Waves New Men’s Hoops Coach Expected to Garner More Wins

Pepperdine men’s basketball

Pepperdine’s athletic department has begun the search for a new coach to lead the university’s men’s basketball team. Pepperdine Director of Athletics Dr. Steve Potts said in an interview that the new coach must be the right fit for the Waves hoops program.

“It has to be someone that is supportive of our Christian mission, somebody that is supportive of the high academic standards that we have, and somebody that is going to recruit and develop student-athletes that can help us compete for championships,” he said. 

The athletic department announced it was searching for a new men’s hoops coach on Feb. 13, the same day it said that current basketball coach Marty Wilson would lead the currently 4-24 Waves the rest of this season but would not be retained for an eighth season.

Potts said the university didn’t see any reason to hold off its decision to search for a new coach. He added that Wilson, a former Pepperdine basketball player, wanted to coach the squad for the reminder season, which now includes two contests against West Coast Conference foes—Saint Mary’s on Thursday and Portland on Saturday—and the single-elimination WCC Championships in Las Vegas, March 2-6.

The Waves have dropped 11 WCC games this season and are last in conference standings. The squad’s lone WCC win was a Jan. 25, one-point victory over Loyola Marymount. Pepperdine has lost seven straight games since then. 

Potts said the team’s lack of wins this season and last season is why a coaching change is needed. 

“We won nine games last year; we’ve won four games this year,” he said. “I’m not going to say it’s always about that, but the program wasn’t moving in the right direction.”

The Waves have only one victory in 2018. The team’s other wins are a Nov. 14 defeat of Cal Lutheran, a Nov. 21 win over Oral Roberts and a Dec. 5 downing of UC Riverside. 

The Waves’ two most recent games were tough losses. 

BYU beat Pepperdine, 75-70, in overtime on Feb. 15. Freshman guard Trae Berhow scored 12 points to lead the Waves, and his teammate Colbey Ross, also a freshman, rang up 11 points. Two other Waves also scored in double digits. 

Pepperdine was defeated by ninth-ranked Gonzaga, 81-67, two days later. Ross scored 21 points in the loss. 

Potts praised Wilson, the Waves outgoing coach, as a person—but said since the basketball program wasn’t winning, change was essential.

“Marty is a wonderful man,” he said. “Student-athletes, guys on the team get very close with their coaches and when you tell a group their coach is going to no longer be with them it’s a tough situation. These things are not easy.” 

Wilson, who has an 86-127 record leading the Waves, said in a statement that he realizes the ultimate goal is to win basketball games.

“The fact that we did not consistently achieve that goal lies on my shoulders,” he said. “I praise our staff for the integrity that they showed in such a challenging profession where the pressure to bend the rules are great in order to win basketball games.”

The athletic director didn’t put a timeline on when he hopes to hire a new coach, and when asked if the search was for someone with previous head coaching experience or a qualified assistant coach, Potts said, “All the above.” 

Pepperdine’s top athletic official noted that being the Waves coach is a desirable job.

“I think our university call sell itself,” Potts said. “I don’t think I’m going to have to convince anybody to come here. I think there are going to be plenty of people, qualified candidates that have the confidence in themselves to come here and build a winning program.” 

He said Pepperdine wants to win men’s hoops games as soon as possible. 

“We expect our new coach and staff to come in here and build a program that can compete for championships in the West Coast Conference,” Potts said.