By Jim Moore
Well, the Ken Bone Era is over in Pullman. Washington State athletic director Bill Moos fired the Cougars’ basketball coach Tuesday, which prompts the question: Now what?
On a personal level, I really liked Bone. Good man, and I’m guessing he’s a great coach when it comes to the X’s and O’s. But he didn’t have the players, and that’s on him, too.
No offense, but if I’m being honest here, I have a hard time picturing him in living rooms, being able to consistently lure blue-chip or even red-chip recruits. When it comes to pizzazz, sizzle and charisma, there was none to be found in Bone.
But even in a season gone south, my kids and I watched nearly every game, and the thing that impressed me most was that Bone’s players looked like they played hard for him to the very end. It’s rare to see that with a lame-duck coach.
Sad. That’s not how I feel about Bone’s departure; it’s how I feel about the program compared to where it was with Tony Bennett. With Coach McDreamy – the girls loved him, too – the Cougs made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 2008.
By my math, and anyone’s math, that was just six years ago. The Cougars were one of the best 16 teams in the country, and now they’re the 11th-best in their conference.
What makes it worse is seeing Bennett at Virginia, all happy and smiling, leading the Cavaliers to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a win over Duke in the ACC Tournament last Sunday.
I was bitter and disappointed when he left, but Bennett got a better contract and an opportunity to coach in the ACC along with a new arena at Virginia.
The disappointment came from subconsciously knowing we’d have a hard time matching the success Bennett had with the next coach.
Former Oregon coach Ernie Kent has a connection to Washington State athletic director Bill Moos and a track record of success in the conference. (AP)
Now we’re on to the next-next coach or whatever you want to call him. I know this: I’ll bet that Moos already had a verbal agreement in place with the new coach before he fired Bone.
Paul Wulff was fired as Washington State’s football coach two weeks after Moos interviewed Mike Leach in Key West. So I’m guessing Moos has an offer on the table to someone, and that announcement likely will be made by the end of the week.
I’m also guessing that Ernie Kent will be the new coach. I say this because Moos, in a news conference Tuesday, mentioned that he would use Kent more as a sounding board to find out about other candidates who would be a good fit in Pullman.
Kent doesn’t want to be an advisor; he wants to be the next Cougars coach, and Moos already knows as much.
You can make a great case as to why Kent should get the job. He won a Pac-10 championship and made five NCAA Tournament appearances at Oregon. He’s energetic and would bring a faster-paced team to Pullman. He knows what it takes to be successful in this conference.
You could talk me into other candidates such as the ones that were listed in a CougCenter.com post: Boise State’s Leon Rice, Utah State’s Stew Morrill, Long Beach State’s Dan Monson, Fresno State’s Rodney Terry, Randy Bennett of St. Mary’s and former UCLA coach Ben Howland.
I’d also add Montana’s Wayne Tinkle to the list, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to have a Tinkle after having a Bone as my head coach.
I’d put Howland, who took two UCLA teams to the Final Four; and Rice, a WSU alum who worked under Mark Few at Gonzaga, at the top of the list with Kent. And I could be talked into any other candidate who can make Cougars basketball relevant again and put bodies into those empty seats at Beasley Coliseum again.
But based on what I heard at that Moos news conference, I’m guessing when the announcement’s made, Ernie Kent will be introduced as the new coach.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website, jimmoorethego2guy.com, and kitsapsun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.