Insights from media who long covered Kent

STEVE SUMMERS COVERED Ernie Kent throughout his 13-year tenure at Oregon, and came away from the experience believing the former Ducks coach would continue to succeed wherever his next stop is.

That next stop is Washington State.

Summers, editor of eDuck sports, says Ernie Kent "can sit down and talk about basketball at any level. Ernie is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to foreign to players. He can talk at great length about NBA players, actually players at all levels. He's pretty good at Xs and Os.

"He did pretty well with recruiting, given that Mac Court was in the shape it was in. If Mac Court looked rickety upstairs, downstairs was a disaster, and that was what Ernie was recruiting to. I think he'll put together a decent team at Washington State with Northwest talent."

Summers thought one key to Kent's early success at Oregon was assistant coach Greg Graham, who left in 2002 to become head coach at Boise State. Graham is currently an assistant coach at Bradley, and there's talk Graham could rejoin Kent at Washington State.

"Having a guy like Greg Graham, someone he really trusts, would be a real benefit," Summers said.

Recruiting is a big priority at the outset of Kent's Washington State reign, and to that point, Summers believes Cougar fans will be impressed. Some of Kent's biggest recruiting coups came in the University of Washington's backyard, where he snagged future NBAers Aaron Brooks from Seattle and Luke Ridnour from Blaine. Kent also signed forward Malik Hairston in 2004, who at the time was a 5-star recruit.

"At that time, everybody considered Hairston to be the next Carmelo Anthony, a one-and-done. Definitely a big-name recruit," Summers said.

Summers says Kent "is very demanding of his African-American players. I think he sometimes demands more of them than white players. It's critical in his mind that they graduate and get a degree. At one point, he had two or three (consecutive) classes where everybody graduated. It was very important to him. He always talked that if athletes were good and smart in school, they'll be good and smart in basketball."

Jason Vondersmith of the Portland Tribune covered Kent for most of his Oregon tenure. At the outset, he found Kent to be "let's just say very confident and a little bit arrogant. But by the end, in my eyes, he became likeable."

Vondersmith said Oregon players "loved the brand of basketball he coached. It was up and down, freely shooting three-pointers. They only relied on the post game when they had to. Behind closed doors, I know there were some stories. Let's just say a few probably aren't on a Christmas card list with Ernie. But they never said anything bad about him publicly."

One rap of Kent's Oregon tenure is that he didn't develop talent, which Summers and Vondersmith say is misleading. Kent certainly knew what to do with guards and small forwards, as he sent several to the NBA. But both reporters say Kent's downfall was developing big men. He had several potentially good ones at Oregon, and few panned out.

As for how Ernie dealt with the media, Vondersmith said "he was easily the smartest guy in the room during his early years. But as time went on, he became more likeable. I really liked talking to him. Always smiling, very energetic and passionate about Oregon."

Although Kent took Oregon teams to the Elite Eight in 2002 and 2007, Summers felt his Oregon reign began to crumble when Kent was unable to land Oregon high school stars Kevin Love or Kyle Singler in 2007. It was a particularly tough blow in not getting Love, the son of former Duck Stan Love.

Then Oregon's touted recruiting class of 2008, headed by forward Michael Dunigan, didn't pan out. The Ducks had severe point guard issues, injuries popped up, and losses mounted.

"Football was winning big," said Summers, "and basketball wasn't. That pretty well sealed Ernie's fate."

As for Washington State?

"I think it's a breath of fresh air for Cougar fans getting Ernie Kent in there. I think he'll be able to take advantage of the situation," Summers said.

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