A GRIP ON SPORTS
The end came yesterday, as we knew it would, with the announcement Ken Bone was out as Washington State's basketball coach. His five-year tenure was over. And the gaze quickly turned to the future. Read on.
• When a coach spends a year walking a tightrope – a shoelace-thin tightrope at that – it's no surprise when the inevitable occurs. And it's no surprise people are already wondering who will replace him. It wasn't much of a secret this season that it would take a wondrous one for Bone to retain his job. A magical run to an NCAA berth might have been the only thing that would have bought Bone another year and, after talking with a lot of folks in Pullman since November, I'm not even sure that would have sufficed. It didn't happen, of course, and Bone's fate was sealed. Sealed by, more than anything, the apathy around the program. If there is one thing that galls Bill Moos more than anything, it is folks ignoring his athletic programs. Talk is good. Heck, even debate about whether a coach should stay or go – as was the case this time last year about Bone – is interest. But when people stop going to games, stop watching games, heck, even stop talking about the games in the office, on campus or on-line, that is the final straw for Moos. Sizzle is a word he likes and the sizzle had gone out of the Washington State basketball program. So how does Moos get it back? The names that have been bandied about, the Leon Rices, the Ernie Kents, even the Ben Howlands, he of more Final Fours himself than most schools, really won't strike the cord with fans that Moos wants. Bruce Pearl might have, especially among the students, but he took Auburn's $2.5 million and went South. If winning is the most important thing, Howland would get it done. He won in Flagstaff, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, three cities with more differences than probably any other three cities in America, so Pullman wouldn't present an inordinate challenge. But Moos, who considers Howland a friend, has probably checked with Ben and believes there is no chance. Which leaves us back where we started.
• I have another suggestion, but I'm pretty sure it will be ignored. Too off-the-wall. If Moos wants to drag the Cougars out of their deepest depths since the Paul Graham-era ended, he should follow the formula that worked then. Hire a veteran coach who has been out of the college game for a while, let him bring along his college assistant son and designate the younger one as the successor. It worked well for the Bennetts (Dick and especially Tony) and Washington State back then. Why wouldn't it work again? OK, lots of reasons, but hear me out. I've been told Kelvin Sampson (pictured) longs to get back into college coaching. He's won at Washington State before. He knows the territory. Yes, he broke NCAA rules at Oklahoma and Indiana and was sanctioned for it, hit with a five-year show-cause penalty. Guess what? Those five years are up. They ended in November. The rules Kelvin broke, the ones about too many phone calls? They were so stupid even the NCAA realized it and changed them. And Kelvin has a son, Kellen, who has worked his way up the ladder, serving as a graduate assistant, strength coach and assistant coach, now at Appalachian State, while his father plugged away in the NBA. Yes, Kelvin is older. Heck, he's my age. But he should be re-energized. He's been a good college coach – if you ignore the whole fast-and-loose-with-the-rules thing – who has won everywhere he's been. And he knows Pullman in and out. Heck, it's hardly changed since he was last around 20 years ago. OK, so there is going to be a new Taco Bell. And there is a Wal-Mart. Those things should be selling points. You want to win? Check. You want folks to talk about the program? Check. You want some continuity? OK, so if things work out well, the Sampsons won't be around more than six years, tops. But if they go to a couple NCAAs and maybe an NIT in that time, would it be OK? I thought so. I'm not blind. I know Sampson carries more baggage than a New York bellboy, but so did Mike Leach. And his baggage has seemed to disappear, or at the least gather dust in the corner. So why not try a proven formula again?
• WSU: Yesterday's announcement about Bone probably put a crimp in Jacob Thorpe's day. But he was ready for it, after already finished an interview with the coach about the returning Cougars. Jacob responded with a story on the firing and another looking forward to whom Moos might call on next. ... John Blanchette weighed in with a column on the changeover and yes, it's going to cost more for the new coach. ... Others weighed in as well, from Bud Withers at the Times to John McGrath at the News Tribune to Boise, where Leon Rice (pictured) resides. (McGrath's suggestion is a good one but it doesn't seem to have the sizzle Moos is looking for.) ... Jacob also had a blog post up yesterday concerning Bone and the team that's left and followed that up with a transcript of Moos' press conference. He adds a morning post today with links. ... The baseball team earned a big win yesterday. ... The women's basketball team is in Missoula to face Montana in the WNIT. ... Want football news? ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog has a midweek mailbag.
• Gonzaga: The Zags season was almost undone by a late slide on the road. What did they do to get out of it? Jim Meehan tells you with this story. ... Withers has a feature on Kevin Pangos. ... St. Mary's rallied from a second-half deficit to take out Utah and advance in the NIT. ... San Diego eliminated Portland State from the CIT. ... BYU sees its NCAA berth as a chance to show its colors. ... USF coach Rex Walters talks about the season. ... Wondering about your bracket? Here's one man's opinion. ... As we are talking about college basketball here, some Spokane players went south and helped Vanguard College make the NAIA national tournament.
• Chiefs: Everett is pretty mum on injuries headed into the playoffs.
• Seahawks: Golden Tate (pictured) didn't like the Hawks' offer and he didn't like the beating he took on Twitter. OK. ... Despite a bunch of losses in free agency, the Hawks are still the bookies' choice as Super Bowl favorites. ... One of the Hawks' defensive line targets signed with Dallas.
• Mariners: The big news yesterday was Hisashi Iwakuma being cleared to begin throwing. Not pitching mind you, but throwing. He's still a ways away from returning to the mound. ... A tie only happens in spring training and all-star games.
• Sounders: A couple of new Sounders will make their debut on the road in Montreal this week. ... Joshua Mayers has his weekly MLS power rankings. ... Sigi Schmid met with media yesterday and talked about a lot of things. ... At least Clint Dempsey is playing well.
• We are done here today. I'm not sure what day it is – retirement and writing every day will do that to you – but it has to be somewhere midweek. I'm sure I will be back tomorrow. Until then ...