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Report: Ken Bone fired by Washington State

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After a dismal season once again buried at the bottom of the Pac-12, Washington State has fired head coach Ken Bone.

The news was first reported by Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com.

Bone was 80-76 in his five seasons with the Cougars, but he managed just a 23-40 record the past two seasons, capped off by a 10-21 campaign this past season. He went just 3-15 in the Pac-12 in his final season.

Violation of team rule sidelines Washington State PG Danny Lawhorn

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It’s been argued many times over that the point guard position is the most important in college basketball, with successful teams generally having a solid option at the position. Washington State didn’t have that luxury last season, and while DaVonte’ Lacy, Mike Ladd and Royce Woolridge all had their moments the Cougars’ lack of stability at the position was a major factor in their going 13-19 (4-14 Pac-12).

The expectation entering the 2013-14 season is that things will be different for the Cougars at the point, thanks to the arrival of freshman Ike Ireogbu and junior college transfer Danny Lawhorn. But Washington State’s already hit a roadblock in its quest to find a point guard, as it was reported that Lawhorn isn’t participating in practices due to a violation of a team rule.

Head coach Ken Bone made the announcement Friday morning, and he did not disclose the rule that Lawhorn broke. The Cougars, who are also waiting for redshirt freshman guard Que Johnson to fully recover from a stress fracture in his shin, began workouts at an off-campus retreat Friday and will hold their first on-campus practice on Tuesday.

How much can Lawhorn help the Cougars? He averaged 8.4 assists per game at San Jacinto last season, following a freshman season in which he dished out 9.5 helpers per contest. With leading scorer Brock Motum out of eligibility, having a player who can set up his teammates becomes even more important in 2013-14. Washington State has players who can create (Lacy, Ladd and Woolridge all averaged double figures last season), but having a solid option at the point makes things easier for everyone offensively.

With Lawhorn sidelined for the time being, Ireogbu’s progression becomes even more important for Washington State.

Assistant coach Ben Johnson leaves Washington State program

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Washington State head coach Ken Bone has a vacancy to fill on his coaching staff, as it was announced by the school on Tuesday that assistant coach Ben Johnson has decided to leave the program. Johnson spent the last nine seasons in Pullman, beginning in 2004 as an assistant under then-head coach Dick Bennett.

With the change in regimes it’s rare that an assistant would hang around as long as Johnson did, going from the elder Bennett to his son Tony (who’s now the head coach at Virginia) to coach Bone. Johnson was a teammate of Tony Bennett’s at Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“I want to thank everyone at Washington State University for their genuine care and support over the past nine seasons,” Johnson said in the release.  “My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of Cougar Nation and the University community.  I want to wish Coach Bone, our coaching staff and players the best of luck and continued success.”

One of Johnson’s most important recruits in recent years was Brock Motum, who graduated after playing four seasons in Pullman this past spring. Motum led the Pac-12 in scoring in each of his last two seasons, and he left the school ranked fifth on the all-time scoring list. Motum’s a native of Australia, and Johnson’s connections in the country (he played and coach at the professional level in Australia) helped in the recruiting process.

“We’re sorry to see Ben leave the program,” coach Bone stated in the release. “He has contributed a tremendous amount not only during my four years here at WSU, but also over the past nine seasons. We wish Ben nothing but the best!”

While the Cougars do have to account for Motum’s departure they’ve got some talented players returning to the Palouse, most notably guards DaVontè Lacy and Royce Woolridge. Also of note are the arrivals of two point guards, junior college transfer Danny Lawhorn and freshman Ike Ireogbu, and redshirt freshman Que Johnson has the potential to be one of the best athletes in the Pac-12 after sitting out last season as a partial qualifier.