The Washington State Cougars lost Tony Bennett five years ago and replaced him with Portland State coach Ken Bone. Since then, the Cougars have struggled to compete in the PAC-12. Bennett preached defense and discipline on offense, while Bone lacks both of those characteristics as a coach in Pullman, WA. Can the Cougs ever get back to the Sweet 16?
Not with Bone running the helm. In his tenure with the school, Bone has a win-loss record of 70-66. The best season on his record was the 2010-11 season where he went to the NIT semifinals and lost. Bone had a lottery pick in Klay Thompson that season and was projected to do well, and he did not.
The team he inherited from Bennett was a good-but-not-great team with the potential to be able to shoot outside and bang inside. Now, the Cougars are projected to finish second-to-last in the PAC-12, only to USC – who is an unknown thanks to the new hiring of head coach Andy Enfield.
The Cougars proved that Bone is out of his element coaching at a PAC-12 school with their performance against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in Spokane, WA, a trip that is only about a half-hour drive. With a good mixture of Coug fans in the crowd, one would think that the team would want to play defense. However, they look lost and without an identity on that side of the court. Simply put, they tried too many variations of defenses that they do not have a go-to defense.
Having said that about the defense, the offense looks a little better for the Cougars. Bench dynamo and freshman Ike Iroegbu had 15 points in the first half and finished with 20 points, six rebounds and four assists. He is one of the only guys that Bone recruited who has produced in his tenure. Thus far on the season, he is averaging over 10 points per game and shooting 70 percent from the line. Iroegbu has a chance to be the next Derek Low for the Cougars.
Fans and analysts alike do not think the Cougars will compete in the PAC-12 this season. Just like its football team, it is time to start over and rebuild around a new coach. Bone is not the answer the Cougars were looking for when Bennett left for Virginia.
The loss against Gonzaga showed the weakness that WSU has: they cannot guard point guards. In a league where point guards are kings (watch Jahii Carson from Arizona State), the Cougs will simply struggle to compete athletically on defense. Coach Bone needs to go back to a smaller school where he thrived like Portland State, and he will do much better there. He just does not have the pizzazz to recruit in a crowded state against the likes of University of Washington and Gonzaga.
The Cougars’ 90-84 loss against the Bulldogs is a sign that this program is in a load of hurt. The Washington State Cougars found its football frontman and program-changer in Mike Leach two seasons ago, and it’s time to do the same for the basketball program.
John Lloyd is a PAC-12 College Basketball for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JohnHLloydIII