We’ve wondered for some time if Ernie Kent would ever do anything dramatic with his staff to try and alter the trajectory of the program that has lost far more than it has won.
Looks like he finally did it.
WSU announced today that assistant coaches Greg Graham and Silvey Dominguez will not be returning to the program. A corresponding move to fill the vacancies was not announced.
The news release from the school says the pair are “leaving the program to pursue other opportunities,” but in the coaching world, that’s usually a euphemism for “the head coach wants to go in a different direction” which is a euphemism for “they were fired.”
While I’m sure it was hard for Kent to make these moves — both coaches have long histories with Kent — it’s not particularly difficult to see why these moves needed to happen. Graham was in charge of an offense that slid from 78th in the kenpom.com adjusted efficiency rankings in Kent’s first year to 187th last season to 178th this season; Dominguez was in charge of a defense that finished 300th, 189th and 204th.
Neither contributed much in the way of recruiting.
Cougfan.com has a nice roundup of some names that would have connections to Kent that might be under consideration, but I’ll be perfectly honest in telling you that I have no insight into who Kent might pursue.
However, I can tell you the kinds of traits Kent should be pursuing in trying to fill these two vacancies.
A recruiter with international connections. When the job came open in the wake of Ken Bone’s firing, I advocated for WSU pursuing a coach who could “tap into an undervalued talent pool.” Bill Moos obviously did the exact opposite of that by hiring Kent, but it should be obvious by now Kent can’t recruit the way he used to.
Since Kent isn’t going to ever run a system that will allow him to recruit undervalued players inside our country, going international for guys like that is the next obvious choice. Tony Bennett understood that, recruiting not just Australians, but players from Europe as well. And any history of the rise of Gonzaga has to include their stellar job adding players from outside the country — four of whom play or played in the NBA and another that will play in the NBA next season, to say nothing of that wretched little guard from Canada who now plays in Europe.
A strong tactician. Some people might argue for trying to land two strong recruiters, given the immediate need for a talent influx. But remember that Curtis Allen is still on staff, and to this point, he’s generally focused on recruiting. It probably wouldn’t be wise to have three guys like that.
I’d love for Kent to get a guy on staff who is a great basketball mind. Yes, everyone has to recruit, but a coach whose strongest skill is scouting and gameplanning would fill an obvious void on the staff. Of course, that’s what Graham and Dominguez were supposed bring, so it’s not as simple as just grabbing a veteran coach.
A shady hire. OK, I know there are only two openings, but I wanted to throw this one in here. Maybe you hire someone’s dad. Maybe you hire an AAU guy with the understanding that some of his really excellent players are going to follow. Neither of these things are against NCAA rules.
Perhaps you think these are distasteful. But I’ll just say this: The world of college basketball recruiting is generally pretty gross — way more gross than football — and at some point, you just have to acknowledge the way the game is played and play along. Especially if you’re WSU.
If he can somehow get all three of these traits in two guys, that’s a home run.
While it’s never a happy day when a couple of guys lose their jobs, this was a change that badly needed to happen. I don’t really have a lot of faith in Kent to get these hires right, given what I’ve seen from him the last three years, but I’m hopeful that this improves the program. And that’s worth something right now.