Let it be said, that Ernie Kent can coach. After a shaky start, his Washington State Cougars have defeated Washington, California and now Oregon to move into third place in the Pac-12 Conference just a half game behind second place Stanford.
The win over Oregon must have felt like redemption for Kent, who has always bled green and yellow. He came to Oregon in 1973 as part of Dick Harter’s Kamikaze Kids. Highly heralded with a nickname of “Million Moves” Kent, bad knees hampered his college career. With college behind him, he became a coach and after stops in Saudi Arabia, Stanford and at St. Mary’s, he landed his dream job at Oregon in 1997. Things went well for several years; he reached the Elite Eight twice and developed players such as Aaron Brooks, Freddie Jones, Luke Jackson and Luke Ridnour; but after a losing season in 2010, he was fired and hobbled off to television commentator Purgatory.
When Ken Bone flamed out at WSU, they called Kent out of forced retirement and he’s starting to prove they made the right choice. He’s reworked Bone’s plodding offense and repurposed his personnel. Josh Hockinson was bit player in Bones’ offense, but Kent realized that Hockinson was a prototypical euro-forward ala Dirk Nowitzki — able to hit from beyond the arc as well as crash the boards. Now, the kid’s double-double machine.
Oregon, short-handed from the beginning, played Kent’s up tempo game: run and gun, defense be damned. Hockingson had a team high 26 points and game high 13 rebounds. Devonte Lacy hit 24 points and Ike Iroeqbu chipped in 20. The Ducks were in it until the last minute of overtime, but in the end they lost 108-99.
The Ducks can expect to see much more of their new nemesis. They have a rematch with the Kent’s Cougs Feb. 8th at Matt Knight Arena and there’s always the Pac-12 tournament in March. Love him or not, Ernie is back. How about a loud cheer of Hey Ernie!
FishDuck.com would also like to recognize the passing of a Pac-12 great, Bob Boyd, coach of the USC Trojans from 1967 to 1979. Boyd had some of the better teams in the Pac-10 and, in fact, in the nation, but he always stood in the shadow that coach across town: John Wooden.
Bob Boyd, we’ll miss you. RIP.
Top Photo by Craig Breedlove