If there was a theme of Shantay Legans introductory press conference as UP’s 22nd men’s basketball head coach yesterday, it was that.
UP’s men’s basketball program hasn’t had a winning season in six years, has finished last in the WCC three years in a row and, under previous head coach Terry Porter, had an overall record of 43 wins and 103 losses.
Legans was able to see past the program's recent failures though.
“I was talking to my mentors, they said, it could be a beautiful job, it could be a great job, it could be a winning job.” Legans said. “And that made me start thinking like, why can't we beat these top schools? Why can't we build a team? Build a roster to be that good? Why can't we build a team that we're going in for championships every single year?”
Legans has good reasons to be confident. During his four-year tenure as Eastern Washington University’s head men’s basketball coach, his teams went 75 and 49. In 2019, his team was the runner-up in the Big Sky Conference tournament. This year, they won it all and made the NCAA tournament.
He has been nothing but successful during his time as EWU’s head coach and is now asking, why not Portland?
Legans' can-do attitude was something that was a necessary quality for any prospective head coach candidate, according to UP’s Vice President for Athletics Scott Leykam.
“Our past with wins and losses as a men's basketball program should not define our future,” Leykam said. “History is just that, history. It's time for a new, fresh start and creating our own history, going forward on the bluff.”
The three other qualities Leykam and the search committee were looking for was the ability to establish a strong culture, recruit inside the Northwest and internationally, and help incoming freshmen improve every year. Legans stood out to Leykam in all three and has wasted no time getting started.
In the two days since accepting the job, he has already made offers to two high schoolers from the west coast and said that he has identified three to four high schoolers from Portland that are critical to recruit.
“I'm going to be recruiting my tail off,” Legans said. “...We're going to check out every high school team and we're going to meet with all high school coaches, in my time when I can, and make sure we have great bonds there because I don't want to miss on any kids... I want to be one of the spots that people wake up and want to go to Portland.”
He also plans to get to know the student body, faculty, staff and the greater UP community, and hopes that people will seek him out, noting that his “door’s always open.”
One of Legans’ favorite parts about college basketball is the impact he can have on some of his athletes, supporting them both on and off the court.
Leykam said that this is an important trait for coaches at UP.
“I was more and more impressed each time I talked to him,” Leykam said. “And I will say the more I talked to people that knew him and have been around him... raved about, not only what he can do as a coach, but what he can do to develop young men, and you all know that that's very important to what we do here at UP.”
Legans knows the task ahead of him will be difficult, but he believes that he can help to tip the scales.
“It’s going to be a tall task,” Legans said. “But I'm up for the challenge. I'm not tall though, I’m 5’10” but I'm going to fight for it and we want to fight every step of the way.”
William Seekamp is the Sports Editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.