PULLMAN – Washington State basketball coach Ken Bone has two years left on his contract but with the Cougars (9-16, 2-11 Pac-12) likely to miss the NCAA tournament for the sixth straight season, a coaching change could be in the works.
Athletic director Bill Moos told The Spokesman-Review he has not made a decision on whether or not to terminate Bone’s contract. Bone’s contract insures that WSU is responsible for paying his $850,000 salary for the next two seasons whether or not he is retained.
“I’m constantly thinking about it and continue to support him,” Moos said. “We’ve had some moments where I think we have looked pretty good and other times it’s quite evident that we’re struggling.”
It has been a difficult year for the Cougars on the court. Point guard Danny Lawhorn was dismissed before the season began, leaving WSU without a viable starter at what Bone considers the game’s most important position. Royce Woolridge has received the bulk of the time at the position, along with freshman Ike Iroegbu, both of whom were only projected to receive “limited minutes” at point guard according to Bone.
Compounding matters was the loss of leading scorer DaVonte Lacy, who missed eight games with appendicitis and a rib injury.
“I’m disappointed,” Bone said. “It’s right up there for me as one of the most difficult seasons I’ve ever coached and I’ve been doing this since 1982. It’s been hard. Last summer you put your team together and you have visions of success and what the team potentially can do.”
Moos said that he does not anticipate contacting any potential coaching candidates while Bone is still WSU’s head coach. During the search for WSU’s football coach Moos courted current coach Mike Leach while former coach Paul Wulff was still on staff.
He is, however, aware of potential candidates.
“It’s always been my practice to have a short list,” Moos said. “When I was at Oregon I had the short list mostly because I wanted people to be prepared in the event my coaches left to go somewhere else or to go to the pros. But I’ve always had a list of people that I would be interested in the event that I had to make a change.”
Bone is aware of the criticism and says that those comments are part of the job description for a coach in a conference like the Pac-12.
“That’s just part of the deal, I understood that when I took the job. Shoot, nothing is guaranteed,” Bone said. “You can be replaced after a year or two if certain people don’t like the job you’re doing.”
Bone did say that the uncertainty surrounding his future with the program has hurt the Cougars in their efforts to recruit players, and that rival coaches have used it to recruit against the Cougars.
Freshman Que Johnson supported the idea that recruits would be reluctant to sign with WSU without knowing if Bone would remain as the coach, saying, “The main reason I came here was because of the coaching staff. I really liked them a lot, especially coach Bone.”
With five games left in the regular season, Moos hinted that a strong finish could make a difference in whether or not he decides to make a coaching change, but said the Cougars are “running out of time” in terms of games. Last season the Cougars beat UCLA and USC in the season’s final week before narrowly falling to Washington in the Pac-12 tournament.
“I’d like to make that decision upon the end of the season,” Moos said. “I’m not one that in normal circumstances would terminate a coach during the season and I’d only do that in most cases if there was a behavioral problem or something along those lines, which with Ken Bone that’s never been an issue.”
Players say they are aware of the criticism of their coach but are trying to ignore it.
“It’s like any negativity,” Lacy said. “You’re going to give it a voice if you listen to it. In today’s society everybody feels like their opinion needs to be heard.”