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.