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Originally published Tuesday, March 22, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Blaine Newnham

Ken Bone glad he didn't pass on UW

Talk about a guy having a good year. Ken Bone took a gamble leaving the head coaching job at Seattle Pacific.

Special to The Seattle Times

Talk about a guy having a good year.

Ken Bone took a gamble leaving the head coaching job at Seattle Pacific, where he was uncommonly successful, even if no one noticed.

He went to Washington to coach with Lorenzo Romar because he believed not only in what Romar could do, but in what ways he would let Bone participate.

"I didn't just want to be a recruiter," said Bone, "although I have to admit I've enjoyed recruiting this year."

Bone was the point man in the acquisition of Jon Brockman, who played for Ken's brother, Len, at Snohomish High School.

He also recruited the mostly forgotten Artem Wallace, the 240-pound high-school center from Toledo who with Brockman will give the next Huskies team the inside muscle it has missed this season.

But it is the offense, the one that ranks second in the nation in scoring and assists, that is Bone's baby.

"In my mind," said Bone, "it is very similar to what we did at Seattle Pacific."

Bone isn't trying to take credit for anything. He's not that kind of guy.

"It is Lorenzo's team and his program," said Bone, "but I appreciate that he has allowed me to be a part of the teaching aspect, because that is what we talked about when I was hired."

What they talked about was a dream, a time when they would have good enough athletes that they could set some structure and then let them go. Let them be themselves.

"As a player and a coach, I've always liked the faster game," said Romar. "It was something I always wanted to do."

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He calls it structured freedom. It helped produce 97 points against Pacific but only seven turnovers.

"It looks like playground basketball," Romar said yesterday as his team prepared to leave for Albuquerque and the NCAA's Sweet 16. "But it's not."

Romar stresses that his players space themselves properly on the court, that they make themselves "hard to guard" even when they don't have the ball, that they relocate themselves to a certain area and that they "make plays."

"They've gotten to a mindset that they are letting the game come to them," Bone said. "They are making the easy play rather than forcing something, and therefore not turning the ball over often."

Making a play doesn't mean driving through the defense to create a shot. In fact, it usually means making a pass so someone else can shoot.

Their turnover-to-assist ratio is one of the best in the country, and Will Conroy and Nate Robinson, who do the majority of ballhandling, rank among the top four in the Pac-10 individually.

"They all look first to create a shot for someone else," said Bone. "Brandon Roy almost does it to a fault."

Part of Washington's success is that the majority of its players are good ballhandlers.

"Defenses, whether it is right or not, tend to collapse when the ball gets into the middle of the court," said Bone. "And from there, the next pass can be an assist."

The Huskies want the ball inside, the defense to collapse, and then for Tre Simmons to catch it like he does every day in practice, in a rhythm that almost guarantees success.

"You want them to take the shot they take all summer," said Bone.

Romar is recruiting successfully to it now, partly because it is the offense the better players want to be involved with.

With Will Conroy, Robinson and Roy possibly gone from next year's team, will there be enough ballhandlers to run this offense?

Romar said Ryan Appleby, who is redshirting, and incoming freshmen Justin Dentmon, Martell Webster and Harvey Perry all pass well.

Bone just smiled as the Huskies were bathed in the lights of television cameras yesterday.

"The hype at this level is incredible," he said. "I'm just going to enjoy it."

And get credit for an assist along the way.

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