University of Oregon Athletic Director, Mike Bellotti, announced today that the contract of Oregon Men's Basketball Coach Ernie Kent has been terminated, effectively ending Kent's tenure as the Ducks head basketball coach. Before invited media guests, Bellotti said that he and Kent first formally discussed Kent's dismissal on February 22, days after home losses to Stanford and Cal.
"I had talked with the (university) president, the athletic administrative staff, and did not feel I was going to renew his contract. At that time, I told (Ernie) that I would like to announce it at the end of the regular season."
Kent leaves Oregon with the most wins as head coach in school history (235), five NCAA tournament appearances (including two runs to the Elite Eight), and an exemplary Academic Progress Rate record for academic acheivement for student-athletes in his program.
Bellotti said he sought the advice of athletic directors and former athletic directors at "basketball" schools in order to figure out the best way to go about announcing the termination of Kent's contract. Bellotti concluded that making the decision when he did was best both for Kent in his preparation for potentially coaching next season, as well as for the university as they look to fill the position with prudence. Reasons for Kent's dismissal, according to Bellotti, had to do most notably with on-court performance and dwindling attendance numbers.
"As I said before, going in to this season," stated Bellotti, "I wanted to see consistency, competitiveness in the Pac-10, and improvement...my decision wasn't based on just this year. If you look back at the last five to six years, we need to do a better job. And as we move forward in to the new arena, we've got to re-energize our fan base and attempt to expand ticket sales."
The day was an emotional one for Kent, who has spent the last 13 years of his career coaching at the University of Oregon, after playing at the school as a member of the basketball team in the mid '70's. Kent became emotional on numerous occasions when he was asked to recall his time at Oregon.
"When I think about Oregon," said Kent fighting back tears, "I think it's very important for all of you to understand that you may find a better basketball coach, but I don't think you'll find anybody that has the passion and love that I have for this university.
"For whatever reason, I will always be joined at the hip with the University of Oregon. I love this institution and I have a lot of pride in this institution."
When asked about his future, Kent said that he hasn't given much though as to what the future might hold.
"I really haven't thought about me, because in these types of moments I have taken myself out of the equation," said Kent.
"I will take some time when all this is done -- and I don't have a lot of time since typically in this business you have about a 45-day window that opens and closes. I will coach again...I have a lot more coaching in me and it's just time to build a program somewhere else and I'm really looking forward to the opportunity of doing that."
Kent conveyed utter sadness and disappointment during the press conference, speaking to how much this moment has hurt him emotionally.
"It'll take me some time," said a candid Kent, "I don't think I'll ever get over the hurt, but that's part of life lessons that I need to lay out for these (players).
"They're going to have times that are a lot more difficult than this one. They're going to get punched in their gut and they're going to have to re-group...the biggest thing with adversity is that you don't make excuses. This is my basketball program. I am responsible for where we're at today and I understand that fully. If I'm the guy who's standing in the way from getting you to a championship -- and I'm talking about a NCAA Championship, which nobody thought we could even come close to doing -- then let me step out of the way or move me out of the way."
When asked if he would take on any role within the university, outside the basketball program, Kent simply replied, "No."
A national search to fill the now vacant basketball head coaching position at Oregon will begin immediately, according to Bellotti. Bellotti mentoned that, in his opinion, the next coach at Oregon would need to have, "some type of background in college...it's going to be more trying to find the right fit, and trying to find somebody that has a passion for this program (the way) that Ernie does."
Notes: Bellotti said that the assistant coaches on staff will remain that way until a new coach is named. That new coach will have the option of retaining any current members of the staff or replacing them with coaches of his own. In the meantime, Bellotti expects the current assistants to continue "shepherding" the basketball program. LeKendric Longmire and E.J. Singler were also available for comment after the press conference. While both were saddened by Kent's dismissal, both players anticipated staying in the program and believed that there would be few, if any, transfers out of the program.
Oregon Terminates Kent's Contract
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