PULLMAN — Washington State fired men’s basketball coach Ken Bone on Tuesday after five seasons during which he was unable to sustain the success of his predecessor, Tony Bennett.
Bone was 80-86 in five seasons at Washington State and just 29-61 in the Pac-12. He failed to reach the NCAA tournament during his tenure on the Palouse, and was not able to sustain the success the program had under Bennett, who left after the 2009 season to take the top job at Virginia. Bone had taken Portland State to the NCAA tournament the two previous seasons, a goal he was never able to achieve with the Cougars.
Bone was in the fifth year of a seven-year contract. His buyout included the final two years of his contract worth the remaining $1.7 million.
“I appreciate what Ken has done for Cougar Basketball, leading us to the postseason twice in the last four years, and I thanked him for his service to WSU,” Washington State athletic director Bill Moos said in a statement. “But at this point we need to revitalize our fan base, particularly our student body, and position this program to compete for championships.”
With a core of solid players, including future NBA star Klay Thompson and Brock Motum, Bone enjoyed some early success. The Cougars were 16-15 his first season, then improved to 22-13 and reached the semifinals of the NIT his second season. They were 19-18 and reached the championship round of the CBI in his third season.
But they were 13-19 in 2012-13, 4-14 in the Pac-12, and there was speculation all season that this might be a make-or-break year for Bone.
This year, the Cougars went 10-21 overall and just 3-15 in the league. They lost eight conference games in a row before beating UCLA in the regular-season finale. Attendance at Friel Court and interest in the WSU program has dwindled as the losses piled up. The Cougars averaged just 2,800 fans in 16 home games this season.
It was a difficult final season overall for the Cougars under Bone. Danny Lawhorn was dismissed before the season began, leaving WSU without an experienced point guard. Royce Woolridge has received the bulk of the time at the position.
Leading scorer DaVonte Lacy missed eight games with appendicitis and a rib injury.
Bone had called this “one of the most difficult seasons I’ve ever coached.” Bone also said uncertainty surrounding his future had hurt the Cougars in their efforts to recruit players, and that rival coaches were using it to recruit against Washington State.
Bone enjoyed plenty of success as head coach of Division II Seattle Pacific, and at Portland State. He was also an assistant at Washington.
Moos said the search for a replacement would begin immediately.