Ken Bone knows his team is young, but the new Washington State University men’s basketball coach foresees a bright future and a different game.

WSU men's basketball coach Ken Bone. Bob Hubner
WSU men’s basketball coach Ken Bone. Bob Hubner

Bone landed at WSU after four seasons as head coach of Portland State University, where he racked up two Big Sky Conference titles and back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. Before PSU, Bone spent 12 seasons coaching at his alma mater Seattle Pacific University and three years as an assistant coach at the University of Washington.

Bone expresses confidence in his young team.

“I like the culture of the program right now. I’m very impressed with how the team did academically this spring and the enthusiasm they brought to the court during our workouts,” says Bone.

“Coach Bennett and his staff did a great job of identifying good kids who are coachable. It’s not just a bunch of selfish kids who are flamboyant out on the basketball court. They are guys who buy into the team concept.”

That team will play a different style of basketball, Bone says. While the Bennett teams were known for tough defense and a slower pace, Bone will push for a faster game.

“I want us to spend close to equal time on offense and defense. It will be more up-tempo. There’ll be some quicker shots taken, as long as we’re making them. You can’t come down and jack up three-pointers, just for the sake of doing it,” he says.

Before basketball season starts, though, Bone and his staff will scour the state and beyond for future Cougars. The Seattle native’s personal and professional roots along the I-5 corridor give him an understanding of the Pacific Northwest’s basketball potential.

Holding up a spreadsheet with carefully categorized lists of young players, Bone says, “There are kids that come out of the Northwest every year that play at a high level. Those kids are going to Gonzaga, the University of Washington, across the country. We need to have our foot in the door to land some guys out of the Northwest.”

While Bone recruits potential players, he’ll also be moving with his wife Connie and their daughters to Pullman and transitioning to small town life.

“Our kids only know the big city. Pullman is not quite that—not a lot of skyscrapers here. It’ll be much more intimate for us as a family. As a father of three girls, that’s not a bad thing,” says Bone.

In Pullman and elsewhere, WSU fans and students have welcomed Bone with e-mails and comments. He does think the fan response could change from last year.

“I don’t think we’ll see more t-shirts out there: ‘Our coach is hotter than yours.’ I think I saw those on sale for 99 cents at Dissmore’s,” says Bone with a laugh.

“Still, I can feel the excitement about Cougar basketball in the air. Walking around campus, students say, ‘Hey Coach, congrats, happy you’re here, can’t wait until basketball.’”