Key questions as WSU coaching search looms

NO GREAT LEAPS are required to presume Ken Bone's tenure as Washington State's men's basketball coach is down to a matter of days. There is tremendous intrigue, however, in the approach athletic director Bill Moos will take in finding Bone's successor.

Here's how I break it down ...

Moos has always been steadfast about sitting down with each of his coaches at the end of their respective seasons to talk about the state of the program. There is no reason after years of data to think he'd break that protocol. So don't look for any announcement on Bone this weekend after the Cougs conclude the regular season with UCLA. Do look for it next week after the Cougars are eliminated from the Pac-12 tourney. If they lose in the first round on Wednesday, I'd wager that Bone's fate will be made public sometime Thursday.

This will be interesting to watch, because if the Cougs' next head man is either a head or assistant coach at a school going to the Big Dance, the wait will stretch until that school is out of the tournament. The dance starts on March 18 and ends with the championship game on April 7.

Aside from the obvious (i.e. strong recruiter, teacher, tactician and strategist), Moos and his administrative team must ask themselves if there is a particular style of basketball they want played at WSU? Is one style more likely to succeed than another? Is one style more likely to attract fans? The range here is wide. At one end of the spectrum is Bennett Ball, at the other is a Westhead-esque run and gun. And somewhere in the middle is the Raveling Style – big anchor (Puidokas, Donaldson and House) with athletic wings (Don Collins, Steve Harriell, Ron Davis and Norton Barnhill). I wouldn't suggest that Moos & Co. need to actually come to a definitive answer on this, but it is a question that will, or already has, been talked about.

In an era in which every game is televised and every word and image is tweeted, YouTubed or message boarded, the kind of personality you want at the top is more critical than ever. Image is key. That is by no means to suggest there is a cookie-cutter ideal out there. In football, Mike Leach and Pete Carroll are image opposites, yet both are seemingly perfect fits in their current jobs as well as their last ones. That tells me there is no one "right" answer to the question of image. But in this media-focused era, where sports so often defines the public's sentiment about the broader university, your basketball coach is basically a walking billboard two nights a week from November to March. Do you want young, old or in between? Media savvy or media indifferent? High energy or low key? As with style of play, these are questions that don't necessarily require definitive answers, but they do require consideration.

Moos isn't one to let moss grow around his feet. He has always said he maintains a small "just-in-case" list of possible head coaches for every sport. Given that he said back in the fall that Bone was on the hot seat, there is no doubt he has researched, revised and broadened that list of his. So the guess here is that the search for the next basketball coach at WSU probably stands at 10 to 15 names right now. Of those names, as I projected in this column and this column, I believe they'll be categorized into three pools. Which pool the new coach comes from will hinge on a variety of factors, including salary, vision for the future, personality, Moos' salesmanship, and the prospective new man's salesmanship.

Bottom line, there should be no shortage of good candidates -- the job is in one of the most prestigious conferences in the nation; the locale is gorgeous and truly ideal for a family; and the salary figures to be around $1 million a year.

I don't expect VCU's Shaka Smart to be the next head coach, but depending on the answers and observations that come out of the questions Moos and his staff will be asking themselves, the next head coach of the Cougars – whether an experienced head man or a top-flight assistant – figures to be one of the most scrutinized in program history. The TV-Twitter-Internet Era will allow for nothing less.

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