As promised, Ken Bone is moving quickly to get his pieces in place, announcing today in the studio with Ian Furness on KJR that Ben Johnson will, in fact, be remaining on staff with Bone.
As Grady has pointed out and I have concurred, keeping at least one guy from the previous regime was a pretty important move for Bone. In my mind, Johnson -- roundly considered to be the best basketball coach on the staff -- was the guy I wanted to stay all along, and it sounds like Bone felt the same way.
It would have been nice to keep (Ron Sanchez) there ... but I'm really, really excited about being able to retain Ben Johnson, who I also have a lot of respect for. I think he's done an outstanding job there. He's been very involved with their defense, he's intense, he's detail oriented -- he's a good guy. He's been there a few years, and I'm going to lean on him quite a bit.
Had Bone kept Sanchez, it probably would have been easier to placate a guy like Xavier Thames, who it sounds like was pretty tight with Sanchez. But you have to think bigger than just keeping one recruit who might or might not not be able to play at this level, and the very best thing for the program overall is keeping Johnson. (Never mind the fact that we'll probably end up being able to convince Thames, anyway.)
First off, Bone has made it clear that he's not going to institute wholesale changes right away; we'll probably notice smaller changes rather than larger ones immediately. Johnson is key in that respect.
Comparatively speaking, it's easier to change an offense than it is to change a defense (at least if you want it to be any good), and it only becomes that much more so when you're talking about a mediocre offense and the No. 6 defense in the country. So it makes sense that you'd want some continuity on that half of the floor. And if Bone's anything like most coaches -- at least those that don't have the last name Bennett -- he's a lot more willing to be flexible with his defensive philosophy than his offensive philosophy.
Bone also reiterated that all the current players are staying, and then spoke about the four guys who signed in the early period. He's spoken with all of them via telephone, and Anthony Brown is fully on board. As for the other three, he said he planned to fly down to Sacramento in the next week to meet with Thames and fly to Australia to meet with Brock Motum in the next couple of weeks, sounding optimistic that he'd be able to sell them on the program. There's some weird conflicting information out there on the fourth recruit, though.
Cougfan.com is reporting that power forward David Chadwick has received a release from his letter, attributing it to Chadwick's high school coach. That seems odd for two reasons:
- Bone said in the interview that he was also planning to fly out and visit Chadwick.
- Jim Sterk said no one would get a release for at least a few weeks until the new coach had a chance to get to know the players.
We all know Chadwick is the most likely of the four to want out of his letter; his family is friends with the Bennetts, and he's from North Carolina. The whole thing just screams bad fit with Bennett gone. But those other factors seem strange -- especially given that Grippi's been eerily quiet today -- and makes me wonder of someone hasn't jumped the gun a little bit.
One last thing of note that will get overlooked by a lot of people. I listened to this interview with Bone and also listened to Bone with Kevin Calabro on the new ESPN 710. In both interviews, the hosts kept asking him about the "Big Three." And in both interviews, he made it a point to mention how high he is on Mike Harthun. He thinks he's got a lot of talent and maybe just had a tough freshman year.
I've said it here before, and I'll say it again: If I had to put money on one guy having a "where the heck did that come from?" kind of year, it's Harthun.