Continuity key as Eastern Washington hires assistant David Riley to head men’s basketball program

David Riley

A fixture in the EWU program for the past 10 years, the Whitworth and EWU grad has coaching lineage going back two generations

All signs pointed to David Riley deserving the opportunity to be a NCAA Division I head basketball coach.

The veteran of 10 seasons of the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball program has been hired as the new head coach of the Eagles to continue the continuity of the best stretch of success in EWU’s NCAA Division I history. He will be officially introduced as EWU’s next head coach on Thursday (March 25).

The 2021-22 season will be his 11th in Eastern’s program and his eighth as a coach.

“I am honored and excited about being named the next head coach of Eastern Washington University,” said Riley. “The past 10 years at EWU have been an incredible journey and I am grateful to all the current and former players who helped put me in this position.”

 “I am very pleased that Coach Riley has agreed to lead EWU’s men’s basketball team to the next level of success,” said interim EWU President Dr. David May. “His values of excellence on the court, in the classroom, and in life align wonderfully with the overall mission of EWU, and his long-term commitment to the program and the university are obvious. We are looking forward to the 2021-22 season and Go Eags.”

 “We are very excited to have David Riley taking over the leadership of our men’s basketball program,” said Eastern Associate Vice President/Athletic Director Lynn Hickey. “David has been an integral part of Eagle Basketball for years and so he understands the culture and the potential that this program has. He is a very bright young coach who has a tremendous work ethic and a heart for Eastern Washington University. We have just completed an outstanding season and we are confident that Coach Riley is the leader who can continue that momentum and success with our program.”

Riley is a 2011 graduate of Whitworth, and two years later received his master’s degree from EWU. His uncle, Mike Riley, has been head football coach at Nebraska (2015-2017), Oregon State (1997-98, 2003-2014), the San Diego Chargers (1999-2001) and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League (1987-1990). Riley’s grandfather, Bud Riley, was an assistant football coach at Idaho (1962-65), Oregon State (1965-72) and the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1974-77).

David Riley played at Whitworth for Jim Hayford, then was director of basketball operations at EWU when Hayford took over as Eastern’s head coach in the 2011-12 season. He then served three seasons as an assistant for Hayford, and the last four under Shantay Legans, who departed EWU on March 22, 2021, for a position at the University of Portland.

Under Hayford and Legans, Eastern’s four 20-victory seasons are among the top five win totals in EWU’s now 38-year history in NCAA Division I. The combined 125 wins in six seasons, 102 wins in five, 86 in four, 66 in three and 44 in two are also the most since EWU became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season.

“My former coaches and bosses Shantay Legans, Jim Hayford, and Craig Fortier have taught me so much, along with all the other assistants who have helped me throughout my time here,” added Riley. “I’m so grateful to Dr. May and Lynn Hickey for giving me this opportunity to build upon the success our program has had.

“My wife (Emily) and I are excited for our next step in representing Eastern Washington University and showing everyone how much this institution has to offer,” he continued. “My biggest mentor and supporter throughout this all has been my dad, and I’m thankful he helped me fall in love with the Northwest as a kid, and I know my mom will be smiling down and proud of what we are building here. Go Eags.”

In Big Sky Conference games in the last four seasons, Eastern’s 53 victories is the best all-time mark at EWU in 34 seasons in the league. Eastern has won at least 10 league games in eighth-straight seasons, and that only happened six times before in EWU’s first 26 seasons as a member of the league.

Eastern closed the 2020-21 season 12-3 in the league and 16-8 overall after falling to third-seeded and 12th-ranked Kansas at the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis, Ind. The Eagles led for 20:47 compared to 18:07 for the Jayhawks, who led the final 8:46.

Winners of 12 of their last 14 games, Eastern had won nine-straight games before falling to Idaho State 68-63 on March 3. But the Eagles rolled through the Big Sky Conference Tournament with a trio of victories, leading for a total of 108:19 out of 120 minutes (trailed for 8:25 and tied for 3:16). EWU led by as many as 12, 38 and 20 in the three wins, respectively.

David Riley Bio

The 2020-21 school year was David Riley‘s seventh season on the coaching staff after being elevated to an assistant men’s coaching position at EWU in May of 2014. He was previously Eastern’s director of basketball operations, and ’20-21 was his 10th overall at Eastern.

He was elevated to the title of associate head coach in summer of 2020. Riley’s main responsibilities in 2020-21 were for player development with emphasis on wing players, and on-court coaching with offensive emphasis. He also helps with academic monitoring, recruiting, practice planning, in-season scouting of opponents and summer camps.

In April of 2017, Riley was selected by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) on its 2016-17 Under Armour 30-under-30 squad. The honor recognized Riley among a group of up and coming young coaches in men’s college basketball. Fellow Eagle assistant Bobby Suarez was honored on the same 30-Under-30 squad in the 2019-20 school year.

“What a great honor for coach Riley to be recognized as one of the best young coaches in Division I men’s college basketball,” said Shantay Legans, who was Eastern’s head coach at the time. “There is no doubt in my mind that David will continue to climb the ladder in the basketball coaching ranks.”

“David is a very intelligent, hard-working individual who comes from a family of great coaches,” Legans added. “Being a coach is in his genes, and he has taken the next step to assume more responsibility with recruiting. He is proving he can identify the right talent and create relationships with potential players and their families.”

In four seasons under Legans at Eastern, Riley helped Eastern win 75 games overall, 53 in Big Sky Conference play, the outright league championship in 2019-20 and the Big Sky Conference Tournament championship in 2020-21 to advance EWU to its third NCAA Tournament in school history.

The Eagles finished 12-3 in the league (tie for second) and 16-8 overall in the 2020-21 season, which was shortened because of the Covid-19 pandemic. At the NCAA Tournament, Eastern led more than it trailed before the 14th-seeded Eagles ended its season with a 93-84 loss to Kansas, a No. 3 seed and ranked 12th nationally entering the tourney.  The Eagles led for 20:47 compared to 18:07 for the Jayhawks, who led the final 8:46.

The school’s 53 league victories is the best four-year stretch in 34 seasons as a member of the Big Sky Conference. Post player Tanner Groves was the league MVP, and he and Kim Aiken Jr. earned first team All-Big Sky honors. Aiken was also the Big Sky’s Defensive Player of the Year and Tyler Robertson was named the Top Reserve.

Groves was the MVP of the Big Sky Conference Tournament and joined his younger brother, Jacob Groves, as an All-Tournament selection. The “Groves Bros” combined for 58 points versus Kansas, with Tanner finishing with a career-high 35 and Jacob having career highs in both points (23) and rebounds (9).

Eastern had won nine-straight games before falling to Idaho State 68-63 on March 3. But the Eagles rolled through the Big Sky Conference Tournament with a trio of victories, leading for a total of 108:19 out of 120 minutes (trailed for 8:25 and tied for 3:16). EWU led by as many as 12, 38 and 20 in the three wins, respectively.

Of the 14 players Eastern took to Indianapolis, Ind., for the NCAA Tournament, all were underclassmen except for two seniors. Of the seven players who played at least 16 minutes, there were three sophomores, two juniors and two seniors who could theoretically return based on the NCAA decision that the pandemic year does not count against a student-athlete’s eligibility.

One season earlier, one of the best seasons in school history came to a screeching halt on March 12, 2020, when cancellations of both the Big Sky Conference and NCAA Division I tournaments dashed EWU’s promising postseason hopes in the 2019-20 campaign. The Eagles finished 23-8 overall and 16-4 in the Big Sky.

In 2019-20, Mason Peatling was the Big Sky’s MVP and a first team All-Big Sky selection, Jacob Davison earned a spot on the second team and sophomore Kim Aiken Jr. was on the third team. Peatling and Davison both earned NABC All-District 6 accolades, and Peatling was a first team Academic All-American as well.

Prior to the shortened 2019-20 season, EWU had appearances the previous two seasons in the Big Sky Tournament championship game. In 2018-19, Eastern defeated all 10 Big Sky Conference foes en route to finishing 12-8 in league play and going 16-18 overall.  Decimated by injuries, Eastern was 1-9 at one point in the 2018-19 season before winning 13 of its last 19.

Forward Jesse Hunt earned first team All-Big Sky honors for the Eagles, Peatling was on the second team and Davison earned third team honors. Aiken earned All-Big Sky Tournament honors along with Peatling.

In 2017-18, Eastern featured Big Sky MVP Bogdan Bliznyuk and the Eagles finished 20-15 overall and 13-5 in the Big Sky. Among the victories was a 67-61 triumph at Stanford to break EWU’s 21-game losing streak versus Pacific-12 Conference foes.

Riley has played a key role as part of Eastern teams from the Eastern teams from the 2014-15 through 2019-20 seasons which have win totals of 26, 18, 22, 20, 16 and 23 games. The four 20-victory seasons are among the top five win totals in EWU’s now 38-year history in NCAA Division I. The combined 125 wins in six seasons, 102 wins in five, 86 in four, 66 in three and 44 in two are also the most since EWU became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season. The same can be said of EWU’s stretch of league victories — 14, 10, 13, 13, 12, 16 — in that six-year span.

In Big Sky Conference games in the last four seasons, Eastern’s 53 victories is the best all-time mark at EWU in 34 seasons in the league. Eastern has won at least 10 league games in eighth-straight seasons, and that only happened six times before in EWU’s first 26 seasons as a member of the league.

Riley played for former EWU head coach Jim Hayford at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., from the 2007-08 season through 2010-11, earning All-Northwest Conference accolades all four years. Whitworth teams were a collective 98-18 while Riley was there, with three NWC titles (55-9 in league play) and four appearances in the NCAA Division III Tournament.

In November of 2020, Riley was one of 10 players honored on Whitworth’s All-Decade team from 2010-20, earning honorable mention. He also earned honorable mention as one of the top 30 Whitworth athletes in the decade as selected by the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

He graduated in 2011 from Whitworth, then joined Hayford at EWU the following season. Riley helped as a manager and team operations assistant three seasons, including the first two as a graduate assistant. He received his master of science degree in physical education (sport administration) from EWU in 2013.

In his first three seasons in the program, Riley was the team’s video and analytics coordinator, managed the team’s recruiting database and handled facility scheduling. He also assisted with player academics and summer camps.

Riley earned first team All-NWC honors his final three seasons as a Pirate after starting 112 of 114 games in his career. He finished with 1,664 points (14.6 per game) to rank fourth in Whitworth history and made 43.1 percent of his three-point attempts (300-of-696).

He averaged 16.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game as a senior when he earned third team All-Region (D3hoops.com) honors. He made 45.6 percent of his shots from the field and 41.6 percent from three-point range (82-of-197). Riley drained a school-record 10 three-pointers and finished with 33 points in a 115-69 triumph over Willamette on Feb. 11, 2011. The Pirates finished 28-2 and advanced to the Elite Eight of the D-III Tournament for the first time in school history.

In his junior season, he averaged 13.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game and made 40.9 percent of his 3-point shots (65-of-159). Riley scored 34 points in a win over Whitman on January 19, 2010. He helped Whitworth to a 26-3 record that included a perfect 16-0 mark in the NWC and a trip to the Sweet 16 of the D-III Tournament.

He averaged 16.4 points and 4.1 rebounds as a sophomore while making 84-of-180 3-pointers (46.7 percent). He scored a career-high 37 points in a win over PLU on Jan. 17, 2009.  Whitworth finished second in the NWC during the regular season, but upset Puget Sound in the conference tournament and advanced to the D-III second round.  The Pirates finished 23-6.

He averaged 11.9 points and 69-of-160 3-pointers (43.1 percent) in his freshman campaign. He scored 29 points in a win over Caltech on Nov. 24, 2007, in just the second game of his Pirate career. He helped the Pirates finish 21-7, win the NWC regular season championship and advance to the D-III Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.

Riley is formerly from Palo Alto, Calif., and graduated from Gunn High School in 2007.  He earned All-Central Coast Section honors as a senior at Gunn.

He was born Nov. 28, 1988, in Seattle Washington. He and his wife, Emily, were married on May 19, 2018.

His father, Edward Riley, is a Whitworth graduate and a physician and professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Edward’s brother, Mike Riley, grew up in Wallace, Idaho, and began his coaching career in 1976 at Whitworth. He received his master’s degree in 1977 and has since gone on to head coaching positions at Nebraska (2015-2017), Oregon State (1997-98, 2003-2014), the San Diego Chargers (1999-2001) and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League (1987-1990). Mike and Edward’s father, Bud Riley, was an assistant football coach at Idaho (1962-65), Oregon State (1965-72) and the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1974-77).

David Riley‘s mother, Rev. Renee Riley, also graduated from Whitworth and was ordained in 1986. She was the Moderator of the Presbytery of San Jose in 1998. She passed away on April 6, 2005, at the age of 45 from a brain tumor.

David Riley EWU Coaching Career

YearHead CoachOverallPct.Conference
@2020-21~~~Shantay Legans16-8.66712-3/t-2nd
2019-2020***Shantay Legans23-8.74216-4/1st
2018-2019%%%Shantay Legans16-18.47112-8/3rd
2017-2018===Shantay Legans20-15.57113-5/t-3rd
2016-17+++Jim Hayford22-12.64713-5/2nd
2015-16!!!Jim Hayford18-16.52910-8/t-5th
2014-15###Jim Hayford26-9.74314-4/t-1st
&2013-14Jim Hayford15-16.48410-10/t-6th
&2012-13Jim Hayford10-21.3237-13/8th
&2011-2012^^^Jim Hayford15-17.4698-8/4th
Totals (7 seasons as an assistant)141-86.621 90-37 (.709)
Totals at Eastern (10 seasons)181-140.564 115-68 (.628)

@Elevated to Associate Head Coach.

&Served as Director of Basketball Operations.

~~~Most Big Sky victories (53) in a four-year stretch in 34 seasons as a member of the Big Sky Conference. Advanced to NCAA Tournament after winning Big Sky Conference Tournament title.

***Big Sky Conference Regular Season Champions (outright) & school record for victories in Big Sky (16). Season was canceled during league tournament because of Covid-19 virus). Best six-year (125 wins) in EWU’s 37 seasons as a member of NCAA Division I.

%%%Participant in Big Sky Tournament championship game; Best five-year (102) stretch as a member of NCAA Division I.

=== CBI Tournament participant; Big Sky Tournament runner-up; best four-year (86) stretch as a member of NCAA Division I.

+++CBI Tournament participant & Big Sky Tournament quarterfinalist; Most back-to-back-to-back wins (66) as a member of NCAA Division I.

!!!CBI Tournament participant & Big Sky Tournament quarterfinalist; Most back-to-back wins (44) as a member of NCAA Division I, including first post-season victory as a member of DI.

###NCAA Tournament participant, Big Sky Conference Tournament Champions & regular season co-Champions; School record for victories in NCAA Division I (26).

^^^Season concluded with Big Sky Conference Tournament berth.

COURTESY EASTERN WASHINGTON ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

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