With back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths and a pair of 23-victory seasons, the past two years have been like a continuous harmonic melody for Portland State men’s basketball.
As sweet sounding as it has been for the Vikings, a “ring, ring” from Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk to the phone of Portland State head coach Ken Bone could catastrophically throw the melody into a dissonant musical train wreck.
The Cougars have targeted the Vikings’ orchestrator after losing head coach Tony Bennett to the University of Virginia this week. And if Bone chooses to reunite with Sterk, an associate athletic director when he coached at Seattle Pacific, he will strip the South Park Blocks of much more than his gangly frame and calm demeanor.
Here is a breakdown of the top five things Portland State would lose with Bone’s departure.
Try to find another program in Oregon that had a pair of NCAA Tournament berths in the last two seasons. Oregon? Nope. Oregon State? Definitely not. How about in the Northwest? Only Gonzaga can match Portland State in that respect.
With that said, no one will argue that the Vikings are headed toward building a mid-major power. Instead of wondering whether Portland State will finish near the top of the Big Sky, it has become almost expected that the Vikings will be playing in the conference’s championship game for the right to partake in March Madness.
The players already believe this to be true. The fans are catching on, and even those so-called apathetic Portland State students are beginning to turn out for more games at the Stott Center.
The sad truth is Bone leaves and some of the momentum goes with him.
2. A keen eye
Look up and down Portland State’s roster and you will find a bevy of talent that no other Big Sky squad enjoys. Whether it is the smooth-shooting Dominic Waters, the tough and powerful Jamie Jones or the multifaceted swingman Phil Nelson, it is clear the Vikings are loaded.
This happened primarily because Bone is an excellent judge of talent. Each of the aforementioned players was a Bone recruit that found a way to quickly make an impact on a Portland State team fresh off the NCAA Tournament.
Bone gets players that know their way around the hardwood but also understand that sacrifice is necessary to reign supreme in a team-oriented sport. That is significant because it proves his eye for talent extends beyond simply a nice jumper.
3. Level-headed at heart
Many joke that Bone’s wry sense of humor and stoic expressions make him a bit vanilla, but those couple to form one of his most appealing assets: his calm demeanor.
Bone is a 51-year-old family man with a wife and three daughters, making him a much better basketball coach. He is stern with his players when necessary, however, more times than not he demonstrates that he is savvy by teaching first and yelling second.
This is attractive to recruits, and also makes it more probable that once Bone feels comfortable with a coaching situation he will be willing to settle down for longer than some young bachelor. That is attractive to athletic directors and players alike.
Some might ponder how Bone gets transfer players and recruits to commit to Portland State, a commuter school with an apathetic student body toward sports and a 1,500-seat high-school-like gym.
Here is the answer: his open, rat-ball-esque offense.
Prolific, offensive-minded college basketball players like nothing more than an offense where they are encouraged to showcase their scoring abilities. This had to factor into Jeremiah Dominguez’s decision to transfer to Portland State, and it likely had a hand in landing supreme scorers such as Waters and Nelson.
Bone will take this offensive scheme with him if he picks up and moves to Pullman, Wash. That will spell trouble for the Vikings’ offensive statistics and recruiting aptitude.
In college basketball, the one who ushers the players in is often the same person that causes them to flee once he moves on to another school. This could be the case here at Portland State.
Bone has brought in a slew of talented players over the past couple seasons, including Dominguez, Waters and Nelson, to name a few. And if Bone were to jump ship for the Washington State job, then some of those players might head to Pullman right along with him.
Potential recruits could also pull their commitments to Portland State if Bone were to leave, placing the Vikings in an undesirable position—without a top-notch coach and a nest egg of talented ballers.