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Around the Quack with ATQ: Ernie Kent edition


I'll start...

I have struggled with the question of whether Ernie deserves another chance after such an atrocious season. Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, the Ducks finish the Pac-10 season winless, lose their first-round match-up (presumably with UCLA) in the Pac-10 Tournament, and finish the season on a 19-game losing streak. Many Oregon fans (including a few of you, I'm sure) are going to be calling for his head.

But as Register-Guard columnist George Schroeder wrote earlier this week, it would be a mistake to bury Kent before the recent recruiting class has a chance to do something. He also points out that although the improvement hasn't shown in games, the Ducks are getting better, and they're still as focused as they were early in the season before the current losing streak started.

The bottom line is this: Kent built this program and is a primary reason we even have the expectations we do now as Ducks fans. Some may argue it could have been anyone to bring this program to the level it's at now, given that Nike founder Phil Knight has clearly put an emphasis on improving all Oregon athletics, but that's not for us fans to decide, that's a decision for the University's insiders.


Going into the season, I was firmly in the camp that Ernie deserved at least one more season barring a winless Pac-10 season. As recently as a few weeks ago, I had started drifting into the opposite camp. Now, as a wineless season looks more and more like a real possibility (inevitability?), I have spent more time thinking about whether or not I *think* he should be fired. There's no debate that most fans expect the basketball team to compete in the upper half of the conference and have a shot to earn a postseason berth on an almost annual basis. But, those expectations are almost entirely a result of the program that Ernie Kent built. As Schroeder noted in the article linked by Paul, the Ducks have made five NCAA tournaments under Kent -- which is the total number of invites the program had received in its entire history prior to Kent.

Kent has built this program by bringing in a lot of talent and playing an exciting style of basketball. Of course, we all know the common complaints against Kent that he may not be the best at developing the talent he brings in and that his "offense" that is predicated on hitting jump shots can result in some absolutely horrific performances when the team goes through a shooting slump. However, the fact that we have such a great new venue being built has a lot to do with Kent and the success his program has achieved. Because of that, I think Kent deserves a chance to open up the new arena as head coach.

However, it ultimately does not matter what I (or any other blogger) thinks. If Kent ends the season with a 19-game losing streak, I would be absolutely floored if he was coaching at Oregon next season, let alone when the new arena opens in 2011. There's just been too much smoke and uncertainty regarding Kent's job security on an almost yearly basis for him to survive such a disappointing season.


Nick nailed it. This issue has become two questions: What do I want to happen? What do I think will happen?

I want Ernie to get a shot to develop this freshman class. I believe he's earned it. I understand there are many who feel differently.

One thing specifically solidified my position -- Jeffery Zampanti's R-G article about Racine, WI, hoop star Jamil Wilson. Quotes by Wilson's coach speak very highly of the relationship Ernie has built with this young man. The fact that another highly skilled, "instant impact" kid from the basketball-rich midwest is strongly considering Oregon over the likes of Michigan State and Texas reminds me that Ernie is a solid recruiter. We have picked apart Ernie's coaching, and rightfully so, I feel. He probably needs to take a close look at his staff and possibly make changes that will result in better and faster development of young talent. Note to Ernie - it's time to surround yourself with some brilliant young coaches who can help you lift this program to a consistent level of competition.

So what will happen following a 1-17 Pac-10 season (I like us against the Beavs at Mac Court, but it will take an epic effort) and a first round conference tournament exit? Pat Kilkenny has not any public statement of support for Ernie, at least not that I'm aware of. Maybe it will come, maybe it won't. I think Ernie's job is safe for now. He's on the hot seat, no question, and that is compounded by the fact that other attractive coaches might be interested if Oregon does make a change. Still, I doubt Ernie gets a pink slip. If I were a Duck assistant, however, I'd think about brushing up on my resume. Someone's going to take a fall following this disaster of a season.


In my mind, this isn't a question about this season alone, and I'm not judging Kent on this season alone. While my reactions to Kent's coaching have become stronger this year, let's be honest, we have had 12 years to evaluate Ernie. We know what kind of coach he is. We know what his teams do. And more importantly, we know what they don't do.

This season is almost exactly like every other Kent-coached year we've seen. Have we ever seen a well disciplined Ernie Kent team? One that is solid in the fundamentals? No, we have not. Some years, they have the talent to overcome this, but this year is not one of those years.

And if you look at great coaches, they get their teams to play fundamental basketball. And they work from there. They add to the basics. But Kent teams have never done this.

Now, this doesn't mean that we won't see success from time to time, with the right mix of players. But Kent teams are very dependent on someone having the ability to create shots for themselves and for others. In Brooks senior year, he finally took advantage of his talent, and went to the rim every time. This created countless shots for TP and others. But right now, we don't have anyone with the ability to do that on an even semi-consistent basis. And our big men are not powerful enough to draw real double teams. So what does that leave us with? Well, not much, as we don't have an offense. In fact, Kent teams have never had true offenses. They rely on playmakers to do their thing. Half the time it's five guys standing around waiting for someone else to do something. Go watch any great team. Not only do they have the physical talent, but they also run an offense.

Even last year, a year when we had 3 very good players, and should have been near the top of the Pac-10, we were lucky to make the tourney, and if we're honest, we should probably not have made the tourney, let alone be a 9 seed. Talent masked a lot of problems, but they are very similar to our problems this year. Poor fundamentals which led to large breakdowns, a non-existent offense that leads to ridiculously poor shot selection. And while our shooting had been very bad this year, the larger problems have not come close to being addressed.

But in the end, all these problems lead mt to a sad conclusion: I don't enjoy watching Oregon basketball anymore. I don't enjoy watching teams that can't execute the little things. It's not fun. Last year's team should have been a joy to watch. But it wasn't. I hated that team. When the season was over, I thought, good, now I don't have to watch this anymore.

And if Kent keeps his job in the over couple years, we'll get more of the same. We'll get some great recruits. We'll have down years, and if we're lucky, every few years we'll make a run at a Final Four. And that's pretty great for where Oregon basketball has come historically.

Will Kent get another chance? Most likely. There's a good chance the players will develop and we'll make a run in 2 or 3 years. I hope that he doesn't have to be fired, as I still hate firing coached. But if he were to resign tomorrow, I wouldn't be sad.