COMMENTARY: Is Bone an upgrade over Bennett?

DON'T GET ME wrong. I loved Tony Bennett. I was sorry to see him go. But as basketball credentials go, Washington State may have upgraded in its head coach. Ken Bone may not be as cute and cuddly as Tony, and his dad may not be as well known, but as basketball coaching chops go, he's way ahead of of the game.

And for that, we should thank Dick and Tony. Six years ago, can anyone honestly say they paid the least bit of attention to WSU's search for a coach to replace fired Paul Graham? I think you could count the WSU hoops obsessed on two hands in those days.

Now here we were over the weekend dissecting the smallest details from Stew Morrill's past and Mike Davis' present.

Ya gotta like it.

What you have to like even more is the fact someone of Ken Bone's credentials thirsted for the opportunity to lead the Cougars.


Bone has been a head coach for 16 years and enjoyed incredible success at two schools -- Portland State and Seattle Pacific -- where expectations were modest. His career record is a sterling 335-167. He took 10 teams to NCAA Division I or II tournaments.

Bone has been around the block and proven his worth as a recruiter and a coach.

Like Bennett, Bone's dad was a coach -- a well-regarded high school coach in Seattle. Unlike Bennett, though, Bone didn't need nepotism to get where he wanted to go. He did it the old fashioned way: With boot straps and hard work.

That's exactly the kind of guy who will appreciate Pullman and succeed in Pullman. Who needs special favors from dear old dad when grit and determination are in ample supply?

Tony has been a head coach for three years. And we all know those first two were gift-wrapped for him by Dick. Can Tony really build and coach a program with the best of them? The jury is still out on that because he hasn't been at center-stage long enough. He might turn out to be a truly great one. Right now, though, he's pretty much living on three things: the foundation poured by his dad; the street cred of his stint in the NBA (which he alluded to about 12 times in his Virginia press conference last week); and his matching set of good looks and personality.

This past season, without Weaver, Low and Cowgill in his corner, Bennett looked overmatched several times when it came to making the type of second-half adjustments that can elevate a team from average to good.

Bone, meanwhile, at little ol' Portland State, was beating Gonzaga, out-distancing WSU in a closed-door pre-season scrimmage, losing by a point to Pac-10 champion Washington, and running the table in the Big Sky Conference Tournament to earn a second straight invite to the Big Dane.

Bone is more steak than sizzle. More hat than brim. From those who know him, you get the sense he'd coach for free if he didn't have to put food on the table for his family.

He's a great choice for Washington State. And thanks go to Dick and Tony Bennett for making it possible to get someone of his caliber.

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