Washington State University and Director of Athletics Bill Moos introduced veteran head coach Ernie Kent as the 18th Cougar men's basketball head coach during a press conference Wednesday, April 2. Kent was signed to a five-year roll over contract. Terms of the deal are unavailable.
“I am excited that Ernie will be the leader of our men’s basketball program,” Moos said. “I have witnessed firsthand his many talents. He has proven that he can win championships in our conference. Together we saw tremendous success at his alma mater and I have every reason to expect to see the same at mine.”
With 19 years of head coaching experience, Kent spent 13 years as the head coach at his alma mater, Oregon, beginning with the 1997-98 season until the 2009-10 season. He’s spent the last two seasons as a college basketball analyst for Pac-12 Networks after four years as an analyst for Fox Sports Net. He served as both an in-game analyst and was on the studio show, Pac-12 Playbook: Basketball, on the Pac-12 Networks since the show’s inception in 2012-13, the first year of the networks.
“I’m looking forward to providing the kind of passion and leadership to help potential student-athletes understand how special WSU is,” Kent said. “Getting back into coaching for me has meant finding the right program that matches up with my passion, my vision, my beliefs and my commitment; and I feel Washington State University fits all that criteria for me. Bill Moos has a vision and has created enormous energy around Cougar Athletics and I want to be a part of that. Now is the time.
“As a player I saw the energetic environment that George Raveling’s teams created, as an assistant I witnessed Kelvin Sampson’s squads and saw the magic here and as a head coach I saw the excitement created by Tony Bennett. When WSU is having success, Beasley Coliseum is one of the best environments in the West. The students are so passionate, I saw 5,000 of them out there ready to go during warm-ups, one of the few places I’ve ever witnessed that. When you’ve seen that arena full and the program was at its best and now you have the opportunity to lead that program and you understand the potential that exists, that is very special to me.”
Kent has also been involved with the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) as he was the president during the 2011-12 season and is currently the associate executive director of the NABC.
Kent has a 325-254 (.561) mark as a head coach, having spent six seasons at the helm for Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Calif., and 13 at Oregon.
In his 13 years at Oregon, Kent compiled a 235-174 (.575) record and a 109-125 (.466) conference mark. His 109 conference wins rank 17th most in Pac-12 history (including Pacific-8 and Pacific-10 Conferences). While at Oregon, Kent led the Ducks to seven postseason appearances, including five NCAA Tournament Appearances (2000, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008) as well as a Pac-10 regular-season (2002) and two conference tournament (2003, 2007) titles.
Kent took two Oregon teams to the NCAA Elite Eight (2002 and 2007) and guided the Ducks to the NIT Final Four on two occasions (1999, 2004). Kent helped produce four NBA First Round Draft selections and became Oregon’s all-time wins leader. He was named the 2002 Pac-10 Coach of the Year, while the NABC, USBWA and Basketball Times all recognized him as their district coach of the year, and he was one of 20 Naismith Coach of the Year finalists that season.
Under Kent’s direction, the Duck men’s basketball team ranked No. 1 amongst Pac-10 schools in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate several times throughout his head coaching career.
As the head coach at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., from 1991-92 to 1996-97, Kent put together a 90-80 ledger, including a 23-8 mark in 1996-97 and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The tournament bid, the first at the school since 1989, was the result of the Gaels’ fourth conference title in school history. Kent also guided the Gaels to an 18-10 mark in 1994-95 and ranks third on the all-time win chart at Saint Mary’s.
“Ernie Kent comes to WSU with sterling credentials and the necessary skill set to take the basketball program to higher levels of achievement,” former Washington State head coach George Raveling (1973-83) said. “He has been a part of the growth of the Pac-12 from eight teams to 10 teams and now to 12 teams, he has lived the history and growth of the conference. Ernie clearly understands what it takes to achieve success in one the most difficult conferences in the country. Congratulations to ‘Cougar Nation,’ I’m excited about the selection and wish Ernie nothing but success.”
Kent served as an assistant at Stanford under Mike Montgomery for two years (1990-91), helping the Cardinal advance to the NIT both years and winning the NIT title in 1991.
As an assistant to Boyd Grant at Colorado State (1988-1989), Kent helped aid the Rams in their postseason bids in the 1988 NIT (advancing to the semifinals) and 1989 NCAA Tournament second round after clinching the Western Athletic Conference championship.
From 1980 through 1987, Kent lived in Saudi Arabia where he coached the al-Khaleej Club in Sayhat for three years, helping the team advance to the playoffs each year. He also worked for the Arabian American Oil Company in Dhahran.
Kent began his coaching career at his alma mater in 1977 as the freshman coach under Dick Harter and again assisted in 1979 as an understudy to Jim Haney. In between, he coached Eugene’s O’Hara Catholic School for one season.
Kent has served as head coach, assistant coach and committee member for USA Basketball, winning a pair of gold medals in 2001 and 2003. He has coached some of the world’s greatest players, including NBA All-Stars and 2008 Olympic gold medalists Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Andre Iguodala and Deron Williams.
A 1977 graduate of Oregon with a degree in community service and public affairs, Kent averaged 7.1 points and 1.8 rebounds during his four-year basketball career with the Ducks (1974-77). He helped lead his team to a No. 8 ranking during his sophomore season. In his time as a student-athlete at UO, Kent was recognized with the Outstanding Service Award for community service and picked up the March of Dimes Outstanding Achievement Award.
A Parade Magazine All-American in 1973 at Rockford, Ill., West High School, he was also named Scholastic All-America by Scholastic Magazine. A National Honor Society member, Kent received the American Legion Outstanding Achievement Award and was named all-state in Illinois and recently inducted into the Rockford Public Schools Athletics Hall of Fame.