At first glace, the Oregon Ducks' men's basketball team's schedule for the week seems awfully ho-hum. A Thursday night match-up with UT-San Antonio and a Saturday tilt with Arkansas-Pine Bluff is the kind of fodder you expect to see early in the college basketball season, and two expected wins for an Oregon team that went toe-to-toe with UNLV and Cincinnati last weekend. It's not the opponents that make these games remarkable.
It's who will finally be on hand.
Former Oregon coach Ernie Kent will call both games for the Pac-12 Network. He'll call several more this season, too. If you remember a year ago, Kent called a couple of Oregon road games for Fox Sports Net, but couldn't bring himself to call an Oregon home game. He had never stepped foot in Matthew Knight Arena, a building that wouldn't exist without his accomplishments. That all changes this week.
The end of Ernie's tenure was not particularly pretty, and it became evident that a change needed to be made. But that became evident only because Kent raised the bar with five NCAA Tournament appearances and two Elite Eights during his tenure. Ernie wasn't able to get the team to that level on a consistent basis, but the fact that he did it in the first place allowed the arena conversations to even begin.
The relationship between Oregon fans and Ernie Kent, at least from this end, is far different from most coaches who were fired from their jobs. Kent is the all-time winningest coach in Oregon history and led the team to their highest highs in the modern era. Furthermore, he played here. He is one of us. There is still a lot of love between the fans and our former coach, and that needs to be acknowledged on Thursday. Without Kent, Matthew Knight Arena wouldn't exist. In a lot of ways, he built this house. The Pit Crew needs to let him feel their presence. They need to serenade him. A standing ovation--a prolonged one--needs to occur. It's literally the least we can do.
Welcome home, Coach. You're still a part of our family. Don't think we'll ever forget that.