Alongside Cougar senior DaVonte Lacy at Pac-12 Media Day on Thursday, Kent said the four years away from coaching was rejuvenating.
“I think any coach that has coached 30-plus years needs a sabbatical,” Kent said. “I’m just amazed at what its done for my energy and spirit. It means so much to be able to leave the game and see things from a different angle because you come back refreshed and rejuvenated.
“Having been out of it for four years, the definition I use is that I feel like a big bear who has been in hibernation and now it’s time to come out and eat. You get a chance to come out and coach again. I’m so passionate about the game and I’m passionate about Washington State.”
Lacy added that Kent’s dedication to the game has been a welcome addition to the Cougar locker room.
“He has a lot of energy, passion and love for the game,” Lacy said. “If you take that away from him for four years, then imagine all of that building up and now he gets to take that out on us. It’s not a bad thing. It’s passion and love. He brings a tremendous amount of energy to practice and to the program as a whole.”
ONE ADVANTAGE TO being away from coaching, Kent said, was it allowed him to study the game from several different perspectives.
“The first thing I did was I went and spent some time with Tom Izzo, Bill Self, Roy Williams and Bo Ryan because I know how much I invest in my players and I wanted to see how other programs did it. I don’t want to say I was shocked because I know coaches in this business, but to see how much they cared about their student-athletes just as much as I did was refreshing to me.
“The next thing was, when you get to take a look at their Xs and Os, we all beg, borrow and steal from each other in coaching. There was no new found offense or defense. It reconfirmed that you did things the right way and for the right reasons. That was good for me.”
Kent added that one of the highlights of his short time as the WSU hoops head man has been getting out and meeting the Cougar faithful.
“You have to get your face in front of the fans so they can feel your energy and passion and understand what you’re going to do,” Kent said. “We talk a lot about our style of play and we try to sell that. We have tremendous character in our program. The biggest thing is introducing a new face, a new staff, a new system and changing a culture that so far everyone has bought into. The end result will be that final product we put on the floor.
“It’s been fun getting out and meeting people in Pullman and throughout the Palouse. There’s some wonderful people. I tend to knock on doors and pretend I’m lost. I’ll say ‘I’m the new basketball coach, can you help me?’ I’m just amazed on how people have invited me in for breakfast or coffee. It’s been neat getting to know people in the environment up there.”
AS FOR LACY, the standout is entering his senior campaign after a monster year in 2013-14. As a junior, the Tacoma native averaged 19.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Those big numbers didn’t stop him from spending countless hours in the gym during the summer to improve his game.
“During the offseason I focused on getting my handle tight because I’ll have the ball more at the next level,” Lacy said. “Also, I’m a bigger guard, so I wanted to utilize that.
“I implemented a post game and tried to work a lot on certain situations where I might have a smaller guard on me. I can have that in my tool box to pull it out every once in a while to get a couple points here and there.”
Lacy went on to say, “Shaq ain’t got nothing on me, I’m just saying (laugh).”
LACY ALSO HAD the opportunity to play with the Pac-12 All-Stars this summer, who toured in China. That experience, he said, was invaluable.
“One thing I picked up was just how close we got in such a short period of time,” Lacy said. “It helped us build trust on the court. We kind of knew we had each other’s backs. I wanted to know that if I did the same thing at Washington State and we come close as a family, I think we have the chance to be really good.
“Once you know someone has your back and you have someone’s back, it makes it more fun to play with each other.”