In eight seasons as head coach of the Boise State men's basketball team, Leon Rice has taken the Broncos to five postseason tournaments, including the first two at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament in school history, and won 20 or more games seven times. Rice became Boise State's seventh head coach March 26, 2010.
He is the only Boise State head coach to amass seven 20-win seasons, the second to guide the Broncos to multiple NCAA Tournament appearances, and the first to do it in his first five seasons. Bobby Dye led the Broncos to the NCAA Tournament in 1987-88 (fifth season), 1992-93 (10th season) and 1993-94 (11th season). Under Rice, Boise State made the NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection in both 2012-13 and 2014-15, the only such appearances in school history.
Now with six-straight 20-win seasons, the Broncos are just one of 21 programs across the country with such an active streak. In addition, the team’s four-consecutive seasons of finishing in the top three of the Mountain West standings is the longest current streak for any team in the league.
The 2017-18 season saw the Broncos finish 23-9 and take second place in the Mountain West with a 13-5 record, further solidifying themselves as the only school in the league to win at least 11 conference games in each of the last four seasons. The 23 wins also tied for the fourth most in program history.
The Blue and Orange knocked down a school record 307 3-pointers and averaged a +8.1 rebounding margin (No. 7 in the NCAA) in 2017-18. Boise State was also sensational protecting home court at Taco Bell Arena, as they went 15-1 to tie for the second-most home victories in school history. The team also averaged 8,614 fans in nine conference home games, the highest attendance average in conference play in almost 20 years.
Boise State was a perfect 7-0 at home in non-conference games, bringing the streak to 24-straight games – the seventh-longest current streak in NCAA Division I.
Other highlights from 2017-18 included the team’s season-defining, buzzer-beating 73-70 win at Oregon (Dec. 1) to break the Ducks’ 46-game home winning streak. The Broncos also earned an NIT bid for the second-straight season, giving the team its fifth postseason appearance in eight seasons under Rice.
Rice also oversaw the gradual improvement and crowning season for Chandler Hutchison in 2017-18, as the Mountain West Player of the Year (Media) became the first player in program history to lead a Bronco team in points (20.0), rebounds (7.7), assists (3.5) and steals (1.5). In addition, Hutchison’s season made him just the fourth player in NCAA Division I since 2009-10 to end a season averaging 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals, joining the likes of Evan Turner (Ohio State, 2009-10), Ben Simmons (LSU, 2015-16) and Denzel Valentine (Michigan State, 2015-16).
The 2016-17 season – Rice's seventh year at the helm -- saw the Broncos once again earn 11 conference wins to maintain its streak doing so. Boise State finished third in the Mountain West, recording a 20-12 overall record and a 12-6 mark in conference play. The top-three conference finish was the 11th in school history and the fourth under Rice. It also was the fifth-consecutive 20-win season.
The Broncos' season was highlighted by a decisive 71-62 win at home over SMU, a pair of victories over Colorado State, winning streaks of seven (Dec. 5 -- Jan. 7) and four (Jan. 28 -- Feb. 11) games over the course of the year, and a first-round win in the National Invitation Tournament. The first bid to the NIT in Rice's tenure saw Boise State earn its first postseason road win in program history with a 73-68 victory at Utah.
Hutchison's remarkable rise under Rice's guidance in his junior campaign was a storyline throughout the season as he was named to the All-Mountain West First Team, USBWA All-District VIII Team and NABC All-District 17 First Team. Sophomore Paris Austin also enjoyed a consistent year, earning honorable mention all-conference accolades.
In 2014-15 Rice led Boise State to its first Mountain West Championship. For his efforts he was named 2014-15 MW Coach of the Year by both his fellow coaches and by media that cover the league. He is just the fourth Boise State men's basketball head coach to earn league coach of the year honors, and the Broncos' conference title is just the sixth all-time.
His personal accolade was one of many postseason honors for Boise State, which also boasted MW Player of the Year Derrick Marks and MW Newcomer of the Year James Webb III. Marks became the first All-American in school history, making the Associated Press honorable mention team. Marks was also named first-team all-league and United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) All-District, while Webb added second-team all-league and All-Defensive Team honors.
Rice was also named USBWA District VIII Coach of the Year, the first Boise State head coach to earn the distinction. He added the NABC District 17 Coach of the Year honor as well.
The 2015-16 campaign saw Rice and the Broncos record another 20-win season with a 20-12 mark, including an 11-7 record in conference play. Boise State finished third in the Mountain West. It was the 10th top-three conference finish in program history and the third under Rice. The 20 wins included a 14-2 mark at Taco Bell Arena, highlighted by a 72-70 win against No. 24 Oregon. The win over the Ducks- who went on to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament- was one of a school-record four nonconference games against ranked opponents.
Anthony Drmic finished his career as the school's all-time leader in three-pointers made and the second all-time leading scorer, just two points shy of the record. Webb was named first-team All-MW and became the first Boise State student-athlete to leave early for the NBA Draft. He was signed by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Webb is one of 16 Broncos to play under Rice and go on to have a professional career. The development can also be seen on the sidelines. Three of his assistants have gone on to become head coaches: Dave Wojcik (San Jose State), Jeff Linder (Northern Colorado) and Shaun Vandiver (Emporia State).
The Broncos' No. 11 seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament is the team's highest since the tournament expanded to 64 teams.
Boise State tied the school record for wins during (25; 2007-08) in 2014-15, capturing a share of the Mountain West regular-season title (San Diego State). The Broncos, the top seed in the Mountain West Tournament, advanced to the semifinals of the league championship. Boise State was predicted to finish second in the Mountain West Preseason Media Poll in 2014-15, one of four times in Rice's tenure that the team outperformed its predicted finish.
Boise State also cracked the top 25 in the Associated Press Poll for the first time in school history in 2014-15, checking in at No. 25 in the March 9, poll.
Rice eclipsed 100-career victories in 2014-15, the fourth head coach to accomplish the feat and the first to do it in his first five seasons. Rice notched his 100th victory in his 161st game, just one game shy of Dye's school record (160).
Rice's recipe for success combines an up-tempo, fast-paced offense and elite shooting. The Broncos have led their conference in scoring three of Rice's eight seasons, including pacing the Mountain West in scoring in both 2012-13 and 2013-14. The Broncos put up 76.2 points per game in 2013-14, the second-highest season average at Boise State in nearly 40 years. Boise State ranked second in the MW in scoring in 2014-15, averaging 72.1 points per game.
The Broncos also made their mark on the defensive end in 2014-15, holding a school-record nine opponents to fewer than 50 points. Included were five of the last 10 teams to face Boise State, which concluded the regular season allowing just 60.3 points per game. The mark ranked 35th nationally entering the NCAA Tournament, and helped provide a scoring margin of plus-10.5, the nation's 22nd-best mark.
In 2013-14, Boise State shot 45.6 percent from the floor, 37.2 percent from beyond the arc and 74.9 percent from the free throw line. The free throw percentage is the best in school history and ranked No. 20 in the NCAA. This season Boise State improved to 45.8 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from 3-point range, the latter being the 15th-best mark nationally. The Broncos also averaged 8.8 3-point field goals made in 2014-15, ranking 16th nationally.
The Broncos led the MW in scoring average (73.2) in 2012-13, and were also one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country, ranking 11th-nationally (.391) from beyond the arc. Boise State was also 25th-nationally in free throw percentage (.747).
The NCAA Tournament at-large selection in 2012-13, which capped one of the most impressive seasons in school history, was a product of 21 impressive wins. Included were a school-record 12 nonconference victories. The Broncos also posted two wins over ranked opponents on the road in 2012-13, more than Boise State had combined to win in school history (one). Boise State finished tied for fourth in the Mountain West - the top-rated conference in the country per the RPI.
Boise State went 14-1 on its home floor in 2012-13, the only loss coming in overtime to league-champion New Mexico. It marked the best home record since the 1997-98 team went 13-0 and tied for the second-most wins at Taco Bell Arena all-time.
Additionally, Drmic and Marks were named All-MW Second Team, the first time since 2008 that the Broncos had multiple players garner all-league recognition.
In 2011-12, his second season with the Broncos, Rice guided the team's ascension to the MW, which finished the season as the nation's fifth-ranked conference in the NCAA RPI - ahead of the Pac-12 and ACC.
Though young - the Broncos accumulated 51 starts by freshmen in 2011-12, a mark that shattered the previous school record of 38 set in both 1989-90 and 1993-94 - the Broncos still defeated five teams that participated in the postseason in 2011-12.
Two of the freshmen - Drmic and Marks - garnered All-MW honorable mention honors after finishing the season ranked first and second, respectively, in scoring average among league freshmen.
In 2010-11 Rice put together the finest campaign for a Boise State first-year men's basketball head coach, one that culminated in an appearance in the conference tournament championship game and just the fourth postseason appearance in the last 17 years.
The Broncos went 22-13 (.629) in his debut season, making Rice the winningest first-year head coach in school history. The Broncos also reached the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational and surpassed 20 wins for just the ninth time since becoming a four-year institution (1968-69).
The 22 victories were tied for the fifth-most in school history, and signified the fifth-largest turnaround all-time at Boise State.
Rice was one of 54 first-year head coaches nationally, only 14 of which reached the 20-win plateau. Five of the coaches to accomplish the feat at their respective institutions were in their first years as Division I head coaches, but of those five, only Rice inherited a team with a losing record.
After falling one game short of the NCAA Tournament, Boise State was selected to play in the CBI, and advanced all the way to the semifinals. The two wins in the postseason tied the school record, and marked the first postseason victories for the Broncos in seven years.
Under Rice, the Broncos have established a dominant home-court advantage, winning as many as 15-consecutive games, the longest streak in more than a decade. The Broncos have also posted a home winning percentage of .829 under Rice - the highest by a head coach since Boise State joined Division I in 1970-71.
Boise State's attendance has soared during his tenure, increasing by the seventh-largest margin in the country in 2010-11, and exposure has increased to a level unparalleled in school history, with Boise State playing on national television almost every game.
Rice joined the Broncos after spending the previous 11 seasons at Gonzaga, where he had served as the associate head coach with the Bulldogs from 2007-10.
In his final season with the Bulldogs, Rice helped lead Gonzaga to its 10th-consecutive West Coast Conference regular season title with a conference record of 12-2 while finishing 27-7 overall. In winning its 10th-consecutive regular season title, Gonzaga moved into a tie with Connecticut (1951-60 Yankee Conference) and UNLV (1983-92 Big West) for the second-longest streak in NCAA history.
At Gonzaga, Rice worked under head coach Mark Few for 11 seasons and played a major role in the Bulldogs' NCAA Tournament appearances in each of his seasons in Spokane. Gonzaga earned Sweet 16 berths in 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2009; and reached the second round in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2010.
Rice helped lead the Bulldogs to five top-10 appearances in the final Associated Press Poll, including a No. 3 ranking in 2004. Gonzaga also finished fifth in 2006, sixth in 2002 and 10th in both 2005 and 2009.
The Bulldogs went 291-73 in Rice's tenure on the Gonzaga staff, including a school-record 29-4 mark in both 2002 and 2006.
Rice joined the Bulldogs from Yakima Valley College, where he served two seasons as an assistant coach and one as co-head coach with the legendary Dean Nicholson. He then served as head coach for the 1998-99 campaign. YVC went from worst to first in the debut season of the Rice-Nicholson partnership, and in 1999 YVC went 31-2 en route to capturing its fourth-straight Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) Eastern Region title. The 31 wins were a school record and came four seasons after Rice and Nicholson inherited a program which had gone 3-20 overall during the 1994-95 season. YVC went a perfect 12-0 in the NWAACC in 1999 and Rice earned his second-straight Eastern Region Coach of the Year honor.
The duo guided YVC to a 103-26 overall record and 40-8 league record in four seasons. Rice coached 18 student-athletes who went on to play basketball at four-year schools, including the Bulldogs' Quentin Hall who was a 1999 Gonzaga senior. YVC had six players from the 1999 squad who joined four-year programs.
Rice received his bachelor's in physical education from Washington State in 1986 and his master's in athletic administration, management and program development from Oregon in 1991. After one year of high school coaching, he began his collegiate career as a graduate assistant coach at Oregon in 1989, and then served two seasons as a full-time assistant coach for the Ducks. He was the head assistant coach at Northern Colorado in Greeley for three seasons prior to going to YVC.
Rice and his wife, Robin, have three sons: Brock, Max and Kade.