LAS VEGAS – The walk from the locker room to the opening tip was the only time Ernie Kent and Co. was seen at their feet in Wednesday night’s bout with Oregon.
Yes, the Pac-12 Tournament’s opening round was concluded in a 51-84 sin city whipping – the largest deficit (33) in Pac-12 Tournament history. And up until the first half’s closing minutes, Washington State logged more turnovers than they did points and shot a single-digit percentage.
Additionally, not a single Coug cracked double digits in points, rebounds, or assists. Freshman CJ Elleby topped the roster with 9 points and 9 rebounds, while outgoing senior Robert Franks led with 4 assist. As a team, WSU shot 31 percent from the floor, gave away 20 turnovers, and nearly got outscored by Oregon’s bench alone (46 points).
The Cougars remain winless (0-5) in the Pac-12 Tournament under Kent’s reign.
Sports may be the closest thing we know to a transparent meritocracy; perhaps that’s why many love them. Winners and losers are categorical, no wiggle room or grey area is justified nor tolerated. And when the clock strikes triple zeros, your identity is stone – at least in the micro.
But for Washington State, their micro and macro go hand-in-hand, however, as the two entities can share a drink over their egregious shortcomings at a local dive bar. Failing to even sniff pedestrian in a notoriously weak Conference of Champions, WSU ends 2019 on a 11-21 record – just 4 wins against Pac-12 programs.
As for the big picture, dust off your old phonograph and spin a broken record.
Kent has pickpocketed 22 conference victories in 5 season with the Cougars for an average 4.4 per year. And he isn’t trending upward either. Seven wins remains his peak which came in the head man’s debut season (2014-15).
He’d seen respectable success building a quality resume before parting ways with Oregon in 2010. A pair of Elite Eight appearances (2002, 2007) and conference victories (WCC 1997, Pac-10 2002) proved his competency from the coaching stool, though yesterday’s dunks don’t win today’s games.
And even by the most liberal of standards, Kent’s tenure at WSU has been a failure. Outside of last season’s Wooden Legacy, a 2019 Grand Canyon sweep – in a pedestrian Pac-12 conference, mind you – remains his crème de la crème in a grey suit and crimson tie.
Yes, stringing together two or three wins has defined premier basketball in this era of WSU hoops.
Kent isn’t likely to go anywhere by virtue of buyout in the neighborhood of 4 million dollars. But with such a track record in a seemingly meritocratic business paralleling that of a competence hierarchy, it’s no wonder Cougs are left scratching their heads.
He may be a man you cannot help but admire and respect upon personal interaction, but perhaps the game has outdated Kent. The head of Washington State hoops looks to be – much like a phonograph – a leftover relic from another time.
Simply put, Cougar basketball needs a change, because this record keeps playing a horrible song.