New Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich speaks during a news conference after being officially introduced as the head coach on Thursday in Pullman. (Pete Caster/Lewiston Tribune via AP)

New Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich speaks during a news conference after being officially introduced as the head coach on Thursday in Pullman. (Pete Caster/Lewiston Tribune via AP)

New WSU coach emphasizes importance of winning Apple Cup

Nick Rolovich strikes all the right chords in his introductory press conference on Thursday.

By Tim Booth / Associated Press

If Nick Rolovich felt the need to appease Washington State fans, he did so with the answer to one question.

“Two words: Apple Cup,” Rolovich was asked during his first news conference Thursday as the new head coach at Washington State.

“Three numbers: 317,” Rolovich quickly answered. “That’s how many days until we get to play it.”

Rolovich ended up actually being off by a day. The rivalry matchup with Washington is actually 316 days from Thursday with the Apple Cup being played on Nov. 27 this year.

But his point was made.

Rolovich struck all the right chords in his introduction as Mike Leach’s replacement. The 40-year-old made mention of past standout coaches at the school. He spoke glowingly of the culture and community of the university as one of the big reasons why after four seasons he left behind the beaches of Hawaii for the chance to be a head coach in the Pac-12.

And he made clear that recruiting the top in-state talent and getting the best of rival Washington are near the top of his priority list.

“Recruiting, starting here in this state and the Northwest and after that there’s a bunch of other places,” Rolovich said. “But we’re looking for young men that are attracted to the values that this university can provide them.”

Rolovich was announced as Washington State’s coach earlier this week, but the on-campus introduction was the first chance to see Rolovich’s gregarious personality up close. Talking about the need to end a seven-game losing streak to your rival will always play well. But Rolovich also spoke of the type of program he wants to establish, building on the foundation left behind by Leach.

“This is not a rebuild,” Rolovich said. “This is an addition.”

While Leach was for the most part successful during his eight seasons in Pullman, his personality and attitude could be abrasive to some. Rolovich seems to be more in line with past Washington State coaches like Jim Walden and Mike Price, who had outgoing personalities to go along with their coaching style.

“I know we have got to win football games. I get that,” Rolovich said. “We also got to raise these young men to be tomorrow’s fathers, and husbands and community leaders.”

Rolovich said the university leadership, the school’s football history and the Washington State community were all deciding factors in taking the job.

There’s also the chance for Rolovich to test himself as a coach and see if his system that helped turn around Hawaii can work in the Pac-12.

When Rolovich made the decision to go to a run-and-shoot offense at Hawaii, he spent time with Leach to see what pieces of the “Air Raid” could be used in the system Rolovich wanted to run. Rolovich said he has not had a chance to speak with Leach after the chaos of the past few days.

Washington State athletic director Pat Chun said he spoke with Leach during the search and Leach recommended Rolovich as his replacement.

“I know how busy he is, and for him to make the time with his busy schedule to make crystal clear with me how great this group of young men is upstairs, (and) how this is the person he would pick to take over this program, he made that clear as day to me,” Chun said.

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