Is Ken Bone right man for the Cougar job?

WOULDN'T IT BE convenient if Washington State could look into its backyard and find a basketball coach to replace Tony Bennett? Don't laugh, it might happen. In fact, the favorite to win the job is Portland State coach Ken Bone -- a guy with some similarities to Bennett.

Ken, his wife Connie and three daughters live in Vancouver's Hazel Dell neighborhood, in the shadow of Washington State's Vancouver branch campus.

Bone, 50, is a diehard Washingtonian. He grew up in Seattle, coached college basketball at Seattle Pacific and Washington, and even though Bone currently works in Oregon, he still lives in Washington.

So, Bone would continue the theme of remaining among the state's population should he become Washington State's next basketball coach.

But there's more. Even though Bone's up-tempo style is much different than Bennett's measured method, their approach to building a team is similar.

"He'd be perfect to replace Bennett. He's the same kind of guy," said Dan Raley, a former Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter who has known the Bone family for years and covered Ken Bone during his three-year assistant coaching run at Washington.

"Klay Thompson, for example, would find Ken almost as Tony's twin. There's no BS about him. A straight up guy. He's one of those kind of guys you find a little bit intoxicating. You get inspired by him."

Bone's track record is fairly inspiring, too.

As the head coach at Seattle Pacific from 1990-2002, Bone was 258-118, winning at least 20 games eight times and taking the Falcons to eight NCAA Division II tournaments. Bone was then lured to Washington where he became an assistant coach under Lorenzo Romar. In 2005, Bone's third year at Washington, the Huskies won the Pac-10 tournament and became the NCAA West region's No. 1 seed.

That led Bone to Portland State, where he became a head coach again at the outset of the 2005-06 season. Bone has led the Vikings through their most successful period in school history, advancing to the NCAA tournament each of the past two seasons.

After PSU won the Big Sky tournament in 2008, Bone said he didn't feel like he was taking a chance leaving a secure job at Washington for Portland State.

"If I couldn't coach at a mid-major, in a conference like the Big Sky, then I should find some other work," Bone said. "I don't want that to sound arrogant, but if I can't coach at this level, something's wrong. If I'm any kind of a good coach, I should be able to succeed here."

Bone has gone past proving he can coach in the Big Sky. He has thrived. Just last December, Portland State reworked Bone's contract, giving him a five-year deal starting at $125,000 per year, with $7,500 per year annual increases, and a $50,000 buyout should he leave for another job.

Bone figures to substantially enhance his pay should he land at Washington State. What's more, unlike Bennett, Bone might be content to finish out his career in Pullman, Raley believes.

Jim Beseda, who covers Portland State for The Oregonian, thinks Cougar fans would enjoy Bone's fast-paced offensive approach. While Bennett and Bone share certain core values in terms of character, Bone's style clearly is opposite that of Bennett.

The Vikings run, and run a lot during practice, as Beseda said he has often observed. Bone is a stickler for getting it right, no matter if it's the 12th man or the star. Beseda said he saw Bone run PSU standout point guard Jeremiah Dominguez more than once in practice for making mistakes.

Though Bone appears mild-mannered to outsiders, he is anything but that once he steps inside the gym.

"He is a bit of a disciplinarian, doesn't put up with a whole lot," Beseda said. "Bone gets his game face on in practice. He's serious about doing it the right way. He wants to tell guys once, and they had better do it right. He doesn't want to have go over stuff over and over."

Beseda stopped short of calling him a player's coach, saying "he's probably not one of those guys who is going to have a team over for a barbeque." He related a story about Dominguez, when he once asked the PSU guard about his relationship with Bone.

"He said, "You know, we really don't spend a lot of time together away from the gym,'" Beseda said. "But then you talk to his wife, Connie, and they're like family. All the players were very accepting of her and the girls."

Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk has some familiarity with Bone. He was an associate athletic director at Seattle Pacific during Bone's first two years at the school. Sterk and Bone have PSU ties, too, though the two didn't work at the school during the same time. But surely Sterk still has resources he can tap at Portland State regarding Bone from his years as the school's AD from 1995-2000.

Bone comes from a basketball family. His father, Walt, was a long time successful high school coach in Seattle. Brother Lenny, now basketball coach at Snohomish High School, was a prolific scorer in high school.

Bone has the basketball pedigree and a coaching background that makes it appear he's ready to make the jump to Division I. Now it's up to Washington State to agree.

Nick Daschel covers the Pacific-10 Conference for Buster Sports. You can read his football and basketball opinion at .

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