As the Washington State Cougars struggled to win games this season and the losses mounted — at one point reaching 15 losses in 18 games — a consistent refrain from Ernie Kent was that these were growing pains that would pay off in a big way next season.
That plan took another major hit on Tuesday when Malachi Flynn, the team’s second-leading scorer and starting point guard, announced his intention to transfer via Twitter.
This comes roughly 24 hours after leading scorer Robert Franks announced he was declaring for the NBA draft.
Franks’ decision to test the NBA waters — he said he has not hired an agent — came as little surprise, since there’s really no reason not to with the way the rules are currently set up for players (they have until June to decide return to school); this announcement, however, comes completely out of left field and is an absolutely crushing blow to the team’s fortunes going forward.
Flynn was a stud in high school, being named the state’s player of the year out of Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, but he was lightly regarded as a college recruit. He was set to head to Pacific before he opened his recruitment back up following a coaching change. With assistant coach Curtis Allen running point, Kent snatched him up.
What they got was a point guard who has started every game but one in his two-year college career who blossomed this season next to Franks. He averaged 15.8 points, 4.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds while coming up with some truly huge performances to lead the Cougars to victory — notably in the Wooden Legacy, where he was the tournament MVP, and then late in the year against Colorado (30 points) and Oregon (28 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists).
Which is what makes this move so stunning. The only reason Flynn is in the Pac-12 is because Kent and his staff gave him a shot; for him to leave ... well, it says something very loudly about the direction of the program. Reading the tea leaves, it also indicates to me that Franks is probably for sure gone.
Flynn and Franks combined to score about 45 percent of WSU points, and roughly two out of every five possessions for WSU ended with an action (shot, free throw, turnover) by one or the other.
Where Flynn might end up is not known at this point, although Gonzaga (still in Washington, needs a point guard in two years) and Pepperdine (new/old coach Lorenzo Romar hired Allen away) come to mind immediately.
Here’s the interesting thing: The last time a player transferred and Kent wasn’t thrilled, it ... um ... didn’t go well, with Kent blocking a plethora of transfer destinations before waging a public and ultimately losing public relations battle in defense of his transfer restrictions. What will he do this time?
And that’s not all!
Hearing murmurs Viont’e Daniels and Milan Acquaah May transfer as well.— Dylan Haugh (@Dylanhaugh) March 27, 2018
Boy. What a horrible two days for Ernie. It’s time.
Here’s how the roster looks now. YEEEEEEESH:
Now ... the honorable thing for Kent to do would be to fall on his sword and resign. This is moving toward death spiral status (if it’s not already there), and the only way to salvage anything at this point is to change coaches.
Maybe Kent's already been told he's out and the players know?— Chris Greene (@Chris_GreenePDX) March 27, 2018
Hmmm. I’d have a hard time believing the players could keep that secret. Stay tuned?