Now that Ernie Kent has been fired, a question worth exploring is why did Washington State, actually then Athletic Director Bill Moos, believe that Kent was the coach most capable of turning around the Cougar basketball fortunes?
Kent’s college head coaching career began in Moraga and he parlayed taking the Gaels to the Big Dance in 1996-1997 into being hired at Oregon of the Pac-12 Conference. This happened despite just two winning seasons out of six while at St. Mary’s:
- Saint Mary’s Gaels (West Coast Conference) (1991–1997)
- 1991–92 Saint Mary’s 13–17 4–10 6th
- 1992–93 Saint Mary’s 11–16 6–8 6th
- 1993–94 Saint Mary’s 13–14 5–9 7th
- 1994–95 Saint Mary’s 18–10 10–4 T–2nd
- 1995–96 Saint Mary’s 12–15 5–9 7th
- 1996–97 Saint Mary’s 23–8 10–4 T–1st NCAA Division I First Round
Saint Mary’s: 90–80 (.529) 40–44 (.476)
In Eugene, Kent enjoyed a 13-year run with a pair of Elite Eight appearances plus three other entries into the Big Dance. But inconsistency remained a bugaboo and the Ducks finished underwater, 109-125, in league play during his tenure:
- 1997–98 Oregon 13–14 8–10 T–5th
- 1998–99 Oregon 19–13 8–10 T–5th NIT Semifinal
- 1999–00 Oregon 22–8 13–5 3rd NCAA Division I First Round
- 2000–01 Oregon 14–14 5–13 T–6th
- 2001–02 Oregon 26–9 14–4 1st NCAA Division I Elite Eight
- 2002–03 Oregon 23–10 10–8 5th NCAA Division I First Round
- 2003–04 Oregon 18–13 9–9 T–4th NIT Semifinal
- 2004–05 Oregon 14–13 6–12 T–8th
- 2005–06 Oregon 15–18 7–11 T–7th
- 2006–07 Oregon 29–8 11–7 T–3rd NCAA Division I Elite Eight
- 2007–08 Oregon 18–14 9–9 T–5th NCAA Division I First Round
- 2008–09 Oregon 8–23 2–16 10th
- 2009–10 Oregon 16–16 7–11 T–8th
Oregon: 235–173 (.576) 109–125 (.466)
The first ten of Kent’s seasons as the head coach of the Ducks occurred under the direction of then Athletic Director Bill Moos. Kent was let go (not by Moos) after a 16-16, 7-11 record in 2009-2010.
A few years later Kent was hired to turn the Cougar program around by Bill Moos who was then directing athletics at Washington State.
There’s no glossing over the fact that succeeding in Pullman is a difficult, if not impossible, task. For perspective, the much-lauded Dick Bennett finished 36–49 and 18–36 during his three seasons there. Tony Bennett, his son and successor, enjoyed greater success before jumping to Atlantic Coast Conference member University of Virginia:
- 2006–07 Washington State 26–8 13–5 2nd NCAA Division I Round of 32
- 2007–08 Washington State 26–9 11–7 3rd NCAA Division I Sweet 16
- 2008–09 Washington State 17–16 8–10 7th NIT First Round
Other coaches who gave it a shot:
Kelvin Sampson ran the program in Pullman from 1987 – 1994.
- 1987–88 Washington State 13–16 7–11 6th
- 1988–89 Washington State 10–19 4–14 8th
- 1989–90 Washington State 7–22 1–17 10th
- 1990–91 Washington State 16–12 8–10 T–5th
- 1991–92 Washington State 22–11 9–9 T–5th NIT Second Round
- 1992–93 Washington State 15–12 9–9 T–5th
- 1993–94 Washington State 20–11 10–8 4th NCAA Division I Round of 64
Even he struggled: 103–103 (.500) 48–78 (.381) yet parlayed his record into a 12-year tenure at Oklahoma, followed by two seasons at Indiana and now his current gig at Houston.
Going further back, Hall of Fame Coach George Raveling posted 167-136, 76-66 records alongside two Big Dance appearances when helming the Washington State program back in the early 70s and 80s. He jumped to Iowa of the Big Ten Conference after going 23-7, 14-4 in his final season.
So in Ernie Kent’s five years in Pullman, he finished:
- 2014–15 Washington State 13–18 7–11 T–8th
- 2015–16 Washington State 9–22 1–17 12th
- 2016–17 Washington State 13–18 6–12 T–10th
- 2017–18 Washington State 12–19 4–14 11th
- 2018–19 Washington State 11–21 4–14 11th
Washington State: 58–98 (.372) 22–69 (.244)
He was unable to achieve a single winning season and was fired with three years remaining on his contract and WSU owing him $4.2 million.
With Moos as the then AD: “Throughout Kent’s WSU tenure, many Cougar fans took issue with Moos’ decision to enact a rollover provision in the coach’s contract three times, despite the coach’s inability to put a winning product on the court. Moos triggered the rollover clause after the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 basketball seasons — years that saw the Cougars win 35 games combined — which means the coach’s contract wouldn’t expire until the end of the 2021-22 basketball season.”
In the same article and to Kent’s credit, “The coach graduated 100 percent of the players who stayed with his program and had an All-Pac-12 first-team academic selection each of the last four years.”
But how can someone be expected to achieve success in Pullman (a much more difficult place to recruit) when he was unable to do so at far more better funded Oregon? To be fair, Phil Knight and Moos were squabbling over contributions but Eugene has and will always be perceived as much more attractive regarding recruiting. By the way, Moos left his AD job via a buyout in 2007 with the genesis of that departure appearing to be Kent remaining as head coach.
So Kent’s record at St. Mary’s was marred by inconsistency. The same with his time at Oregon where he was better early on with three 20+ win seasons. He simply failed to generate any momentum early or late at Washington State and it’s difficult to both understand why Moos decided Kent was the one and why he kept re-upping him.
One FYI note: Moos is currently the athletic director at Nebraska, having previously served in the same position at Montana, Oregon and then Washington State.
Russell Turner just disqualified himself.
“CHRIS HANSEN IS UC SAN DIEGO’S FIRST DIVISION II BASKETBALL ALL-AMERICAN” UC San Diego athletics
Verbal Commits: “2019 City College of San Francisco (CA) G Austin McCullough has received an offer from Albany.” Campbell offered earlier this week.
John Bynum Jr: “Michael Hayes (Las Positas) has been named our 2018-2019 Signal The Light Basketball Northern California Freshman of the Year.”
John Bynum Jr: “Lance Coleman (Fullerton) has been named the Signal The Light Basketball Southern California Player of the Year.”
Checking in on the initial seasons of college freshman from northern California:
Guard James (Salesian Prep) Akinjo played in all 33 games (32 starts) for Georgetown and averaged a team best 31.6 minutes as well as 13.4 points a contest (second on the squad). He shot 37% overall, 39% on threes and 81% on free (a team high 165 attempts) throws. Akinjo’s 37 steals also was tops and he earned 173 assists (no teammate even reached triple figures) versus 99 turnovers.
Guard Jake (Bellarmine Prep) Wojcik started all 33 games for Richmond and averaged 30.0 minutes as well as 7.7 points a contest (fifth on the squad). He shot 35% overall, 36% on threes and 81% on free throws. 179 of his 221 shot attempts were from long distance. He grabbed 3,5 rebounds an outing with 40 steals (second on the team) plus 48 assists versus 24 turnovers.
Chuck Hayes Basketball: “CHB 16u Adidas Gold Gauntlet Team welcomes 2022 G Davion Wright (@davionwright211) of Franklin High. One of the best pure shooters in all of California, he averaged 15.5 PPG & 4 REB as he lead his team team to a deep playoff run. He’s ready to show everyone what he can do!”
Chuck Hayes Basketball: “16u Adidas Gold Gauntlet team welcomes two time Trac MVP 2021 G Cole Anderson (@Cole3Anderson) of @ClovisWestBask1 who averaged 21 PPG and lead his team to the @cifcs Division 1 Title. With four Division 1 offers, Cole will show why he’s one of the top players on the West Coast!”
“Three Reasons Why Eric Musselman Is Staying At Nevada” Michael Maciejewski