It was March 31 2009. It was a pretty nice day out, and coincidently it was my birthday. Started the day off pretty good with a little light batting practice. I checked my phone after, and it had something like 12 text messages and 5 missed calls. They were all had a common topic.
It said that Tony was leaving WSU for VIrginia. I honestly just played it off as a birthday joke my friends were playing on me. All of my friends knew how much of a WSU fan I am, and also how much I loved Tony. I went to Ferris High School, same school as Casto. He would come watch his games and I would go sit by him for parts of the games. He was one of the genuine nice people I have ever met in my life. I hear I am, a 16 and 17 year old kid, and he was not too big for me. So I really couldn't believe he would go against everything he had said about loyalty. Virginia? I mean he turned down Indiana and LSU. No way he would do this. If he was going to happen, it would have last year. I refused to believe it.
When I got home, I went to ESPN.com just to make sure I was right. Turned out, I was wrong, Tony left for Virginia. First, I acted like it wasn't a big deal. He just coached what his dad had built. I could have coached those teams to that many wins! He was like the Hilton sisters, just living off of dads success.
After I calmed down a little, I realized what we had just lost. Sure his dad was head coach, but Tony did a lot of the recruiting, even initially. I also remembered how much better our offense had been since he took over, that is not his dad. That was all him, and he did it without losing our defensive prowess either. I also remembered how great of a guy he was. Losing a man with that character is never a good thing for a University, no matter what I would like to think.
My next thoughts shifted to how our personnel, and the position we would be in with a new coach. This made me feel a little better, because it became very clear that we were much better off now than we were before the Bennett era. I had watched Dee for years and I still feel he has A LOT of potential untapped. Klay, in my opinion is a future lottery pick, and Marcus Capers is more athletic then all of them. Plus, our new class coming in looked pretty good.
The question was, who should we go after as our next coach? A lot of people wanted to stay with a slow tempo guy because they felt like that was the only way to consistently win here. Those people surely could be right, but I felt that with our current roster we could afford to play a little more uptempo. Scanning the list of the potential coaches, one guy really caught my eye, Ken Bone.
He seemed like a great fit to me, northwest guy, plays fast but not too fast, and a guy who had beaten the Zags at home with an inferior team. That was a perfect list for me. Sure enough, he was hired and I was pretty happy. That happiness became even greater when he kept every recruit (except for Chadwick) and then was able to pull out a rabbit from that, signing Reggie Moore.
Still he had yet to coach a game, so I tried to curb my enthusiasm. Soon, there was no need for that. He led our team to a great non-conference record, and it seemed we were on the definite up swing. Young talent that already seemed to have a lot figured out. Going to GU and putting a beat-down like we did in the first 30 minutes is not an easy task for a senior laden team, let alone one with only 1 upperclassman. I liked the direction of our program. Then, January, February, and March happened.
We started off conference play in decent shape, at least contending for an NIT bid. Then, it was downhill. We found new ways to lose games in extraordinary fashion. After losing our 3rd game of the season to Oregon, the 9th place team in the Pac, our season was over. The thing that was most troubling was we seemed to regress during the year. OK, not seemed to, but we did regress, no question about it. Thad had me a little worried obviously, but much of that could be attributed to a young team not used to the grind of a long season.
After the season, more bad news came. Four players were transferring, including Xavier Thames. I am with Nuss when he says it is a very big deal, at least for now. Thats why i think the next few months are HUGE for Bone and the state of the program. If he is able to get one or two more commits who can contribute right away, he will have gone a long way in establishing himself as a great recruiter. This would also obviously put us in a much better situation for next year as well. If he doesn't, next year could be another difficult year. We would once again have a short rotation. Aden should be able to jump right in since he is a JC player, but we really can't be sure that Simon will be ready. If he isn't, and we don't bring any other ready to play players, we lose 3 from our rotation (Nik, X, and Mike) and only gain one. If we bring in some guys that are ready to play, and play big, I could honestly see a jump from worst to first as a possibility. Here's to hoping we get to the next level.