Yes, I'm pulling an MJ.
After two months of retirement, the writing bug has started to itch again so, with a big thanks to Jared, I'm back on the keyboard and ready to go. Jared is our fearless leader now--I just the humble writer. My sanity is much better that way (plus, Jared is doing a better job than I ever did--Great job, Jared). But enough about Jared and I--lets get to 1,000 pound gorilla in the corner of the room:
Our basketball teams sucks. I'm talking epically bad. And its getting worse, not better. What are we going to do with our coach?
This isn't a fire Ernie post. Some are calling for that, and it's hard to say that they are not justified: Our record stands at 6-13, including a flawless 0-7 conference record. Even more deserving is that we are moving in the wrong direction, having some good moments early (How on earth did we beat Alabama and Kansas State?), while looking flat out incompetent as of late (all conference losses save UCLA were by double digits--and we lost to UCLA by nine). We are the worst team in the conference, and its not even close. At this point, you have to wonder if, not when, we'll win a game. The team isn't good at anything. The key veterans--Joevan Catron and Tajuan Porter--are significantly worse than they were earlier in their careers. And the freshmen aren't improving. Sure, they could still turn around and win 4-5 conference games, but there are zero signs of that happening.
Now, nobody held any grand illusions about this season. Nobody in their right mind expected this to be a tournament team. We knew they would struggle a lot at times. But we didn't expect they'd struggle all the time. Its a season that has clearly spiraled out of control. Now, we don't need to tell Ernie Kent that this performance is unacceptable, because I can tell you he's losing more sleep over it than any of us are.
But does Coach Kent deserve to be fired because of this?
Detractors would point out what I have above, and add that he's not the best strategist nor teacher of the game. His great seasons have all come with mature NBA talent (Freddie, Luke, Luke and Aaron Brooks). And he has never coached a good defensive team nor a competent big man.
I have always been an ardent Ernie supporter. And I have always pointed out the undeniable record. For a program that was basically garbage for sixty years, Ernie turned things around. He is the school's winningest coach. He has consistently been able to recruit top tier talent to an outdated, falling apart facility. He has been to five NCAA Torunaments and two Elite Eights.
I have also said that what makes Oregon unique from other athletic departments is that we are like a family. Bellotti and Kent have been our coaches seemignly forever. Both have had unparalleled success. We always want our famiily to be successful. No doubt, the best outcome is for our basketball program to be successful with Coach Kent. And his success has earned him some benefit of the doubt.
But has he earned this much?
I have said everything this season except fire Ernie. And even at this dark juncture for Oregon Basketball, I am not ready to utter those words. I want to wait and see how the rest of the season plays out. I want to give Ernie every chance to be successful, because what I really want is for this team to be successful again with Ernie Kent as the coach.
But I will look at things after the season, and, for the first time, I am going to seriously ponder those words, and wonder if in the long run, our program is better off with another coach. Believe me, I hope that I can honestly answer that question with a no.
Pat Kilkenny has said that he can't imagine a scenario where he is ready to ax Coach Kent after this season. But barring a major turnaround, as the losses pile up and construction on the new arena accelerates, there is going to be pressure on him to explore the option. Usually, the fan base is on one side or the other on such issues. This will be very different. Regardless of which way Kilkenny goes, it will be hard to fault him.