In a move that shocked precisely nobody, Ken Bone has been fired as head coach of the Washington State Cougars, according to multiple reports. The move puts finality on a season that probably could have done that on its own, and now speculation will move toward his replacement.
Bone's tenure with WSU spanned five seasons, finishing in last place during two of them (and eleventh in a third), sandwiched around a two-year span of NIT and CBI berths. His 80 wins are 6th best in WSU history, but is coupled with his 86 losses, which are are 6th worst in WSU history. The five year totals pieced together does not tell the story of the five-alarm tire fire that has spread throughout the Palouse this season, where Bone lost 16 conference games, fourteen of them by double-digits and punctuated by a 79-68 loss to 12th place USC at home.
But many Coug fans jumped ship much earlier than this forgettable year, as Bone gave several excuses to bail over his tenure. Whether it was his failure to get his 2010-11 team into the NCAA tournament, the series of marijuana arrests over that season, the transfer of National Player of the Year candidate Xavier Thames, or the rescindment of Tanner Lancona's scholarship in the 11th hour of last year's signing period to make room for a JC transfer who was kicked out of school before Midnight Madness, the unloading of the Bone-wagon happened at a steady rate over a five year period. That's not even bringing into consideration of his original sin of "not being Tony Bennett."
I'm sure Ken Bone is a better man than I am, but I couldn't help playing "what-if" for the entirety of Ken Bone's first four years. What if Xavier Thames hadn't transferred? What if James Watson hadn't flunked out of school? What if Klay Thompson kept better track of his iPod in Tempe and practiced proper tail light maintenance in Pullman? What if Thompson hadn't left a year early to go pro and D'Angelo Casto hadn't left a year early to "go pro?" What if Reggie Moore stayed healthy in 2010-11? What if Mike Ladd and Faisal Aden were healthy in 2011-12? What if Reggie Moore wasn't booted from the team days before the start of the 2012-13 season? What if Que Johnson were eligible for the 2012-13 season? What if Richard Peters and Greg Sequele had qualified for college? What if Steven Bjornstad were able to stay in-shape and healthy for four years? It's hard to keep re-reading this paragraph knowing how many things that are truly out of a coach's control that went wrong over a four-year period.
But ultimately, this program was done in by its lack of recruiting depth and Pac-12 talent. While the first couple years can be attributed to the lack of room on the roster, due to the previous coach leaving twelve Freshman and Sophomores behind, the staff did not take advantage of spots available, bringing in questionable scholarships such as Dre Winston and James Hunter, and were never able to recruit depth to displace the year-to-year scholarships given to Charlie Enquist and Will DiIorio. While Bone was able to utilize a series of wings to score at will (Thompson, Aden, Ladd, Royce Woolridge and DaVonte Lacy), Bone was done in by his inability to keep a Pac-12 level point guard on the roster and find adequate post defenders after the departure of Casto.
And unfortunately, all the second-guessing and rationalizing in the world over the previous four seasons couldn't excuse his 10-21 record in 2013-14, where the team notably scored 25 points against Arizona and lost a home game in November for the first time in the history of Friel Court. At least he never lost to Idaho. You can take that with you, coach. Even Mike Price can't say that.
And while the five years of Coach Bone will be remembered mostly as a disappointment, CougCenter would like to make sure to note there were bright spots, too. The home wins in the NIT over Oklahoma State and Northwestern were among the best games we've seen any WSU team play in its history, the CBI and its battle for all the Zebra Pens forced the storied Pittsburgh Panthers to come to Pullman and walk out with a loss, the 2009 Great Alaska Shootout championship is the only major pre-season tournament title in our history we're aware of, and last year's home game vs. UCLA was example #1 through 79 of how to not give up when outsiders are telling you your season is over. And then he did it again this year, too!
Some good. Mostly Bad. And now it's over. After five years, we can thank Ken Bone for his time with us, wish him well in his future endeavors and we will be rooting for him wherever he lands.
Thanks for the 80 wins. But we'll give you credit for 81. Larry Scott should be getting back to us any day about overturning that 2009 Oregon travesty.