Moos, the Cougars athletic director, offered no magical solutions. He certainly did not suggest in any way, shape or form that coach Ken Bone is in imminent danger of suffering the same fate as USC coach Kevin O’Neill, who was fired Monday morning.
Still, public support of Bone and his program seems to be waning. Most crowds at Friel Court have been relatively small and lifeless this season. And the post-game message board traffic that was heated after the loss to Washington looks to have escalated to red hot following losses to Stanford and Cal.
Washington State posted a 9-4 record while playing a nonconference schedule rated among the nation’s weakest, but the Cougars are 0-3 in the Pac-12 Conference.
“It’s still very, very early,” Moos told the caller, mindful of the 18-game conference season. “And remember, the fun thing is, we have the Pac-12 tournament at the end of the year.
“When I was (athletic director) at Oregon, I had on two occasions a fifth-place team that ended up winning that tournament and getting the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.”
WSU basketball fans can be excused if Moos’ comments do not send hearts soaring.
For starters, the second of those Oregon teams actually finished in a three-way tie for third (and was seeded fourth in the tournament) in the old Pac-10 in 2006-07. Secondly, the Cougars have finished in the top half of the conference standings only twice since 1995-96 (second in 2006-07 and tied for third in 2007-08).
Picked to finish 10th in a preseason poll of Pac-12 media, the Cougars are currently tied for 10th with Oregon State. Last-place Utah (8-8, 0-4) visits WSU on Wednesday night. The Pac-12 Networks televise the game at 6:30.
“It’ll be good to be back on our home court,” Moos said. “We really need to protect our home court at Friel Court. Let one get away a couple weeks (ago) against Washington.”
The Cougars lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense (58.1 points game), thanks partly to the weak schedule. WSU ranks last in three categories that often reflect athleticism, or a lack thereof: scoring (63.5), blocked shots (2.9) and steals (4.4).
No WSU players rank in the top 15 in blocked shots, steals, assists, rebounds or shooting percentage from the field, from 3-point range or at the free-throw line. Brock Motum is second to California’s Allen Crabbe in scoring (20.1-19.8), but Motum’s average is nearly double that of the next Cougar, DaVonte Lacy.
Lacy, a starting guard who did not attempt a field goal in 16 minutes at California on Saturday, averages 10 points. Mike Ladd, a senior wing forced to play point guard after close friend Reggie Moore was kicked off the team prior to the season for an undisclosed violation of team rules, averages 9.9 points and 2.5 assists.
The loss of Moore, a three-year starter who averaged 10.2 points and a league-leading 5.2 assists last season, has obviously impacted the Cougars.
WSU also suffered when the team’s top two recruits, wing Que Johnson and center Richard Peters, failed to meet NCAA academic standards. The only two scholarship freshmen on the team, forwards Junior Longrus and Brett Boese, have combined for 38 points and 51 rebounds in 16 games.
Bone, 66-53 (.555) in 3 1/2 seasons at WSU, has yet to post a losing overall record or winning conference record with the Cougars. His seven-year contract, signed when Jim Sterk was athletic director, pays him $850,000 annually through March 2016.
NOTABLE COUGAR NOTES:
The Cougars offer $20 bus rides from Spokane for all five Saturday Pac-12 home men’s basketball games. For information, phone (509) 358-7541 or send an email to olsonL@wsu.edu.
Former WSU point guard Taylor Rochestie, who worked out his release from a Spanish pro team last week, scored 18 points in his debut in Italy.
The NBA’s San Antonio Spurs have yet to announce a contract agreement has been reached with former WSU center Aron Baynes. He’s been playing in Slovenia. Multiple reports suggest he's in line for a 4-year contract.
Moos and head football coach Mike Leach will meet with fans and show videos of WSU’s newest football recruits next month at gatherings in Seattle, Kennewick, suburban Spokane and suburban Portland. Details may be found at www.wsucougars.com.
WSU football legend and College Football Hall of Famer Rueben Mayes and family have moved back to Pullman from Eugene. Mayes is the new development director at Pullman Regional Hospital. His eldest son, Logan, is a linebacker at WSU.
Stephan Scott-Ellis, WSU’s All-American long jumper from Tacoma, opened the season by breaking his own meet record with a leap of 23 feet, 11 3-4 inches Saturday at the WSU Indoor.