A GRIP ON SPORTS
It would be so easy today to make an April Fools' Day reference in regards to a lot of items. But we will restrain ourselves. After all, there was a lot of news yesterday. Read on.
• It wasn't long after Washington State had hired Bill Moos as its athletic director a couple years ago that I went looking for Ernie Kent for an interview. I was working on a long take out piece on Moos' career, so I sat down with his former Oregon basketball coach at the Pac-12 tournament and talked with him about working for Moos. Kent, who had been fired by Moos' successor at Oregon, former football coach Mike Bellotti, was effusive in his praise of his former boss. That was to be expected. When a powerful booster – whose name should never be spoken aloud unless you want all the shoes in your house to explode – reportedly wanted Kent fired at one point, Moos had his basketball coach's back. It was part of why Moos was no longer in Eugene. But there was one thing Kent said that got to me. I'm paraphrasing here – I have the interview on a CD somewhere but couldn't find it during a quick look this morning – but Kent basically said if he had a chance to work for Moos again, he would jump at it in a heartbeat. He was, Kent said, the best boss he ever had. Moos, of course, had a basketball coach at the time. Ken Bone. But I remember thinking then if Moos felt the same way, Bone's days were numbered. Ultimately, they were, but the number was pretty darn high. It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago the final number came up. And now Moos has hired Kent to replace Bone. Was this always in the cards? I'm not so sure, though there's a pretty good chance everyone will say it was, at least since Bone was let go. But does it matter if Kent was Moos' first choice or 15th? It might Wednesday at the press conference, but not next month or next year. All that will matter down the road is whether the Washington State basketball program can get on sound footing. Since the first time I covered a WSU basketball coach hiring press conference – 1983, Len Stevens – it hasn't been all that often. A couple years with Kelvin Sampson and right after he left. A couple years with Tony Bennett and right after he left. But that's about it. It is the hardest job in the Pac-12. Sampson won here and went on to coach at one of the elite jobs in America, Indiana (after his stopover in Oklahoma). Bennett won here and that success was cited by national pundits continually over the past month to prove their case he is an exceptional coach. Think anyone would ever say on ESPN, "if you can win in Westwood, you can win anywhere," as they said of Pullman? Nope. If Kent can buck that trend, I'm sure the Cougar faithful will sing his praises – and conveniently forget he was the coach who talked referee Mike Littlewood into calling a technical at the end of the Pac-12 opener in Bone's first year, costing the Cougars a key win and sending them into a downward spiral. And there's little chance Kent will bolt if he can turn the program around. It will probably take three to five years and at that point Kent will be in his mid-60s, not the age most coaches start over in a new place. So Moos and Kent will probably ride out together at some point, two friends trying to recreate past glories. Sometimes that works. If it does in Pullman, expect Beasley to be jumping once more.
• WSU: The final day of March was packed for Jacob Thorpe thanks to all the Kent news. There was Moos' radio show, then the early leak, the confirmation, the press conference announcement and the reaction. Jacob covered it all and sums it all up in this story and his morning blog post. He also checked in with Ken Goe for some background on Kent. ... John Blanchette weighs in on the hire with this column. ... (By the way, as the photo shows, Kent's hairstyle has sure changed since Moos hired him at Oregon. Though Moos' is the same.) ... Ironic, isn't it, the day Kent returns to coaching one of his mentors, California's Mike Montgomery, calls it quits after a long and stellar career. I have a great Montgomery story from his Montana days I was going to share this morning but the Kent news got in the way – and ate up all my time. Maybe down the road. Anyhow, Montgomery is retiring but he'd like to name his successor.
• EWU: It looks as if an Oregon assistant is going to be the new Montana State coach. I had heard rumblings Bone was in the running for the job but that turned out to be incorrect. ... Portland State finally released its fall football schedule.
• Idaho: If the Vandal football team has improved in any one area, it's in its speed. Josh Wright has the story from spring practice.
• Preps: Coeur d'Alene basketball star Sydney Williams won player of the year honors in Idaho,
• Mariners: It only took a handful of Felix Hernandez pitches to dig a 2-0 hole last night in the season opener against the Angels. But lo and behold the M's rallied, took a lead and then blew the game open late, winning 10-3. Dare we dream? Nope. But we can celebrate another opening night win, something the M's have done a lot the past few years. ... Abraham Almonte has been handed the leadoff spot and he feels he's good at it. ... There was a bigger crowd at Safeco last night than at some home games last season. ... There was a major injury even before the game began. That doesn't bode well for the Angels.
• Day One of the Kent Era in Pullman. Does it already feel different? Until later ...