According to KVAL.com, Oregon fired head coach Ernie Kent today, ending his 13 year tenure with the University. If true (Oregon AD Mike Bellotti declined to comment on whether Kent was in fact fired, according to the AP’s Anne Peterson), this move is a long time coming in my opinion. I don’t find it surprising in the least. He led the Ducks to five NCAA Tournaments and made the Elite Eight twice, but his recruitment was inconsistent from year-to-year, his offensive scheme reeked of inconsistency, and he never even attempted to develop a big man.
According to the source named in the KVAL article, Kent was actually fired on Feb. 21. He will relinquish his duties following the season, ending his tenure just before the unveiling of the new arena, Matt Court, where the Ducks will play starting next season.
Kent had a countless number of talented players: The Lukes, Jackson and Ridnour, Freddie Jones, Bryce Taylor, Malik Hairston, Aaron Brooks, and Maarty Luenen, just to name a few. Though many teams were very successful, Kent’s philosophy wasn’t one that would work long-term. His perimeter-oriented style and lack of talent in the past few years has led to his downfall. After such a long time with one system, Oregon decided it was time to move on and bring in a new mentality just in time for the new arena.
The Ducks have won three of their past four games, including tonight’s victory over Washington State in Mac Court’s season finale. But this streak only brings them to 15-15 overall. Before their current hot stretch, they had lost 10 of 12 games. Their roster is very inexperienced and needs seasoning, so this type of season was to be expected.
Though I approve of his firing, I am sympathetic towards Kent. If they were going to fire him, why not wait until the season is over? The Pac-10 Tournament hasn’t even started yet.
And considering the conference is awful this season, Oregon has as good a chance of any to win and clinch an NCAA berth. The Ducks clearly don’t want him opening the new arena, but let the season play out before giving him the boot.
But college sports are strange this way. Head coaches in football leave their teams before Bowl games to go elsewhere. The timing has always been odd for hirings and firings. This is no different.
Another thing I find odd about the move is that Kent has to play out the rest of the season knowing that he’s done as head coach. How deflating would that be to your psyche?
But he can’t give up. He has to do his best to prove to Oregon that they are making a mistake. And the way to do that is to light a fire under his players; instill in his young team that they can make something of the rest of their season and send him out in style.
According to sources, “Kent was dismissed after meeting with Oregon Athletic Director Mike Bellotti the Monday following the Ducks home losses to California and Stanford. In addition, Kent’s entire staff will be replaced, with the possible exception of assistant Kenny Payne.”
Kent’s record stands at 234-172 as Oregon’s head coach, an excellent record. But the bad has now outweighed the good. Even though he ran an offense that called for three-pointers galore, his teams had trouble competing on a consistent basis, and he spent more time talking to his coaches than his players during timeouts, the good Kent provided cannot be forgotten.