By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
College basketball history may well have been made earlier this week when the head basketball coach at a major university offered his guest bedroom to the team manager from his cross-state rival.
With the University of Washington coming to town for the latest installment of basketball’s version of the Apple Cup, Washington State coach Ken Bone called the father of the Huskies’ team manager and extended the unprecedented invitation.
But it’s OK, Cougar fans. Blood is thicker than the Columbia River.
You see, Kegan Bone is one of UW’s managers, and he’ll be in Pullman this weekend when the Huskies face his uncle Ken’s Cougars.
With this much basketball in their blood, the Bones were inevitably going to cross paths on the hardwood at some point.
In the Bone family, basketball is the bond that has brought fathers, sons, brothers and nephews together over the years.
“Basketball has pretty much been our life,” said Ken Bone, whose only brother, Len, is the head coach at Snohomish High School and the father of UW sophomore Kegan Bone. “Our dad coached basketball for a number of years, and we grew up sitting right behind his bench watching his teams play.
“That’s just the way it’s been in our family for a number of years. Our conversations have mostly been about the game of basketball, one way or another, right or wrong.”
It could be said that Len and Ken Bone were destined to be basketball coaches. Their father, Walt Bone, coached high school basketball at Seattle’s Queen Anne and Nathan Hale high schools. The Bone brothers, who also had three sisters, played at Shorecrest High School and later at Seattle Pacific University.
When Len Bone, now 56, went off to SPU in the 1970s, it was not only to play the sport he loved but also to get a degree in education so that he could eventually coach. And his little brother, five years Len’s junior, followed those footsteps a few years later.
Their coaching careers have never pitted them against one another, which is probably because they’ve mostly coached at different levels. While Ken Bone has spent most of his career at the college level, his older brother followed a few years as a small-college assistant by coaching at University High School of Spokane and then at his current job as head coach at Snohomish High School, where he has been for nearly 20 years.
For Len Bone, the opportunity to raise his family in one place and coach sons Grady and Kegan was the key factor in staying at the high school level.
“When my kids got to a certain age, it was right for me to stay here,” Len Bone said via telephone from his Snohomish home. “I got to coach a lot of kids, but I never got to coach my own kids. To share that experience with them was really fun.”
Kegan Bone said that playing for his father at Snohomish High was a unique experience that he wouldn’t trade for anything.
“We’re both competitors, and we both want to win, so we would — I wouldn’t say butt heads, but there were times when the coach and the player didn’t see eye to eye,” the UW sophomore said this week. “It takes a special person to coach his son. That’s not an easy thing to do. Not everyone could do it, but my dad was able to.”
Ken Bone said this week that he is most proud of the integrity his older brother has carried throughout his career as a high school coach, adding that Len Bone is more excited about the opportunity to teach kids than he is to win games. But Len Bone certainly has won his share of games with the Panthers, taking them to six state tournaments in a seven-year span before the district’s talent level was spread out by the addition of Glacier Peak High School.
Ken Bone has had similar success at the college level. He took SPU to eight NCAA Division II tournaments in 12 years as head coach at his alma mater, then joined Lorenzo Romar’s staff as an assistant at UW. That led to a four-year stint as head coach at Portland State, where Bone turned around a struggling program and took it to two NCAA tournaments.
Last April, WSU hired Bone to replace the departed Tony Bennett.
“It’s really special to see Ken, not just be in that position but really be doing a good job in that position,” said Len Bone, who sat behind the WSU bench when the Huskies and Cougars played in Seattle on Jan. 30. “He’s prepared himself for this opportunity. He’s a very, very hard worker and a smart coach. He knows what he’s doing.”
While the Bone brothers have never coached against one another, their paths do cross on occasion. The most obvious example was the recruiting of Snohomish High star Jon Brockman, who signed with UW when Ken Bone was an assistant there.
When they’re together, the Bone brothers like to talk basketball but rarely compare notes on their own teams. Kegan Bone said that his father and uncle are pretty laid-back when conversing or playing cards but added: “When they’re on the court, they’re both extremely intense.”
Kegan Bone’s intensity is tempered by his current role as UW team manager. But he does hope to follow in the footsteps of his father, uncle and grandfather one day and become a basketball coach.
“That’s the way my immediate family is: you play (basketball), and then when you can’t play anymore, you find a way to stay around the game,” Kegan Bone said. “Usually, that means coaching. It’s in our blood.”
For now, Kegan Bone is just hoping to get a trip to the NCAA tournament as part of the Huskies’ traveling crew. All that’s guaranteed is that he’ll be in Pullman this weekend — and, for the record, he’s not taking his uncle up on the offer of hospitality.
“I’m staying with the purple and gold; I’m staying with the Dawgs,” Kegan Bone said earlier this week. “I don’t think Coach Romar would take too kindly to me staying with the enemy.”
When it was theorized that uncle Ken might be extending the invitation so that he could probe Kegan on the strengths and weaknesses of this year’s Huskies, the UW sophomore laughed.
“I’m kind of like the water boy,” Kegan Bone said. “But maybe he’d joke about having me put something in the (Huskies’) water.”
The allegiances for Kegan Bone and his uncle this weekend are pretty predictable. As for the rest of the Bone family? Well, that’s where things get a bit dicey. Len Bone’s wife will be rooting against her brother-in-law when the Cougars host UW.
“She’s sticking with her son,” Len Bone said. “I’m sticking with my brother.”
That may well lead to another college basketball rarity: a father rooting against his own son’s team.
“My loyalties,” Len Bone said of Saturday’s game, “aren’t divided.”
SEATTLE — University of Washington men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar told reporters on Thursday afternoon that sophomore Brendan Sherrer has been hospitalized with a minor infection.
Sherrer, a walk-on from Monroe, is expected to be out of the hospital within the next day or two and should be available for Saturday’s game at Washington State. According to a press release put out by the UW sports information department, Sherrer is “smiling and in good spirits.”
Sherrer, who played high school basketball at Archbishop Murphy, has appeared in nine games this season and scored four points.