January 09, 2013: Washington State Cougars head coach Ken Bone on the sidelines during the second half against the Stanford Cardinal at Maples Pavilion. Stanford won 78-67. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
An old topic that has been regaining some of its’ steam in the Washington State community is the retention of head basketball coach Ken Bone. If this hasn’t been discussed a thousand times, it’s certainly been enough to make you sick of where the program is at right now. But let’s visit the argument just one more time before athletic director Bill Moos meets with our coach sometime over the next week (likely early next week).
The question “should Ken Bone be fired(?)” is a tough one to answer and honestly it comes down to several other questions as well; What is the upside to Bone being retained? Do the Cougars have the finances to eat his salary while paying another? Who on Bill Moos’ short list would be available and who would even be open to taking a job at Washington State?
We’ve been over the first two questions rigorously over the course of the season and the general consensus is that the team has good recruits coming in and that the Cougars do not in fact have the capital to make a switch with Bone’s three remaining years of guaranteed money. However we all know that Moos is a “win now” kinda guy, so to balk at the notion that he could get the support to put the Cougars in even more of a financial hole to get the program turned around would be silly. Bill Moos can and he will if his thoughts are that the basketball team could turn it around in short order only without Ken Bone at the helm, and really start holding their own both financially and on the court.
Which brings us to the third question on the list, who would be available and who would be open to making the move to Pullman? Moos will not go after assistants presumably in this case, because the goal is both short term and long term success, which incurs immediate recognition and a name that recruits will flock to, just based on name alone.
While there are some assistants here in the West that could make a good story, I think Bone trumps all but one of those names in the coaching community (I have named this coach in my honorable mentions). Since the deciding meeting is set for this upcoming week, I am thinking there are some coaches in the NCAA Tournament that Moos is hoping to talk to by Monday at the latest. Of course that’s contingent on whether or not they end up making it to the Sweet 16, but my general assumption (and it is truly and purely high speculation on my part) is that a few head coaching names jump out.
If that is even partially the case, here are my “wish list” coaches I would hope Moos has in mind:
Sure he just took the CSU job, but with the early success of the Pac-12 in this tourney, it’s apparent the conference is again on the rise nationally. WSU is a step up in both competition and presumable salary and Eustachy has joked earlier in the season about making his financial bonuses and CSU not necessarily being a “great” basketball program, unless they were to make an Elite 8 appearance or something. He would make a great fit with his coaching style and bring a name to boost recruiting in a big way.
There is very little doubt in my mind that he will be retained, even if the Bruins lose this weekend in Arizona. But the Bruin community is not so forgiving and there is some serious talk that he might not be around Westwood if the Bruins don’t make the Final Four this season. Ridiculous right? Maybe, but the fact is that UCLA has higher basketball expectations than anyone else in the conference, and he could be on the outs. WSU doesn’t figure to be able to even touch his salary now ($2 million per year) but by golly who would be open for Howland that could? It would still be decent money for him, the ability to stay in the conference might be intriguing and a Howland/Leach coaching combo, while expensive, would bring an unprecedented amount of notoriety to the Cougar program.
Dave Rice (UNLV)
Rice is an up and coming coach in the West and he is a guy the Cougs could get on the cheap, which makes him really enticing. Rice is in his first coaching gig but he’s already taken UNLV to the Dance in each of his first 2 seasons and he’s only making $400,000 right now in Vegas, which is less than half of what Bone makes right now. On top of that he would be entering the final year of his 3 year contract next season. While he is all but guaranteed a contract extension after this season, WSU could still offer him more money and a huge opportunity to jump up the grid nationally.
Honorable Mentions: Ernie Kent (formerly Oregon), Steve Fisher (SDSU), Donny Daniels (Assistant Gonzaga, formerly assistant UCLA)