WSU Crushed UCLA: More Infuriating Ken Bone ‘Magic’, Steve Alford’s Bruins in Trouble?

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Feb 23, 2014; Eugene, OR, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Ken Bone looks over at the Oregon Ducks bench as he walks Washington State Cougars guard DaVonte Lacy (25) off the court following an injury against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

For WSU, the improbable win does somehow get the Cougs out of the basement of the conference (leapfrogging a USC team that had come in two days earlier and kicked Wazzu-butt), so that’s great, but I have to ask:

Regardless of what happens in the conference tourney (all indications in the recent past are that the Cougs will be done after a Wednesday game against Stanford) it is almost a cinch that Ken Bone will no longer be the leader of Cougar basketball. I mean, it’s not, necessarily, but it has to be. Bill Moos is not a very good loser and the coaching staff has far from proven its collective worth in turning this team in the right direction… except (again) vs UCLA.

This is what’s frustrating… nay, infuriating about our team under the Bone. I think we’ve learned over the vastly one-sided history of WSU/UCLA that you don’t just maul the Bruins (good or not, and they are in fact pretty good) in back-to-back seasons without a solid roster of talented players and a better-than-solid gameplan to match. So the talent is obviously there to be competitive in the league.

But it’s a matter of knowing how to use it over the course of a season to be able to win consistently and that’s something that Bone hasn’t been able to accomplish. As to why that’s the case, I couldn’t possibly tell you, to me it seems so easy. Last season I wrote this article on how Ken Bone’s offense changed over the final week of the season due to circumstance and to the betterment of the team. The idea was that hopefully the results of said change would lead to a major overhaul in philosophy this season.

The Cougs got part of the idea right, they played slow a lot more, but they never really ‘changed’ their approach to actually play methodical offense on the play clock but still move around in a genuine and purposeful offensive set, save for a game against Washington earlier this season and again Saturday night. I watched it happen, so we know it was possible, but it wasn’t used as a primary style. More often the Cougs just got stuck in this vortex of offensive space without any real offense going on. It was like watching rat-ball at the seniors club.

This basically highlights yet another issue I have with Bone, just too much ‘switching-to-switch’ for his own good. In this conference, play your basketball (whatever you can find that works best with the athletes you have), play it night-in and night-out and see where it takes you. Obviously (save for one team), the Cougs match up with anyone in the conference on any given night. But Bone schemed his way around that fact to the ultimate (presumed) demise of his entire tenure. Based on everything we’ve seen, if he were to somehow get a 6th year — God, please no –, nothing would change next season.

It’s been that way since Bone’s opening season, when he took a roster built for defense to offense principles and tried to simply outrun his competition. People have in fact constantly put some blame on Tony Bennett for ‘bad’ recruiting himself that left Bone at the alter with little to work with, but that’s simply bunk. One must remember (or at least consider) that the Bennett’s were notorious for taking players that were off the radar but fit their style of play and molding them into things you would never have imagined. This very much coincides with the way Mike Leach does things on the football side of things for WSU. 

Tony gets better athletes overall at Virginia than what he did in Pullman, but he just never got the chance to show the fan base what he had up his sleeve with the recruiting classes that did end up here. It maybe wasn’t to the caliber and cohesiveness of Rochestie, Lowe, Weaver, Cowgill, Baynes, Ivory and Clark, but Bone wasn’t totally forced into a situation without players that could ball-out. Maybe they didn’t totally fit his style when he got here, we get that, but at the same time the cupboard was far from empty along the way.

Klay Thompson, Marcus Capers, Xavier Thames, Brock Motum, Reggie Moore and Steven Bjornstad (though he would be undone by injuries) was a good starting point. Guys like Faisel Aden, D.J. Shelton, DaVonte Lacy and Royce Woolridge (who should have been great in the right role), make these past two years largely inexcusable. His first team (possibly two) was NCAA Tourney material. After that, they have been in rebuilding mode somewhat, but they had the stuff to be a middle-of-the-road, competitive basketball team. Excuses and pandering have taken over.

Going back to Bone, it might all work out for the best for him. After all, over the next two seasons he’s set to receive better than $1.7 million in guaranteed salary from the WSU checkbook. If he were to obtain a job somewhere (and his services will be in demand at a lower level or as an assistant if he is indeed let go at the end of the week) he would just add to his profits. That’s a pretty good day at the office if I do say so myself.

For the Cougs and Bill Moos, it’s just time to move on. Please… move on.