By Jim Moore
If you still follow Cougar basketball, what was your reaction when you heard that athletic director Bill Moos hired Ernie Kent to be the new coach?
I’m mostly excited about it for several reasons, and I’m putting aside any possible concerns such as:
• If Kent’s so good, why has he been on the sidelines doing TV stuff for the past four years?
• Did we really want a retread at the age of 59 to revive our team?
I don’t know what the answer is to the first question, but as for the second question, sure, why not?
On a personal level, I love the former coach, Ken Bone. I’m still guessing he’s as good as it gets when it comes to coaching the X’s and O’s of the game. But it wasn’t happening on the floor or in the stands, where empty seats turned into empty sections at Beasley Coliseum as each year went by during the Ken Bone Era.
No one seemed to care about Cougar basketball anymore, which is crazy because it was just six years ago when we were in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament with Tony Bennett as the coach. Then again, it’s not so crazy when you consider how far we’ve fallen. The Cougs played hard but lacked talent; Bone didn’t recruit enough good players to Pullman.
So if you’re like me, they could have named Big Lo or anyone as coach and I’d be happy about it because it was time for a change.
Ernie Kent more than qualifies as a potential upgrade. At Oregon, for most of his time there, he proved himself as a recruiter and a coach. He coached four players who were first-round draft choices – Fred Jones, Luke Jackson, Luke Ridnour and Aaron Brooks. He led Oregon to five March Madness appearances, two Elite Eight appearances and two NIT Final Four appearances.
As I recall, when he coached at Oregon, the Ducks were a high-flying, three-point shooting, fast-paced team. I miss watching that kind of basketball and can’t wait to see it in crimson-and-gray uniforms.
I’m old enough to remember when Kent played at Oregon for Dick Harter. The Ducks were known as the Kamikaze Kids because they were overly aggressive, always diving for loose balls and playing tough defense.
To be honest, I hated the Kamikaze Kids. I still remember the buzzer-beater that Ronnie Lee hit against us from the right of the lane as he fell to the floor. What a nightmare. I no doubt drank myself silly in room 227 of Gannon Hall after that one.
But if we can have an up-tempo, in-your-face, 25-foot shooting team now? Bring it on. I’d like to see us be more successful, of course, but while we’re rebuilding, it sure would be fun to see an entertaining brand of basketball again.
I also like the fact that Kent has something to prove. He must have a chip on his shoulder. He must wonder why no one has hired him since 2010, his last year at Oregon.
And I like the fact that he was second or maybe even Moos’ third or fourth choice. We all know that Boise State’s Leon Rice was the first choice, but the WSU alum chose to stay put. I was the second choice a long time ago when I was hired to be a sports writer at the Anchorage Daily News. I remember having a feeling of wanting to prove that I should’ve been the first choice all along.
The other thing with Kent that I like: he has charisma and presence, traits that were missing in Bone.
We’ll see how it plays out, but I can’t wait to see what happens when Ernie Kent ushers in a new era of Cougar basketball.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website, jimmoorethego2guy.com, and kitsapsun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.