Excitement and expectations

Ostensibly, yesterday’s press conference introduced PSU’s new head coach to the local media, but more importantly it showed the new realities the basketball program must compete with after its rapid climb to success.

Excitement and expectation – the two e’s so utterly foreign to the basketball program until last year – rippled through the packed Stott Center basement.

No one laughed as they might have two years ago when Ken Bone said, “I wanted to be here,” and that “there is a real buzz about Portland State basketball.” And no one will laugh if next year’s team struggles like the team did the last five years.

Such is the double-edged sword of the two e’s.

Monday, before a sea of smiling faces and attentive media, Bone outlined the high-octane offense and the Northwest focus he plans to bring to PSU. Think: University of Washington. Think: fast break. Think: fun.

Last year the Viks were second in the Big Sky in scoring but also turned the ball over more times per game than anyone and struggled to create out of their half-court offense. The best example being the eight-minute stretch in the conference semifinal where they held Weber State scoreless but couldn’t score themselves.

That won’t fly with Bone.

Bone said he would bench players who turned the ball over. He identified ballhandling as “an immediate need” and hopes to use a scholarship to lure a point or combo guard.

Bone’s Northwest ties will be as important as his offensive mind. After 15 years of coaching in the Seattle area, Bone has the connections and resources needed to build the local presence Schroyer neglected. He signed McDonald’s All-American Jon Brockman to play at UW next year, and while he won’t be able to bring him along, chances are good he’ll snag a local gem. He said he already has his eyes on a local point guard he thinks can help.

A local presence and a fast-paced offense will do miracles for a program, but Bone brings something even more important: a 311-132 career record over the past 15 years. He made Division II Seattle Pacific a perennial title contender and helped transform UW from Pac-10 also-ran to fan-friendly NCAA contender.

He’ll need all his skills to keep the bar as high as last year’s team raised it. At the start of the press conference Bone joked about inquiring if last year’s conference MVP Seamus Boxley had another year of eligibility, but the situation he faces is no joke. The Big Sky will be tougher next year and the Viks lose the most starters and contributing seniors in the conference.

Bone will have to deal with those issues in the future, but yesterday he had a more pressing issue: learning the name of his star-to-be, power forward Anthony Washington. Washington played for Bone at UW before transferring, but Monday, Bone couldn’t remember his name.

“I’m very close to Anthony Williams,” he misspoke. “I’m excited to have a chance to get reconnected with him and work with him.”

From the front row, Athletic Director Tom Burman whispered, “Washington! Washington!”

But Washington understood the slip up comes with the new territory the Viks are in.

“I’m glad he’s nervous, because that means he’s excited,” Washington said. “He can mess up on my name as much as he wants as long as we turn it into wins.”