On the heels of the worst of his five seasons in Pullman, Ken Bone has been fired as WSU basketball coach, according to ESPN's Jeff Goodman. Bone has two years left at $850,000 per on a seven-year contract that is fully guaranteed.
The Cougars finished 10-21 this season following a first round exit at the Pac-12 Tournament, where they were the No. 11 seed as the 11th place team in the conference. Bone leaves with a career record of 80-86 at WSU, but just a 29-61 record in conference play despite playing in some of the weakest Pac-10/12 competition in the last decade.
Although WSU did make two postseason appearances in his tenure -- including a Klay Thompson-fueled run to the semifinals of the NIT in 2010-11 -- it was the propensity for Bone's teams to finish at or near the bottom of the Pac-12 that ultimately did him in.
Interest in the program has sagged to back down to the depths not seen since Dick Bennett took over 11 years ago. Just 5,200 people -- total -- showed up for WSU's final two home games, including the Senior Day victory over UCLA. The average attendance of 2,800 this season was a drop of roughly 2,000 per game from last season and the lowest since the Cougars averaged just under 2,300 in 2001-02.
As WSU's second-most-visible program, the plethora of empty seats on TV had become an embarrassment.
The apathy surrounding the program is especially disappointing given that there were high hopes when Bone was hired away from Portland State. Tony Bennett had led WSU to its most successful stretch in program history before suddenly departing for Virginia, and Bone was coming off consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. The roster was filled with what was believed to be young talent.
But all that youth struggled with inconsistency in Bone's first season, finishing last in a weak Pac-10. There were elevated expectations in his second year. The Cougs flirted with the NCAA tournament bubble behind a monster season from Thompson, but they seemed to find a way to lose every close game -- five of the conference losses came by a total of 17 points, two of them in overtime -- and WSU settled for an NIT appearance that eventually ended with a lopsided loss to Wichita State at Madison Square Garden.
Instead of making another run at the NCAA tournament with a senior-laden squad, two of the team's most important players departed: Thompson left for the NBA to become a lottery pick with the Golden State Warriors, while DeAngelo Casto left to pursue opportunities overseas.
Brock Motum stepped forward as a premier scorer, but the team took a step back, finishing 7-11 in a Pac-12 that was rated behind the Mountain West and Atlantic 10 in difficulty by kenpom.com. Still, there were some positive feelings after the team used a run to the finals of the CBI to finish with an overall record above .500.
It was downhill from there. Personnel problem plagued the team -- first Reggie Moore was dismissed from the team in 2012, then his replacement, juco recruit Danny Lawhorn, left the team before this season -- and seven conference wins over the past two years led to 12th and 11th place finishes as it became apparent that the team didn't have the talent to compete nightly in an improving Pac-12.
And now, it's back to the drawing board.