The Washington State Cougars will try to breathe life into their men's basketball program with the hiring of new head coach Ernie Kent.
ESPN's Andy Katz reported Monday that Kent will be announced as the successor to fired former coach Ken Bone:
Just spoke with Ernie Kent. He is thrilled to be back in coaching at Washington State. Former Oregon coach will be announced Wednesday.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) March 31, 2014
That news was confirmed by the Cougars' official athletics Twitter account:
Jacob Thorpe of the Spokesman Review provided the early details on the contract, which runs for five years:
Kent signed a five-year rollover contract. Details unavailable right now.— Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpeSR) March 31, 2014
Kent is ready to embrace the new job after several years away from the sidelines, per a statement from the university's official athletics website:
I’m looking forward to providing the kind of passion and leadership to help potential student-athletes understand how special WSU is. Getting back into coaching for me has meant finding the right program that matches up with my passion, my vision, my beliefs and my commitment; and I feel Washington State University fits all that criteria for me. Bill Moos has a vision and has created enormous energy around Cougar Athletics and I want to be a part of that. Now is the time.
The Oregon basketball Twitter account wished their old coach good luck at his new gig:
Kent returns to the Pac-12 Conference for the first time since he was fired as Oregon's head coach following the 2009-10 campaign. Before enduring a tumultuous final two seasons in Eugene, the Ducks made two Elite Eight trips in Kent's tenure, which lasted 13 seasons in all.
Oregon isn't the only place Kent has made his mark in the past, though, as he built up Saint Mary's over a span of six seasons, guiding the Gaels to the NCAA tournament in his final year at the helm in 1997.
Bone went 80-86 in five years at Washington State—including a meager 29-62 in conference play—and failed to reach the NCAA tournament. That rather low standard should aid Kent's transition as far as expectations are concerned, but it's also indicative of the work to be done for the Cougars to become competitive again.
Matt Prehm of 247Sports praised the hire, noting Kent's track record of success at less prestigious basketball schools:
Ernie Kent isn't a splashy hire by WSU, but he knows how to win at schools with no tradition or small towns. Will get good players quickly.— Matt Prehm (@Prehmmr247) March 31, 2014
There is a track record of success for Kent to draw on both as a recruiter and in the results he got on the floor. That should make Pullman a more attractive landing spot for quality high school prospects, but Kent has a long way to go to lure top-tier talent away from other Pac-12 powers—including one Kent helped build in Oregon.
The Ducks, along with Arizona, UCLA, Colorado, Arizona State and Stanford, all qualified for the 2014 NCAA tournament, with the Cardinal, Wildcats and Bruins all reaching at least the Sweet 16. That conference depth puts Kent at a disadvantage by default as he embarks on this fresh coaching journey.
Realistic hopes for a drastic turnaround are two years away at best, which means Kent has to work on accelerating the development of his incumbent players in addition to persuading promising recruits to join him. Finding some offensive firepower should be the first order of business, since the Cougars shot a horrendous 40 percent as a team in 2013-14.
Junior guard DaVonte Lacy averaged 19.4 points per contest this past season, so Kent should expect him back at Washington State to build the offense around. More importantly, Kent must focus on finding complementary players and changing the culture in his first season.