WASHINGTON STATE COACH Ken Bone did not mince words during his season-ending teleconference Thursday. He called the Cougars’ 4-14 conference record during the 2012-13 season “unacceptable,” but sees reasons why the team should improve next year. Bone also discussed his meeting with athletic director Bill Moos, the point-guard situation and much more.
Bone, who has three seasons remaining on the seven-year contract he signed when he succeeded Tony Bennett in 2009, said Moos did not outline any specific benchmarks that must be achieved for him to retain his position in 2014-15 and beyond.
“Everything went fine,” Bone said. “I talked about this season — the ups and downs. Bill is supportive of me and the program.
“There’s no doubt we need to win more games.”
Bone has a 70-65 record with the Cougars but is just 26-46 in conference games. Moos asked him how WSU, which had a 13-19 record — its first losing season since 2005-06 — can improve moving forward. Bone cited the amount of experience returning as only guard Mike Ladd and center Brock Motum graduate along with the infusion of talent as reasons why the Cougars will be better. He noted that guards Dexter Kernich-Drew, DaVonté Lacy and Royce Woolridge all played significant minutes along with forward D.J. Shelton.
In addition to that quartet, wing Que Johnson and center Jordan Railey, who transferred from Iowa State, will be eligible and are expected to play significant roles next season. As previously reported by CF.C, Bone said Johnson, who was not allowed to practice as a partial qualifier this season, has performed well in the classroom and should be finally able to work out with the team when he enrolls for summer school.
“I like that we have a strong foundation, which sounds strange going into our fifth year,” Bone said.
Without getting into specifics, he said there were “some issues” he believes set the program back. That seemed to refer to the 2010-11 season, where the Cougars won 22 games and advanced to the NIT Final Four but were hindered by arrests and suspensions involving key players smoking marijuana.
Bone said the composition of the current roster is much different when it comes to character. While WSU tied Oregon State for last place in the conference, the Cougars lost six Pac-12 games by five points or less. They also suffered a two-point setback against Gonzaga, which was the top-ranked team in the country at one point.
He sees that continuing with the latest class of incoming recruits. Bone noted that 6-foot-9 Josh Hawkinson, who starred at Shorewood High School in Shoreline, has traveled to Pullman two of the last four weekends to workout with the team. In more than two decades of coaching, Bone said he has never seen that.
One player Bone has not seen live is the most highly touted member, guard Ikenna Iroegbu. He said he was not able to watch him at Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy this season because it required flying into Charlotte and making a three-hour drive from there. For that reason, Bone said he will not know whether Iroegbu will be a better fit a point or shooting guard until this summer. He said that the Cougars still could add a junior-college player to compete at point guard.
That role also could go to Woolridge. After a shaky start, Bone said Woolridge played as well as anyone on the team during the final two months of the season. Bone compared Woolridge, who averaged 11 points per game, to Reggie Moore in that both players grew up as more of combo guards. He felt that Moore really developed into a strong point guard during his final season at WSU in 2011-12.
“I think Royce Woolridge is going to continue to get better and better,” Bone said.
Woolridge, who transferred from Kansas, is among several transfers from four-year programs that Bone has added during his tenure. But he said he does not foresee the addition of another four-year transfer in this recruiting class. Railey and Woolridge both are on scholarship, while Brett Kingma, who sat out this season after transferring from Oregon, is a walk on. Bone was vague about the status of Kingma, who served a suspension during the season following an October arrest on suspicion of possession of marijuana less than 40 grams, and minor exhibiting the effects of having consumed alcohol in a public place.
“Everything is going to be unclear until I meet with the guys,” said Bone, adding that he will meet Tuesday with Kingma and has only had one of his annual postseason interviews with players so far because of spring break and other scheduling conflicts.
Bone, who is out of Pullman recruiting, said he anticipates everyone returning, but noted that “there’s guys that are always looking for something different.” Bone similarly was vague about the composition of his coaching staff. Last season, he added Idaho’s Ray Lopes while making former assistant Jeff Hironaka his director of player development.
“That’s always a possibility,” said Bone, referring to potential staff changes.
Bone said he expects the team to run at a similar tempo next season, but thinks they could have the ability to “push it” in transition with some of his more athletic players returning along with the additions of Johnson and Iroegbu.