Coach Bone: beyond ‘coachspeak’

After a disappointing turnout at the Stott Center Thursday evening prompted head coach Ken Bone to say his team needed to “manufacture momentum” at home, Viking roundball fans packed the old Stott Center gym to capacity Saturday, as Portland State beat rival Weber State 76-73.

After a disappointing turnout at the Stott Center Thursday evening prompted head coach Ken Bone to say his team needed to “manufacture momentum” at home, Viking roundball fans packed the old Stott Center gym to capacity Saturday, as Portland State beat rival Weber State 76-73.

Portland State trailed the Wildcats 67-65 with less than four minutes to play, but a three-pointer from senior forward Deonte Huff gave the Vikings the lead. Sophomore point guard Jeremiah Dominguez hit six straight free throws to clinch the win for the home team.

The victory gives the Vikings an eight-game winning streak, tying a school record for consecutive Division I wins. Right now, Portland State is on the verge of winning the Big Sky regular season championship and the right to host the Big Sky tournament. Portland State once won 12 in a row as an NAIA school. The Vikings are now 10-2 in conference play and have a 2.5 game lead over second-place Northern Arizona. The Vikings could clinch the title this week if one of three scenarios unfolds: Portland State beats Northern Colorado Wednesday; Montana beats Weber State Thursday; or Weber State beats Montana State Saturday. The Vanguard sat down with Bone to get the coach’s take on the season so far and the status of his team as it heads into the stretch run.

Is the team thinking about clinching yet?I have no idea. I haven’t heard anyone say anything. It’d be nice. We know whoever wins the league will host the tournament, but there’s four games to go, three on the road. If we do well, we’ll find out we’re hosting the tournament. There’s not a whole lot we can do about it except play well and hope we win.

Talk about the crowd Saturday. Saturday was really sweet. We had a great crowd here with a lot of enthusiasm and great atmosphere, so it made it a lot of fun. I think that always helps the home team play with a little more energy. It’s frustrating at times to come into the gym and see hardly anybody here and not a whole lot of atmosphere.

Your team is in position to host the tournament. Is that important? We’re just looking at each game individually. Let’s maximize everyday, every practice, every drill, every possession. I mean, really try to value everything we’re doing right now to take advantage of the situation we’re in. Because I think if we do that, we have a very good chance of hosting the tournament.

How focused is your club right now? I think because of the position we’ve got ourselves in to now, with winning a few games and being in first, to me that’s extra motivation because there’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel.

We’ve got to be dedicated and disciplined. We’d love to see these guys be that way for the rest of their lives, but right now its like, hey, can we do this for two more weeks? Can we take advantage of the situation we’re in right now? It’s right there. It’s right there for us to get.

What’s the biggest challenge ahead? It’s been a long process. It’s been what, four months? It’s day to day trying to get guys to understand it’s about us. I cannot stand the off-season situation at the NCAA level. I understand. There’s too many things that can go wrong. Getting those guys to accept their role, I think that’s an ongoing chore but I think we’re there. It’s that and it’s having a healthy team.

Where is the team as far as health? We’re close, but we’re not there yet. Justynn Hammond came out here today and ran up and down the floor doing some passing drills but he was limping, so that was the end of his practice.

We’re close to having everybody. Julius Thomas was out there too, a little bit off and on. Still bothered [by the broken rib]. He is going on the road with us. He’ll suit up and I wouldn’t doubt if he plays for us, finally.

Dupree [Lucas] is in the same boat as Julius. I think Dupree played seven minutes last night. He can play spot minutes here or there, but I don’t think we’re in a position where he can give us quality minutes right now.

On roles this late in the season. That’s where it goes back to they’re accepting their role. It’s about us really maximizing this season at this point. I’m done having my ego … let’s win this thing. The trick is building a relationship of trust to where they understand that we’re not playing favorites.

It has everything to do with us, our team. If your role is four, five, six minutes a game, that’s what your role is. If you can’t handle it, sorry, that’s your role. That’s the bottom line.

How challenging has the year been compared to other years? I’d say it’s a little more challenging than SPU. I think Seattle Pacific being Division II and being a private Christian institution, I think some of those kids’ priorities are a little different. I’m not saying that’s positive or negative. It can be both. It’s sometimes harder for me to get these guys to understand it’s all about us and winning a championship.

What needs to improve this late in the year? I would like to see us be able to take care of the ball better and do a better job screening out on the boards. I think if we can do a better job of making sure the other team isn’t getting offensive rebounds and putbacks and just take care of the ball–those are extra possessions for the opponent and we want to minimize those situations as much as possible.