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Why did WSU lose to Oregon? Ken Bone

Don’t worry, students. Even though the game was on the road, Ernie Kent saved some for you. Oh, and NCAA rules. Those too.

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Oregon
“The guy who coached here four years ago? It’s his fault.”
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, friends, and welcome back to the latest edition of Why Did WSU Basketball Lose This Time?, brought to you by Ernie Kent.

WSU basketball is enduring its longest stretch of ineptitude since Paul Graham roamed the sidelines at Friel Court — the Cougs are 44-73 overall under Ernie Kent and 15-51 in Pac-12 play — which means there are lots of opportunities for Kent to provide excuses reasons for his team’s latest stumble.

Often, these excuses reasons are fairly nonsensical, and sometimes will even contradict previous excuses reasons — this one is the gold standard. These excuses reasons often also tend to subtly shift the blame away from coaching and toward some sort of inherent problem with the players themselves.

Since the Cougs have now lost 15 of 18 games and this season is now once again devoid of interesting on-court results, we’re entertaining ourselves by debunking our coach’s most recent excuses reasons for a loss.

Sunday, the Oregon Ducks beat the Washington State Cougars by 27 points. Thankfully, that was only the third-worst loss in the last four games. Buckle up: The excuses came fast and furious in this one.

Following the contest, as part of his regular postgame interview, Ernie Kent talked a bit about the absence of Robert Franks, which isn’t really an excuse — since Franks is the only Pac-12-level starter on the roster, his injury really did make life more difficult. That’s fair.

It didn’t take long for things to get off the rails, though.

“There were a lot, I mean a lot of layups that our bigs missed inside,” said Kent. “That could have been a big difference in this game to convert some of those ... we had some great opportunities to keep this thing to 10 and then who knows what happens coming down the stretch.”

It’s true there were a lot of missed layups. Whether that was a “big difference” ... I mean, they ended up losing by 27. And this is one that we’ve heard before — the idea that being within 10 in the last five minutes or so is somehow “in the game.” I suppose that’s preferable to being down by 20+ in the final few minutes as the Cougs were to Arizona and Oregon State ... but still. C’mon.

Is he really suggesting that it’s somehow good enough to just stay within double digits and hope that his team hits a flurry of threes down the stretch to pull out a narrow victory? Because that’s what it sounds like he’s going for.

Kent then used that as a springboard to the excuse that WSU is young, and that if all his seniors who graduated last year had been around for another year, this would be totally different!

“We lost Josh Hawkinson, Conor Clifford, Ike Iroegbu, Charles Callison. All those guys are playing pro somewhere right now,” Kent said. “They were solid, they were smart, and if THAT group had come back, we’re a totally different team right now. But in a rebuilding mode, that’s exactly what happens — you get them to seniors quickly and they’re out the door and then I gotta reload again.”

If only those pesky NCAA rules allowed for five years instead of only four, we wouldn’t be in this mess, you guys. Just imagine how good WSU football would have been this year with Gabe Marks and River Cracraft and Shalom Luani and Riley Sorenson and Eduardo Middleton and Robert Barber!*

*Craig Powers gets credit for this joke.

Kent saved his best for last, though.

A reporter from Eugene — a city where Kent spent so much of his adult life either playing or coaching — asked him about his thoughts on the position of the WSU program in its fourth year under his stewardship.

“I continue to tell people this: We didn’t put Washington State in a hole. We’re bringing them out of the hole,” Kent said.

Wait ... this is Ken Bone’s fault?

Washington v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Gotta be honest, I did not see that one coming!

It probably doesn’t need to be said, but let’s say it anyway:

  • This is year four.
  • The entire roster has been turned over by Kent. These are all players he has recruited.

He also wanted to make sure everyone knew just how tough of a job this is.

“Tony Bennett, I sat with him, and he said it’s one of the toughest jobs he’s ever had,” Kent said. “Mark Few said it’s an extremely tough job. For a rebuild, it’s one of the toughest ones I’ve ever had to do.”

Of course it’s a tough job. But being respectable after taking over for a train wreck doesn’t have to take four years. Dick Bennett took over for Paul Graham and took WSU from kenpom No. 208 in Graham’s last year (7-20, 2-16 Pac-10) to No. 126 in his first year (13-16, 7-11). In his first two seasons, Bennett won 14 Pac-10 games; in nearly four seasons, Kent has won just 15 Pac-12 games.

He continued. Brace yourselves, students — you’re partially to blame for the state of affairs, too.

“We’ve changed players, you’ve changed coaches, you’ve changed the academic integrity and all of that, the last piece is the cultural piece,” Kent said. “That’s the hardest piece, where you change the mentality of your students and them coming in. Sometimes students say build it and then we’ll come. Ah, nah nah nah — you gotta help us build it to get it there.”

Let that be a lesson to you, students of WSU: If only you came out to more games, the program would be farther along and the Cougs certainly wouldn’t be losing to Oregon by 27 points.

This actually sounds like a man publicly pleading to keep his job.

“The tough part is, Bill Moos is gone,” Kent said. “Mike Marlow is gone. Bill’s secretary, Debbie (Nankivell), is gone. I’m sitting there right now ... I’ve got a great AD who comes in the door, but we’re just not there yet. We feel like we can definitely get there.”

If that’s an indication that he’s already feeling the heat from new AD Patrick Chun?


To the leaderboard! “Toughness” doesn’t add to its advantage, but it doesn’t lose any ground either, as we add a whole slew of new entries to the list:

Ernie Kent Ridiculous Excuse Leaderboard

Excuse Count
Excuse Count
Toughness 3
Inexperience 2
Slow refs 1
Bad shooting by backups 1
Ken Bone 1
Lack of student support 1
It's just a tough job 1
NCAA rules 1

Bonus post script!

You might remember two years ago, when WSU was mired in a similarly difficult stretch, Kent pointed to the job he did at Saint Mary’s and Oregon as evidence that he could do this. But he did it in an extremely weird way, taking credit for the current states of those programs:

“And I’ve done this before. I’ve been through – we rebuilt St. Mary’s and at it’s still a championship program today. We rebuilt Oregon and it’s still a championship program today.”

Fast forward two years. Here’s what Kent said last night:

“I remember taking Saint Mary’s, Mike Montgomery told me, ‘Don’t take Saint Mary’s,’ when I was at Stanford, ‘I can get you a better job.’ I said, ‘I need to take Saint Mary’s because I want to show Oregon I can coach.’ And Saint Mary’s is still a championship program today.

“When the Oregon job opened up, I remember my good friend Stu Jackson saying, ‘Don’t take Oregon, they haven’t won there, what are you doing.’ I said, ‘I think we can bring it back there to the days of old,’ and sure enough, we built a championship program, and it’s still a championship program today.”

Here’s what I wrote in response, two years ago. It still stands.

Wait ... WHAT?

Is Kent trying to take credit for where those two programs are right now? Even if we accept his assertion that he’s “done this before” and “rebuilt” both those programs —despite the fact that each was in the NCAA tournament three years before he took over, and Oregon was 52-33 in the previous three seasons under Jerry Green — simply intimating that those programs are where they are in 2016 because of what he did is absolute silliness.

In the four seasons between Kent and Randy Bennett at Saint Mary’s, Dave Bollwinkel (real name!) coached the Gaels to a 34-80 record, including a 2-27 disaster in his final campaign. Yes, Kent’s final team at Saint Mary’s was excellent, appearing in the NCAA tournament behind a nice mix of young and veteran players, but Bollwinkel absolutely burned to the ground what Kent left behind. Bennett is why Saint Mary’s is where it is today.

And as for Oregon? This time, Kent is the one who left the mess behind when he was fired. His final two teams combined for just 24 wins. They finished 10th and ninth in the Pac-10 and ranked 157 and 140 by Ken Pomeroy’s laptop at Yes, Kent certainly helped put Oregon basketball on the map, but the credit for Dana Altman leading Oregon to six straight 20-win seasons and four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances -- unprecedented in the program’s history -- rests squarely with Altman, and any suggestion to the contrary is pretty insulting to Altman.