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Boise State Hires Leon Rice

After a 15-17 (5-11) season in his eighth campaign as head coach, Boise State relieved Greg Graham from his position in charge of its men’s program. While the school was in the height of its football popularity, it needed to new basketball coach.

The Broncos turned westward and snagged long-time Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice, officially hiring him as their seventh head coach in team history March 26, 2010.

Since coming to Boise, Rice has helped turn the Broncos into a regular contender in the Mountain West, finishing in the top three in five of the team’s eight seasons in the conference, including a split regular season championship in 2015. He has taken two teams to the NCAA Tournament, failing to get out of the First Four in 2013 and 2015, and two more to the NIT. Rice won MWC Coach of the Year in 2015 and has a 178-116 (.605) record in his nine years of service.

Reactions to Leon Rice Hire

“You got to have your eyes open all the time, just to see what opportunities are out there. But first and foremost, we love Gonzaga and if we were to ever leave it would be like a divorce having to split the kids up from the community. Professionally, it is something that I will entertain and I have looked around at a small number of opportunities, but I don’t actively pursue jobs, or initiate contact. However, if the right one comes along and if I’m lucky enough to be involved, I’ll look at it. But it has to be a very very good position for me to even consider it.” – Leon Rice in the summer of 2009

“In 11 years as an assistant at Gonzaga, Leon Rice never asked head coach Mark Few to make a job-related call on his behalf – until there was a vacancy at Boise State.

‘I said, ‘I don’t pursue these (job openings), and I haven’t asked you do to do (sic) this in 11 years, but I’d like you to try to talk to Gene’ (Bleymaier, BSU athletic director),’ Rice said during a Friday press conference announcing his hiring as the Broncos’ new coach. ‘Mark was terrific through the whole thing.'” – Jim Meehan, The Spokesman-Review

“Rice agreed to a five-year contract at an annual salary of $400,000, pending state board of education approval … Bleymaier said the school will boost assistant coaches’ salaries and the recruiting budget. BSU’s three assistant coaches made between $42,000-$74,500.” – Meehan

“Rice is known as a skilled recruiter and is credited with helping Gonzaga earn 11 consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs have advanced to the round of 16 four times.

‘Boise State is getting a great coach and an even better family into the greater Boise area,’ Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said of losing his 11-year assistant. ‘I hope the fans and the community reach out and embrace them. He was the co-architect of this entire run (at Gonzaga) and a huge part of our success. We’ll miss Leon, Robin and the kids greatly.'” – Associated Press

“He’s someone who knows the ins and outs of one of the best college basketball stories in the past 10 or 12 years. He’s been here the entire time with Mark building Gonzaga into what it is today.” – Gonzaga assistant coach Ray Giacoletti

“Rice is one of at least three candidates to interview at Boise State. The others were Portland head coach Eric Reveno and former Montana coach Larry Krystkowiak.

Rice is the second assistant coach from Few’s staff to land a head coaching position. Bill Grier took over as head coach at San Diego three years ago. Rice turned down an offer to become the University of Idaho’s head coach in 2006.

Rice was generally considered the favorite to be the next head coach at Gonzaga if Few were to move on to another job. With Rice accepting the BSU job, it could an indication that Few, who is reportedly high on Oregon’s list of candidates, plans on staying at Gonzaga.” – Meehan

“Rice interviewed the day after Gonzaga returned from its season-ending NCAA Tournament loss to Syracuse in Buffalo, N.Y. He was impressed with the university, administration, facilities and community.

‘I told my family about it, that there were just so many great things,’ Rice said. ‘I fit in this community because I’ve lived in one similar. It’s comfortable for me and my family, which is important to me.'” – Meehan

“Boise State, 15-17 last season, returns experience with seven seniors-to-be, six on scholarship. Graham’s staff signed three recruits. One of those players, 7-foot center Ben Mills, of Hartland, Wis., asked to be released from his letter of intent but was denied by Bleymaier, who has said he wanted to conclude the coaching search before addressing Mills’ situation.

Rice said he’ll ‘reach out right away and find out where we are’ with recruits. Rice has some assistant coaches in mind and said he plans to ‘swing for the fences.'” – Meehan

“Rice has lots of experience at a winning program (not a flash in the pan like Ernie Kent’s Ducks were when Graham was hired,) a good personality (any personality is more than Graham had,) and he’s known for his recruiting skills (no more Kurt Cunninghams!!!!) I love that he knows the northwest and knows what it takes to win on a big level. Yes, I think Rice has what it takes to get the Broncos back to the top of the WAC, and with the support of the institution and, more importantly, the fans, he’ll succeed. I’ll be in the front of the line for tickets for the first home game next year! Go Broncos!” – samelodeon, One Bronco Nation Under God

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