BY Howie Stalwick 10:23PM 03/27/2013

Cougars’ Moos will keep Bone — for a year, anyway

The hefty balance on the contract of WSU’s head hoops coach, Ken Bone, was decisive in his retention. But by next year, the won-loss record likely must speak for itself.

Washington State coach Ken Bone escaped the career ax, but will need a big season next year. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Washington State basketball coach Ken Bone, according to a long line of people who have met the man, is one of the nicest upright-walking mammals on the planet. He is a Christian so devout that he does not curse, nor does he permit his players to do so in team settings. A devoted family man, Bone is unfailingly polite when answering even the toughest reporter’s questions in the most difficult of situations.
That is why even some of Bone’s fiercest critics – there are plenty – find it somewhat awkward to make it known they want Bone to be gone as coach of the Cougars.

Wednesday night, the many Bone bashers received horrible news, and the many Bone supporters received heartwarming news. According to WSU sources, Bone was informed earlier in the day in a meeting with athletic director Bill Moos that he will be retained as coach of the Cougars next season.

The bashers no doubt responded by screaming, “What the HELL? This is what we get for supporting – well, sorta supporting. Occasionally. When we weren’t really, really busy on game nights. And we weren’t too exhausted to fight through Pullman traffic – a team that finished something like 19th in the Pac-12?”

The supporters no doubt responded by screaming, “What took Moos so LONG? He was going to fire this nice man after just one losing season at a school that traditionally plays basketball as if the ball lacks air? Was it Moos’ fault when the Cougars’ chances for success went up in smoke (allegedly, of course) when Reggie Moore was given the heave-ho prior to the season?”

Both sides have legitimate points. Make no mistake about this, however: The Cougars better win on the court and at the turnstiles next season, or Bone will be sent packing.
Moos’ silence about Bone in recent weeks has been deafening. A teleconference is scheduled for Thursday, and nary a word has been heard from Moos or Bone of late.

It seems obvious that Bone would be searching for work if not for the $2.55 million owed him for the three years left on a seven-year contract he signed with former WSU athletic director Jim Sterk.

Moos has been painfully sparing in compliments toward Bone. Moos frequently raves about WSU coaches with much worse records, notably June Daugherty in women’s basketball and Jen Greeny in volleyball.

Moos did comment on Bone’s job security last month. Asked if decided whether to retain the coach beyond this season, Moos – a genial sort who could carry on an engaging conversation with a fir tree for a half hour – answered, “No.”

Well, at least the man avoided the possibility of being misquoted.

It is difficult to argue that Bone’s 70-65 career record; and winning seasons in his first three years on the job; and deep runs in two post-season tournaments, are cause for considerable celebration by WSU basketball standards.

Remember, children: This is a program that last won a conference championship in 1941.
What? You don’t remember that because you weren’t born yet? Well, uh, remind your parents.

What? They hadn’t been born yet, either? Well, uh, never mind.

Of course, we live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society. It’s been 12 months since Bone guided the Cougars within a game of the first national tournament championship in school history – albeit in something called the College Basketball Invitational —  but the memories of many fans go only so far as to remember the 13-19 season that just ended. And the 4-14 league season that just ended.

And the tiny, sullen crowds that usually inhabited Beasley Coliseum during the  long, sad season that just ended. The WSU student section, which teetered on the edge of going overboard on many an occasion, more closely resembled a library this season.

The Cougars added to their fans’ misery by coming from ahead to lose many games in the second half. Talent was lacking, so does Bone deserve credit for “coaching up” the troops to keep them in games against more talented opponents — or does the soft-spoken coach deserve blame for not getting the troops fired up enough at crunch time? And who recruited these guys, anyway?
Now the Cougars move forward without their leading scorer and rebounder (Brock Motum) and perhaps the team’s second-best player (Mike Ladd). The top returning scorer, Royce Woolridge, averaged 11 points per game as a natural wing forced to play (quite awkwardly at times) point guard much of the season.
There is no proven point guard in sight for next season, though Bone and his staff are scouring the junior college ranks to find a passable one. The incoming freshmen are not considered world beaters, though WSU recruits rarely are rated highly. Wing Que Johnson, one of several Bone recruits who has come up short academically, was a lights-out shooter in high school who is expected to join the Cougars next season after attending WSU as a partial academic qualifier this year.
Bone will forever suffer from comparisons with his predecessor, Tony Bennett, who tied the school record of 26 wins during each of his first two seasons at the helm while leading the Cougars to a pair of NCAA tournaments. What so many people conveniently forget is that Bennett’s father, Dick, spared his son the growing pains of rebuilding by going 36-49 the previous three years before turning things over to Tony. Also, Tony left the cupboard bare after a 17-16 final season ended with an NIT loss.
Still, the Cougars just finished last for the second time in four years under Bone. The Cougars have never finished higher than sixth under Bone. The Cougars have not drawn well under Bone.
Earlier this week, Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News described Bone’s contract “as one of the worst in Pac-12 history.” Bone may have just one year left to change the opinion of Wilner and many others.

YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    I think that’s fair. Who knows where the Cougs would have gone if Casto and Thompson didn’t leave early and if Joe Harris didn’t follow Bennett to Virginia? Coach Bone needs a good recruiting season and a positive attitude among the troops for next season.

    • art thiel

      The question remains whether Bone can recruit/manage the more marginal recruits from which WSU must choose. Generally speaking, the teams with fewer standards advance faster in college ball. Not always, but often.

      • jafabian

        Has any WSU coach been able to recruit with consistent success though? In any sport? Those that have usually use that as a stepping stone to go elsewhere PDQ. There has to be a degree of realism there by the school and AD. Recruits are more interested in cities like Seattle or LA or the tradition of Arizona, Oregon or Gonzaga. It’s probably why Moos didn’t give any hard numbers on goals for Coach Bone next season. If a winning culture is even more firmly established and a few more conference wins I’m betting Bone will get about a 2-3 year extension.

  • John Rhee

    Bill Moos should of gone after Tubby Smith as the new head coach by having Ken Bone resigned or fired. Tubby can bring in quality recruits and keep the program clean by winning quite of few games in the conference. If he is still around at this time next year and Bone gets fired or resigned from his duties, Moos better make the move to bring in Tubby.