Sunday, March 07, 2010

Oregon Fires Ernie Kent

It's been sourced in enough places that I believe the story out that Ernie Kent has been fired by Oregon. This isn't a surprise for a reason I'll get to in a moment.

Ernie Kent had a good run for 2001-2008, taking his team to four NCAA Tournament in a seven year stretch, including a couple of Elite Eight runs. But they followed up that last '08 appearance with a 2-16 Pac-10 record last season, and a 7-11 record this season (probably not much better when you consider how much worse the Pac-10 is).

Why did the team fall off so quickly? I think it has to do with Ernie Kent's coaching style, which was built on energy and hustle: back when they were successful I was calling it Kamikaze Kids, Version 2.0 (here and here, for example ). The benefit of that style is that you don't need superstars to win if the kids believe in the system and pour their hearts out on the floor (see this year's Missouri team for a perfect example). The problem with that style is that when you lose the kids and they don't hustle, you won't win. And I think this team got itself into a losing streak that demoralized the kids, a self-reinforcing downward spiral.

It's no surprise that the firing came now, with Oregon planning on moving into Phil Knight's new palace, Matthew Knight Arena, this coming season. Oregon wouldn't want to risk playing that first season there with a team that might stink, with the discussion focusing on whether Ernie Kent will be fired. If they're going to be bad next year, at least it should be with a young team and a new coach and hope for the future.

The question is: what will that future be? This is actually a very, very young team. They only have two players contributing regular minutes who are not freshmen or sophomores, and they've got quite a few big time recruits with big hopes (Malcolm Armstead, Michael Dunigan and Jamil Wilson being probably the three most prominent young players). So the question will be: can the program hang onto these kids, or will they be starting over from scratch? Obviously there is a lot of money being invested in Oregon basketball, and there are high expectations, but if they take a young team and make it even younger, forcing them to scramble for Jucos and transfers to fill out next year's roster, it could be two or three years before they are back in NCAA Tournament contention.

No comments: