First, let me say that we're thrilled to have you here. You are the first ever coaching candidate to receive the meaningless CougCenter seal of approval. So, um, you've got that going for you.
Joking aside, you were, at least in my honest opinion, the most qualified man for the job from Day One. You were an exceptional leader at Seattle Pacific, taking your Alma Mater to unprecedented heights. You then took a gamble joining Lorenzo Romar's staff at Washington, and assisted in coaching the squad of Huskies that earned a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. Then, you took another chance - your first Division 1 head coaching gig at Portland State. You took a program that went 12-16 in your first year, and in two years made them into a back-to-back NCAA tournament team. You're good at your job.
I appreciate a lot of what you said at the press conference today. You're excited about the opportunity, and you seem ready and willing to work with the players we have. You made a point that you like shooters - you're getting three great ones from distance in Klay Thompson, Abe Lodwick and Mike Harthun. You're also getting an exceptional young talent in Marcus Capers, and a potentially dominating big man in DeAngelo Casto. I can't imagine a better roster for a new coach to build with.
And I appreciate that you said this:
“We’re excited to get out there and find ourselves a home and really kind of plant ourselves here,” he said. “I know this is a place that I would love to be for as long as I can stay.”
I really do. Just know I don't believe that you'll be coaching for the next 20 years in Pullman. It's not you, it's just I was naive enough to buy into what Tony Bennett was selling us for the last two years. That Pullman was a place special enough to keep a coach that's moving up the ladder. That Pullman could potentially be a destination for once instead of a stepping stone. Regardless of what your aspirations are, I'm confident we have you for at least the next three years, which is about as good as you can hope for in this day and age.
Having said that, welcome aboard. We're going to support you throughout - we're the rare major college fanbase that doesn't call for a coach's head when they lose three in a row. Heck, we are even well aware of the challenge next year will be when you field a team that's basically freshmen and sophomores. We'll need a bit to warm up to your style, but don't worry too much - we're all pretty sick of six minute scoring droughts at this point. Virginia can have those.
Anyway, the next few weeks are critical to the future of Cougar basketball. There are three things you must do, in my opinion, to keep the momentum going and give yourself the best opportunity to win here:
- Keep our freshmen in Pullman. Again, you've been blessed with some of the best young players in the country. Not just the Pac-10, the country. Klay Thompson is a superstar in waiting. Throw in Casto, Capers, Lodwick, Witherill, Harthun and Watson (the last of which will still only be a freshman. And by the way, screw you Tony for burning Nick Witherill's redshirt) and you have a foundation for success plus some added depth. Even your walk-ons are pretty darn good: John Allen at guard and a seasoned Charlie Enquist at forward. It's theoretical, likely even, that you might lose a guy or two that just can't handle a coach they didn't choose. That's OK. But do everything in your power to keep these guys here. If you lose more than a couple, it will come back to bite you.
- Get at least 2 of our 4 incoming recruits to stay committed to WSU. Let's be honest here. I'd be shocked if David Chadwick, a young man from North Carolina whose parents are friends of Tony Bennett, goes anywhere but Virginia next year. But the other three? You have a good chance. Brock Motum already made the life-altering decision to travel across the ocean to play at WSU. Now, you have to re-affirm his belief in playing here, even though you are not the coach that was promised. Anthony Brown is right up in Spokane - sell him on the importance of staying close to family and the opportunity to play with fellow GSL star DeAngelo Casto. Last, but definitely not least - Xavier Thames. He belongs in the Pac-10, and quite honestly a slightly faster style might be a much better fit for him than Bennett Ball. He'll be a tough kid to recruit, because he's a California native and appears to be really disappointed by the Bennett loss. But if you can keep him here, you'll be off to a wonderful start.
- Keep at least one of Woodley, Johnson or Sanchez on staff. Heck, if you get all three, I'll steal the key to the city right from Glenn Johnson and hand it to you. Keeping Tony Bennett's old assistants around will help immensely with goals #1 and #2. It will also help with recruiting down the road, especially with a young kid named Patrick Simon who still wants to be a Cougar. It will also smooth the transition from Bennett Ball to, well, let's call it the "Bone Zone" (side note: I am aware that Bone prefers man-to-man). Tony's assistants can help our players with their defensive fundamentals, and you can bring in your own guys for some offensive wizardry. There's two more things I like in the Ken Bone resume. One, you don't really play as up-tempo as the media would have you believe. Two, Huskies have always been underrated on defense under Romar, and you're part of the reason they were so successful.
So there you are, Ken. It's great to see you in crimson, but what matters most is what you do when you're wearing it. Good luck.