As he did after each of Ernie Kent’s first two seasons, WSU athletics director Bill Moos enacted the rollover provision following his basketball coach’s third season, once again placing Kent under contract for the next five seasons — until 2022, with each year fully guaranteed at $1.4 million.
The Cougs were 13-18 overall in 2017 and 6-12 in the Pac-12; in three years, Kent has compiled a .376 overall winning percentage (35-58) and .259 winning percentage in Pac-12 play (14-40).
“To be quite frank, in men’s basketball, I thought we made great strides in a season where the league was extremely tough,” Moos told Jacob Thorpe of the Spokesman-Review. “But most importantly, we’ve had a real good recruiting year and we’ve made some changes in the staff that I think will energize that program and also continue to boost us in recruiting.”
At least half of that statement is complete baloney; the Pac-12 was the worst of the six power basketball conferences via kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency metric, and the Cougs took full advantage, securing five of their six wins against teams that ranked No. 125 (ASU, twice), No. 163 (UW, twice) and No. 264 (Oregon State). It’s a huge reason why, despite the better record, WSU’s ranking in kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency metric was the worst of Kent’s three seasons.
The other win, by the way, was against No. 73 Colorado — WSU’s only win over a top-100 opponent all season.
In the Cougars’ other 12 conference games, the average margin of defeat was 19 points.
It’s also worth noting that these “great strides,” which produced a record that can’t even be called mediocre, came with a roster that was loaded with seniors; they made up four of the five starters, played 58 percent of all available minutes, were four of the top five scorers on the team, and comprised 67 percent of the team’s overall scoring.
Additionally, whether what Kent has done constitutes a “real good recruiting year” remains to be seen. The recent signing of Roberto Gittens is a definite positive, but the other two recruits are junior college transfers, and Kent’s history with those spotty (and that’s probably being very charitable).
I will agree that the changes in the staff are good. And I’m excited about the signing of Gittens. However, I certainly don’t think hiring a popular high school coach and landing a solitary fringy top-100 kid late in the recruiting calendar should have been seen as enough evidence of progress to put the school on the hook for another $1.4 million guaranteed. Moos could have very quietly not rolled it over and a four-year contract likely wouldn’t have hampered Kent’s recruiting ability one bit.
But if Moos rolled over Kent after a season in which the Cougs went 9-22 and 1-17 — as he did after the 2015-16 season — there was little doubt he would do it this time. I just wish it wasn’t so.
Here’s to hoping Moos’ bet is the right one.