Washington State head coach Kyle Smith pulls down his mask to yell toward the court during an NCAA college basketball game against Washington Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021, in Seattle.

Jim Shaw, a 25-year coaching veteran who’s spent the last two seasons on Washington State’s bench, has been elevated to the title of associate head coach, the school announced Monday.

A Chimacum, Washington, native who’s serving his third stint as a Pac-12 assistant coach, Shaw’s been WSU’s top assistant since third-year coach Kyle Smith took over prior to the 2019-20 season, and has been integral in rebuilding the Cougars’ defensive identity while playing a key role in bringing in one of the top recruiting classes in school history.

“It would be difficult to match coach Shaw’s enthusiasm and energy for coaching,” Smith said in a school release. “Jim’s Pacific Northwest roots, his experience in the Pac-12 Conference, and his remarkable record as an assistant and head coach are evidence of his winning ways.

“He understands what it takes to win and is willing to share his knowledge with players and staff. We are very fortunate to have him in our program and we are thrilled to have him help guide us as associate head coach moving forward.”

With Shaw at his side, Smith has turned around WSU’s basketball program, registering 30 wins and 29 losses the last two seasons. The Cougars recently finished the 2020-21 season with a 14-13 mark for the school’s first winning record since 2011-12.

Shaw’s instruction on the defensive end of the court has allowed the Cougars to make significant strides, jumping from No. 284 to No. 24 in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy’s website. During the 2020-21 season, WSU managed to knock five teams that would go on to qualify for the NCAA Tournament – the most for WSU since its last tournament appearance in 2007-08 – and the Cougars beat three Sweet 16 teams, including the UCLA team that advanced to the Final Four.

Defensively, Shaw’s mentorship helped the Cougars achieve an adjusted defensive rating of 91.3 per 100 possessions – the school’s top ranking since 2009 under former coach Tony Bennett.

Early in the 2020-21 season, Shaw was poised to assume Smith’s seat for the first game of the season when the WSU coach was diagnosed with COVID-19. Smith ultimately cleared health and safety protocols in time to lead the Cougars in their opener against Texas Southern.

Theo Lawson can be reached at (509) 939-5928 or