WSU hoops: Actually, it could have been worse

IT CAN'T HAVE BEEN easy for Ken Bone, to keep on fielding question after loaded question as the losses piled up and his job security plummeted. And it won't matter to many in a season that went from bad to worse to just plain over. But Bone actually could have made these last few months worse. Much worse.

Most coaches facing the music would have blown up in a post-game presser long ago, maybe more than once. It's human nature. And you might think Bone at some point would have tossed some criticism toward the fans for the lack of attendance.

Or maybe blamed the players for missing untold numbers of open shots -- game after game after game.

Instead, Bone answered just about every critical question with the patience of a saint. He continued to point to himself as the one to blame, even as his players bricked one open look after another.

THE REASONS FOR Bone's pending dismissal are clear to detractors and supporters alike – recruiting missteps, crisis of confidence in crunch time, seemingly little light at the end of the tunnel. But this season could have been worse.

Bone could have followed the example of Kevin O'Neill, who last year called his USC team "an immature group, A to Z." The media and fans had a field day with that one. And a negative cloud hung over USC until they dismissed O'Neill mid-season a few weeks later. Countless other coaches on the hot seat have tried to defend themselves from media and/or fan criticism. It's human nature.

Instead, Bone conducted himself more like UCLA's Ben Howland during his last season, most of which was spent on the hot seat. Howland took hit after hit and declined to respond in kind or to deflect blame.

It didn't save Howland. And it won't save Bone. But it kept a bad situation from getting worse.

The one time he faltered was in a recent interview with KJR. Asked what he'd say to those who say you can't have consistent success at Washington State, Bone said it would be hard to argue that point. Then he made it worse by saying if Tony Bennett would have stayed the Cougs would have probably enjoyed more success.

It's purely a guess on my part -- I think Bone probably instantly regretted saying success is hard at WSU. He misspoke. So he immediately tried to fix it by saying it could be done, pointing to the Bennetts as an example. Alas, he handled that question badly. And completely lost in the KJR radio interview was Bone saying for the umpteenth time that the lack of a productive point guard this season was all on him.

Not that any of that matters anymore.

Bone is virtually certain to be let go now that WSU has been bounced out of the Pac-12 tournament in its opening game for the fifth straight time under his watch.

At the outset, it was clear Bone needed a good season to remain on the job. That was made crystal clear just five games in when Bill Moos dropped the mother of all hints. Instead of a feel good campaign on the court, the Cougs tumbled to a 10-21 mark, losing 15 of 18 conference games.

As god-awful as that is, it could have been worse.


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