WSU Basketball: Ken Bone’s Recruiting Methods and Coaching Style Continue to Haunt Cougars


Nov 21, 2013; Spokane, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Ken Bone looks on during a game against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs beat Cougars 90-74. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been saying this for a while now, but Ken Bone does not know how to recruit em big, at least not offensively. It’s almost as if he’s even afraid of it. It must be the defensive mind in him.

But it’s not helping his Washington State team to evolve. Now in year five of the program, the soft spoken coach from Seattle has seemingly tanked it and it’s because he’s not willing to evolve philosophically. It starts with recruiting and then continues on the floor.

Coach Bone does not know what a dominant, true offensive big man can do. He’s never tried it. His Portland State teams were guard oriented and in the Big Sky it worked well. But in the Pac-12 if you don’t have a big man dropping biscuits in the bucket… well, you end up where the Cougars are.

Bone also admittedly can’t find a way to enjoy having a single scoring artist on the floor. A guy drops 25 and the Cougars are in bad shape?

"I don’t want to say I didn’t want it to happen, I just wasn’t anticipating it and I was kinda looking forward to having more parity… I think it makes a team harder to defend when you have multiple guys that are capable of scoring. In the third game of the year Ike Iroegbu did a great job at Gonzaga and scored 18 or 20 and I just expected a little more where certain guys would be scoring in the upper teens or low 20’s. I think that helps us because we become tougher to defend as a group."

I mean, what coach doesn’t want to have multiple guys in the upper teens? When you get one, you should be able to give yourself a chance to win most basketball games. Bone’s had that guy for the past… oh five years. Yet the Cougs get worse every season. In fact DaVonte Lacy is averaging 21.4 points per game and WSU is a paltry 4-4 with one of the easier non-conference schedules in the country. Why?

Because Bone has no idea how to supplement that with a scoring big man, a guy that can get you 10 points and 12 boards a night and dominate the paint. Sure he got Jordan Railey to help out on the defensive end with his size, but he never was a scoring threat at ISU before he transferred and with that size he really isn’t a great rebounder. Really, none of the big dudes that Bone brings in are offensively skilled.

He basically brings in a team full of scoring phenoms at guard and role player type bigs. Some will argue that true freshman Josh Hawkinson was ‘offensively skilled’ in high school but I’ve said before that I didn’t really see it on film and the tale of the tape so far in college says that my eyes were pretty good. Eight games, eight points in 44 minutes of game time.

The Cougars had a legitimate scoring option signed, sealed and delivered. His name was Tanner Lancona and he would have made a solid contribution to the offensive end to supplement that “parity” that Bone wants. But the coach couldn’t handle more offense from the big guys, he didn’t need another Brock Motum apparently. Instead he’s a guard’s coach so he wanted another guard and made what we thought at the time to be a poor switch to get him. That proved to be as true as a heart attack and Lancona’s 21 points in 70 minutes are more deceiving because St. Louis has much better scoring options at big than do the Cougars.

It’s painfully obvious that this coaching staff has no idea how to coach a real big man on the offensive end so they go for the defensive kid, just look at D.J. Shelton, Jordan Railey, Junior Longrus and Hawkinson. Where Motum was finesse and a decent shooter which allowed him to pull defenders out, this group of guys doesn’t have that. Unfortunately Shelton thinks he does, Longrus is only effective around the rim and Railey isn’t exactly aggressive when he does touch the ball. It just kills this team.

21.4 is not “less easy” to defend than if two or three guys balanced that scoring out. Every other team in the country wants a DaVonte Lacy on their club. Bone “can’t see (he) didn’t want it to happen.” It’s my opinion that Ken Bone just doesn’t know what to do with a single guy that can take over a basketball game.

Looking at the recruiting classes since he’s been here, it’s full of guys that have so-so numbers in the big man dept. on the offensive end. The kid he picked up for next season is a clone of Junior Longrus. Looking at the on-floor action, the Cougs have had that one guy that can score at will every year, ever since Klay Thompson in Bone’s first year, yet the Cougs get worse and worse.

It’s haunting this team. The Cougs get ready to face Pepperdine in Beasley Coliseum on Sunday at 5 p.m. Pepperdine came from behind to beat WSU in OT early last year in California. That theme has become far too common these last few years.

Go Cougs