ERNIE KENT figures to be one of the most popular guys in Phoenix this weekend as basketball coaches from all across the land come together at the Final Four to talk shop and, perhaps most importantly, build their networks. Washington State’s head man has two slots on his staff to fill with news today that Greg Graham and Silvey Dominguez won’t be back next season.
The possibilities for Kent figure to abound in Phoenix, ranging from young coaches looking for an opportunity in a Power 5 conference to veterans looking to make a switch for whatever reason. And don’t forget about well-connected AAU coaches, who seem to be a trend on college benches these days.
Regardless which direction Kent goes, you’d have to think candidates who could bring a star JC transfer, fifth-year-senior grad transfer or touted prepster with them might be in line for an especially long look.
Add a stellar piece or two to the rotation of Malachi Flynn, Milan Acquaah, Kwinton Hinson, Robert Franks and Arinze Chidom, and 2017-18 could get interesting.
The timing of WSU’s staff remake is ideal for all concerned, because Graham and Dominguez can now shop the Phoenix bazaar for themselves while Kent is making the rounds in search of their replacements.
The speculation on who all Kent might hire with his two coaching spots will no doubt cover the message boards, but if past is prologue in this business, a good place to start the spitballing is within a degree or two of the man doing the hiring.
So in the realm of getting the conversation started, here are some guys to consider:
Josh Jamieson: The long-time director of operations at Final Four-bound Oregon. He spent three seasons with Kent at Oregon as a graduate manager before moving on to assistant coaching stints in high school and at the University of Portland. If he wants to get back onto the sidelines with a whistle, WSU could present the perfect opportunity.
Billy McKinght: The head coach of Prolific Prep Academy, the Napa, Calif., talent factory that sent Josh Jackson to Kansas. He’s coached at every level during his career and clearly has his finger on the pulse of great prep talent. He was a graduate assistant for Kent at Oregon in the Aaron Brooks and Luke Jackson years.
Yasir Rosemond: He’s an assistant at Georgia for Mark Fox but he has deep Pacific Northwest roots. He played for Ken Bone at SPU, was an assistant coach at Seattle U and spent five seasons with Kent at Oregon as both an assistant coach and director of operations. On those humid southern nights, perhaps the Pacific Northwest presents a siren’s call.
Ben Johnson: Yep, the same Ben Johnson who spent nine seasons at WSU as an assistant for Dick Bennett, Tony Bennett and Ken Bone before moving to his wife’s homeland in Australia. Ben returned to the states a year ago to join Terry Porter’s staff at the University of Portland. He was a major recruiting presence in Australia for the Cougs and landed both Aron Baynes and Brock Motum. If Kent wants to get a foothold Down Under, Johnson is the guy to woo.
George Raveling: No, I’m not literally talking about the Naismith hall of famer and WSU legend. I’m talking about George – the director of international basketball for Nike -- and all his colleagues throughout the Nike empire. Kent knows all of them. It’s a basketball network that is deep and wide. Between George and the rest of the Nike family, there no doubt must be a long list of great suggestions to tap into.
Of course, there’s another guy from Kent’s coaching tree who would be an ideal choice, but the price tag would likely need to go beyond Kent’s salary. That’s Kenny Payne, the associate head coach at Kentucky. He was with Kent at Oregon. In seven seasons at Kentucky he’s been the point man in helping John Calipari secure some of the greatest recruiting classes in the modern era.
Let the forecasting begin!