Kilkenny Wants Kent Back

Oregon's incoming Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny has cleared the air regarding his feelings toward Ernie Kent. "Oh, yeah, how could you not want him back?" quotes Kilkenny in a post-game interview following Oregon's 85-77 loss to Florida in Sunday's Elite-8 game.

If recording 29 wins, a Pac-10 Tournament Championship and an Elite-8 appearance isn't enough to put the matter to rest once and for all, Kilkenny's statement regarding Kent should.

Headed into the season, Kent had been under pressure because of two frustrating seasons in which a highly touted recruiting class was supposed to deliver the Ducks from an also-ran to a title contender. In 2004 when Malik Hairston, Maarty Leunen, Bryce Taylor and Chamberlain Oguchi were recruited, many speculated that the Ducks would not miss a step after the Luke Jackson, Luke Ridnour and Fred Jones years. However, in 2004-05 the Ducks finished 14-13 followed by an even more disappointing 15-18 record in 2005-06. Coupled in with rumors of Kent's personal life affecting his performance as a basketball coach, Athletic Director Bill Moos was faced with pressure to remove Kent as the Ducks' coach.

Despite the pressure, Moos decided to stay with Kent as the head coach. The Ducks under Kent had won a Pac-10 Championship (2001) and a Pac-10 Tournament Championship (2002) and an appearance in the Elite-8 the same year. Moos remained steadfastly behind Kent even though many were disappointed that Oregon was not able to recruit two of the best high school basketball players ever out of the state of Oregon, Lake Oswego's Kevin Love and South Medford's Kyle Singler. The failure to attract Love was even more disappointing to many because Love's father, Stan Love was one of the all-time great Duck players in the early 70s. The three players that were recruited by Oregon were not well known and many especially decried the recruitment of Tajuan Porter, a 5-foot-6 guard from Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan, whose other offers came from Cleveland State and the University of Detroit.

Moos decided to retire earlier this year citing his desire to pursue personal goals and the fact that a planned basketball arena could not be completed in a timely fashion. The basketball arena project is the primary item on University President Dave Frohnmayer's list capitol list of major projects. The arena will replace the 80-year old McArthur Court and will cost in the neighborhood of $180 million including a parcel of land that has already been purchased by the school.

When Pat Kilkenny was named Athletic Director, some may have assumed that major changes would be made in the Athletic Department including naming a new Men's basketball coach. Kilkenny, a former successful businessman from California took the job as athletic director with a main goal of advancing the arena project to a successful conclusion. Kilkenny has been a major donor to the university for many years and was a student at the Eugene school in the 1970s.

While the Ducks breezed through the non-conference schedule and posted a perfect 11-0 record, some were critical maintaining the quality of opponent was soft and that once the Ducks entered into conference play, Kent's coaching style would be shown as lacking. However, someone forgot to tell Kent's team that its coach was doing a poor job. Last season unsubstantiated rumors swirled on eDuck's message boards claiming that Kent was mistreating his players. Anonymous posters claimed first-hand knowledge that imminent transfers were going to take place at the end of the 2005-06 season. Yet when fall camp started in October 2006 the roster was the same as the previous season except for incoming freshmen, graduated seniors and Ivan Johnson, who had mutually agreed with the coaching staff to transfer.

Kent cited an off-season trip to the Bahamas in August as a major reason why his 2006-07 team had become close and bonded. Even though the three incoming freshman were prohibited on making the trip by NCAA rules, the team were enriched by the travel experience and when fall camp opened, all the players were there -- no one had quite. When the Pac-10 season started, the Ducks shocked the college basketball world by knocking off the then No. 1 UCLA Bruins, 68-66 at Mac Court. The Ducks went on the finish tied for third in the Pac-10 and finished strongly after having survived a mid-season depression that cost them seven losses. Ending the season with three straight wins over Northwest rivals Washington, Washington State and Oregon State paved the way for the Ducks to do well in the Pac-10 Tournament held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles during the first week of March. Oregon in succession dominated Arizona, California and USC on its way to winning Kent's second Pac-10 Tournament championship. The biggest surprise of Oregon's march through the Pac-10 Tourney was just how easily the Ducks did it.

Last week in Spokane, the Ducks swept two opponents, Miami of Ohio and Winthrop and knocked off UNLV in St. Louis on Friday. Sunday's loss to the No. 1 seed in the Mid-Western Region, Florida was a hard fought game that the Ducks were in until the last few seconds of the game.

It is no wonder Kilkenny wants Kent back. Those that assumed Kilkenny would make changes may have not consulted with the right secret sources. The facts are far clearer about what happened this season. The Ducks under Kent were successful and had a great run in 2006-07.

The Ducks have made the University and the state of Oregon proud by their effort. While guard Aaron Brooks was phenomenal in his senior season and will be sorely missed next year, that 5-foot-6 shooting-machine Porter, is a bona fide superstar in the making and will be a Duck next year.

Kent proved he is a good coach and one the Ducks want to keep. There is no one better to lead a Duck team onto the floor of a new arena in Eugene than Ernie Kent.

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