Another side of Bone

Ken Bone was raised on basketball. Growing up in Seattle, basketball was a family institution for the Vikings’ head coach. Ken’s father, Walt, coached the game at Queen Anne and Nathan Hale High Schools, and often Ken and his older brother, Len, followed him to the gym.

Ken Bone was raised on basketball. Growing up in Seattle, basketball was a family institution for the Vikings’ head coach. Ken’s father, Walt, coached the game at Queen Anne and Nathan Hale High Schools, and often Ken and his older brother, Len, followed him to the gym.

“There wasn’t ESPN and all this other stuff growing up,” Len Bone said. “We played other sports, but basketball was always our favorite game. We both enjoyed it the most and played it year-round, and our dad being a coach played a big part in that.”

Like Len, Ken credits his father with turning him on to basketball.

“Our dad was the biggest influence,” Bone said. “We were just basketball junkies. That’s the way we were raised. I remember going down to practice every Saturday morning and just shooting around. We basically grew up in a gym.”

The brothers may have grown up in a gym, but Len said their best one-on-one games usually happened at home. And the Bones did not have your traditional street court, which made things a bit interesting.

“We’d find some old shoe boxes or ice cream cartons and put them up in the corners of the bedroom. Then we’d ball up some socks and just try to get around each other,” Len Bone said. “I remember those bedroom games always being battles. There wasn’t any height or size advantage, and I think (Ken) usually won those games.”

Len, the head coach of boy’s basketball at Snohomish High School in Washington, like Ken, did not put much emphasis on the Viking leader’s 300th career victory, a mark achieved last Saturday.

“As a coach, what stands out the most is that (Ken) has really high standards,” Len Bone said. “He expects a lot out of himself in preparation and taking the time to do things right. And he has high expectations for his players, on the court and as students and representatives of their family and the university. Ken really cares about his players, and that’s something that’s really important to him, not just because it sounds good.”

Just as he was raised on basketball as a child, Ken uses the game to develop his players as young men. Using basketball to teach life lessons is part of Ken’s coaching philosophy and something he tries to instill in his players on a daily basis.

“We’re trying to develop character off the court the best we can by using on-court experiences that they can relate to,” Ken said. “I feel like a lot of the times we are trying to teach that book Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. That’s not a knock on our players, but more of where we’re at as a society.”

Like every effective coach, Ken has his focal points that he drills into his players’ heads time and time again. Except Ken does not always preach the pick-and-roll or the motion offense; he is usually lecturing about more important matters to prepare his players for an entire lifetime of obstacles and challenges.

“We really focus on doing the right things, being disciplined, working hard and having the right attitude,” Ken said. “Those four things we talk about all the time, and it’s hard for everybody in life to do those things.”

On the court those lessons are beginning to take hold. The Vikings (11-8, 4-2 BSC) are 4-1 in their last five games and are getting key contributions from players up and down the bench.

Before coming to Portland State, Ken honed his coaching style for three seasons as an assistant at the University of Washington, and as head coach at Seattle Pacific University. In 12 years at Seattle Pacific, Ken compiled a 253-97 record to go with six conference championships.

Current Seattle Pacific head coach Jeff Hironaka was an assistant under Bone for 11 seasons.

“It was a fun 11-year relationship. It was tough when he left, but he has very high ambitions, and one of those ambitions was to have the opportunity to be a Division 1 head coach,” Hironaka said. “Other than winning a national championship, he had done all he could. But he wasn’t getting the attention of D-1 programs, so he went to the University of Washington to get major D-1 experience to put himself in a position to get an opportunity.”

Leaving Seattle Pacific was difficult for Ken, but being able to learn from Huskies head coach Lorenzo Romar without having to relocate his family was an opportunity he could not pass up.

“Lorenzo’s really good at dealing with individuals,” Ken said. “I witnessed how he dealt with a lot of different kids, often from pretty hard backgrounds. What really impressed me was his poise in almost every situation, and that’s something I wish I was better at.”

As a lifelong Seattle native, making the decision to move his family to the Portland area was not easy, but the opportunity to be a head coach at a Division 1 program while still remaining in the Northwest was too appealing. Now, in his third season, Ken has the Vikings playing well, but it still comes down to family.

“I’m comfortable and my family is comfortable,” Ken said. “We were driving up to Seattle recently, and I asked my daughter where she liked it better, Seattle or Vancouver [Wash.] And she said Vancouver. It’s about all of us and where we feel most comfortable as a family.”

In a program that has a history of coaches bolting for bigger and better jobs, Ken’s commitment to his family and players is music to Vikings fans’ ears.

“He’s done a great job, but above all he’s a great guy. The best way to put it is that you guys are lucky to have him,” Hironaka said.

Hironaka also said Bone was a candidate for the head coaching job at Portland State in 1996 when the university reinstated basketball, but Ritchie McKay, a one-time assistant of Ken’s, was hired instead. It looks like Portland State finally chose the right guy for the job.

A look inside Bone’s career

Time with the Vikings: 3 yearsRecord at Portland State: 42-3715-year coaching record: 289-147Best finish at Portland State: Fourth in 2006-07Best playoff finish at Portland State: Big Sky Tourney Semifinals Previous coaching stops: Seattle Pacific (head coach), Washington (assistant)