smith believes his experience recruiting players in the Ivy League will help at Stanford, which can offer the opportunity to play in an elite conference to go with the academics. He hopes to be able to attract some graduate transfers who have used up their eligibility in the Ivy League but can play in other conferences because of the COVID year exception.

“You have to cast a wide global net and really identify the guys that can play, that have the academic credentials,” he said. “They’re there. You have to work at it."

Smith got emotional at one point during the news conference when he talked about the resources Stanford can provide his 13-year-old son Bo, who is dealing with autism.

The decision by Smith is the latest blow for Washington State. Ten of the Pac-12 schools are departing the conference, leaving Washington State and Oregon State alone. The Cougars will play basketball next season as affiliate members in the West Coast Conference as the two remaining schools try to rebuild a new version of the Pac-12.

Stanford is now headed to the ACC to play with traditional powerhouses like Duke and North Carolina.

“When I was at Washington State, I thought it was silly,” Smith said. “When I got the job, I was like this is awesome. ... It is awesome. To be honest. And frightening. They care about basketball. This is Tobacco Road. This is a big-time deal.”


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