Not so fast, Coug fans

Dustin Brennan | Evergreen columnist

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The hiring of Ernie Kent as Washington State’s men’s basketball head coach created a lot of buzz. However, implementing Kent’s trademark up-tempo offense could be like fitting a duck-shaped peg in a cougar-shaped hole.

In 13 years as the head basketball coach at Oregon, Kent twice took the Ducks to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament while making five appearances at the “Big Dance.”

He accomplished these feats by instilling a system that featured a high-powered offense and recruiting players that could run it. Four of them went on to be first-round NBA draft picks: Luke Ridnour, Aaron Brooks, Luke Jackson, and Fred Jones.

However, the old adage goes, “defense wins championships,” and the saying could not be truer than it is at WSU.

Former WSU Head Coach Tony Bennett serves as the benchmark of success for Cougar coaches. In the last 70 years, only Bennett has led a Cougar team past the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and no other coach in the program’s 113-year history has made appearances at the tournament in consecutive years.

And as far as the on-court side of coaching goes, Bennett’s and Kent’s styles could not be more contradictory.

During his three years at WSU, Bennett amassed a 69-33 record and the average score of games he coached was 64.7-57.1 in favor of the Cougars. His teams never finished outside of the top-20 nationally in points per game allowed and twice finished in the top-three in that stat.

Kent posted a 235-173 record during his 13-year tenure at Oregon, and the games he coached averaged a score of 74.8-71.4 in favor of the Ducks. Essentially the opposite of Bennett, four-out-of-five of Kent’s Duck teams that made appearances at the NCAA Tournament finished in the top-50 nationally in points scored per game.

The point is that in the modern era of college basketball, which began in 1984, not a single WSU head coach other than Bennett has won games at the NCAA Tournament, which should be the measurement of success for a basketball program in a power conference. If Kent has similar success while continuing to coach the same way he did at Oregon, he will have reinvented the wheel that is WSU basketball.

WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos’s position on hiring Kent is understandable. Moos was, after all, the AD at Oregon when Kent was hired in ’97, and by hiring a big name coach at WSU, Moos has created excitement among Cougar fans.

But the big name comes at a cost, literally. Because WSU still owes its former Head Coach Ken Bone $1.7 million and Kent’s new contract guarantees him $1.4 million per year before incentives, the school will be paying the pair upward of $9 million during the next five years.

Even though the revenue from the Pac-12 television contract is substantial, the WSU athletics department is technically spending money it does not have. The department currently has a $10 million deficit that needs to be paid when the funds become available through the TV contract.

For what the university is paying him, Cougar fans should check their excitement about Kent until he proves his system can work at WSU.

– Dustin Brennan is a sophomore communication major from Fife. He can be contacted at 335-1140 or by [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.