Idaho assistant Pfeifer to take over hoops reins

Updated: April 14, 2006, 12:12 PM ET
Associated Press

MOSCOW, Idaho -- Idaho assistant coach George Pfeifer will take over the ailing University of Idaho men's basketball program, school officials announced Saturday.

Pfeifer -- an assistant at Idaho during the 2005-2006 season and the former coach at NAIA Division I Lewis-Clark State College in nearby Lewiston, Idaho -- will be offered a three-year contract comparative to former coach Leonard Perry's, which was valued at about $170,000 a year, said athletic director Rob Spear.

Pfeifer has been heading the program since Perry was fired just hours after Idaho's season-ending loss to Nevada in the first round of the Western Athletic Conference tournament on March 9.

Pfeifer is a 51-year-old St. Ivies, Idaho-native and earned a master's degree from the University of Idaho in 1989 and his bachelor's from Lewis-Clark in 1979.

In 16 years at Lewis-Clark, he led the team to a 296-208 record, including six NAIA national tournament appearances as well as Frontier Conference titles in 2004 and 2005.

Pfeifer said the Idaho basketball program will need rebuilding after a record 25 losses this season and back-to-back 20 loss years. This season, Idaho also finished last in the WAC in nine of 18 statistical categories, including points scored, scoring margin, field goal percentage and rebounds.

"We need to get better players," Pfeifer said Saturday after being announced as the new head coach. "We have some younger players who are going to step up and help in the future, but we need to get some people who will come help us play right away."

He said he'll try to craft a new recruiting "blueprint" to bring more and better players to Moscow.

The decision to hire Pfeifer is somewhat of a reverse from a statement Spear made earlier this month when he said he wanted a coach from a winning program.

In recent weeks, Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice, Utah State assistant Don Verlin, Oregon State assistant Jeff Reinart and Minnesota assistant Bill Walker have reportedly interviewed for the Idaho coaching job.

Spear said he interviewed a total of nine candidates, but declined to give names or say whether any of them were offered the position.

"What we've done in this process is been very thorough. We talked to NBA coaches, Division I coaches and my contacts across the country," Spear said. "The theme was that that we have a good guy right down the hall."

Pfeifer's selection was apparently aided by endorsements from former Idaho basketball coach Don Monson and Idaho's new high-profile football coach Dennis Erickson, Pfeifer said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press