Leon Rice, the associate head coach since 2007 and a member of the Gonzaga coaching staff for 11 seasons, was named Boise State's men's basketball head coach, becoming just the seventh coach to take over the helm of the Bronco program.
Boise State Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier made the announcement of Rice's hire today (March 26), which includes a five-year contract at a salary of $400,000 a year. The contract is subject to state board of education approval.
"We are thrilled to have Leon heading our basketball program," said Bleymaier. "His experience and expertise is exactly what we were looking for."
This last season, Rice helped coach Gonzaga to its 10th consecutive regular-season West Coast Conference title with a conference record of 12-2 while finishing 27-7 overall. In winning its 10th consecutive regular-season WCC title, Gonzaga moved into a tie with Connecticut (1951-60 Yankee Conference) and UNLV (1983-92 Big West) for the second-longest such streak in NCAA history. UCLA is first with 13 straight Pac-10 titles from 1967-79.
At Gonzaga, Rice worked with Mark Few for 11 seasons and played a major role in the Bulldogs' NCAA Sweet 16 berths in 2000, 2001, and 2009; an NCAA berth in 2002, 2007 and 2009; a 2003 NCAA second-round appearance that ended with a thrilling 96-95 double-overtime loss to top-seeded Arizona and second-round rides again in 2004, 2005 and 2010. The Bulldogs finished the 2004 season ranked third in the final Associated Press Top 25, and followed that with a No. 10 ranking in 2005, a No. 5 spot in the final 2006 AP poll and another No. 10 ranking by the AP in 2009.
The Bulldogs were 291-73 in Rice's tenure as an assistant, including a school-best 29-4 record in 2002, a record that was matched in 2006, and a No. 6 ranking in the final AP Top 25 poll and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga received its best-ever seed into the 2004 NCAA tournament at No. 2.
"Leon has been intimately involved in building one of the most successful programs in the country," added Bleymaier . " Our goal is to do the same here."
Rice has been a member of one of the most successful men's college basketball programs in the last decade. While at Gonzaga, the Bulldogs own an overall winning percentage of 79.945 percent with an overall record of 291-73 over the last 11 seasons.
Rice joined the Bulldogs from Yakima Valley College where he served two seasons as an assistant coach and one as co-head coach with the legendary Dean Nicholson, then served as head coach for the 1998-99 campaign. YVC went from worst to first in the first season of the Rice-Nicholson partnership, and in 1999 YVC went 31-2 in capturing its fourth straight Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) Eastern Region title. The 31 wins were a school record and came four seasons after Rice and Nicholson inherited a program which had gone 3-20 overall during the 1994-95 season. YVC went a perfect 12-0 in the NWAACC in 1999 and Rice earned his second straight Eastern Region Coach of the Year honor.
The duo coached YVC to a 103-26 overall record and 40-8 league record in four seasons. Rice coached 18 student-athletes who went on to play basketball at 4-year schools, including the Bulldogs' Quentin Hall who was a 1999 Gonzaga senior. YVC had six players from the 1999 squad who joined 4-year programs.
Rice received his B.A. in physical education from Washington State University in 1986 and his M.A. in athletic administration, management and program development from Oregon in 1991. After one year of high school coaching, he began his collegiate career as a graduate assistant coach at Oregon in 1989, then served two seasons as a fulltime assistant coach for the Ducks. He was the head assistant coach at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley for three seasons prior to going to YVC.
Rice and his wife, Robin, have three sons, Brock (12), Max (10) and Kade (6).
What They’re Saying About Leon Rice...
“I’m very happy for Leon and his family. He is a man of high character and strong family values. He has been very selective when looking at head coaching opportunities the last 5 years and I know he was looking for the right fit. Boise State is getting a guy that is a tremendous recruiter, coach and communicator. Obviously he’s been a big part of the success at Gonzaga. He has a great understanding of the profession, how to build a program and the importance of the community in the program’s success.” - Bill Grier, University of San Diego Head Basketball Coach
“Boise State is getting a great coach and an even better family into the greater Boise area. 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.” - Mark Few, Gonzaga Head Basketball Coach
“I’m excited for Leon and this new opportunity for him. He brought a great spirit and attitude to the team while I was there and is a tremendous choice to head the Boise State basketball program.” - Adam Morrison, LA Laker and former Gonzaga Basketball Player
"I think Leon is a great coach and he had a tremendous impact on me during my time at Gonzaga - both on and off the court. He is a hard-working coach that not only has high expectations of his players, but also has the passion and energy to lead those players to new heights." - Ronny Turiaf, Golden State Warrior and former Gonzaga All-American Basketball Player
All-American and National Players Coached:
Associated Press All-Americans: J.P. Batista, Casey Calvary, Dan Dickau, Adam Morrison, Jeremy Pargo, Derek Ravio, Blake Stepp and Ronny Tufiaf.
NABC All-District Winners: J.P. Batista, Matt Bouldin, Casey Calvary, Austin Daye, Dan Dickau, Richie Frahm, Zach Gourde, Elias Harris, Josh Heytvelt, Adam Morrison, Jeremy Pargo, Derek Raivio, Matt Santangelo, Blake Stepp, Ronny Turiaf and Cory Violette.
NABC All-Americans: Dak Dickau (2001-02: 2nd Team), Adam Morrison (2005-06: Player of the Year Top Four Finalist), Blake Stepp (2003-04: 2nd Team).
WCC Players of the Year: Matt Bouldin (2010), Casey Calvary (2001), Dan Dickau (2002), Blake Stepp (2003, 2004), Ronny Turiaf (2005), Adam Morrison (2006), Derek Ravio (2007), Jeremy Pargo (2008).
WCC Freshman of the Year: Blake Stepp (2001).
WCC Defender of the Year: Mike Nilson (2000), Mark Spink (2001), Erroll Knight (2005).
WCC Newcomer of the Year: J.P. Batista (2005) and Elias Harris (2010).
All-Conference Players: J.P. Batista, Matt Bouldin, Casey Calvary, Austin Daye, Dan Dickau, Richie Frahm, Zach Gourde, Steven Gray, Elias Harris, Josh Heytvelt, Erroll Knight, Sean Mallon, Adam Morrison, Mike Nilson, Jeremy Pargo, David Pendergraft, Derek Ravio, Matt Santangelo, Mark Spink, Blake Stepp, Ronny Turiaf, Cory Violette.
NBA Players: Austin Daye, Dan Dickau, Richie Frahm, Adam Morrison and Ronny Turiaf.