A GRIP ON SPORTS
New Washington State basketball coach Ernie Kent was in town yesterday and made the media rounds. You couldn't turn on your television set or radio in Spokane and not see his smiling face or hear his booming voice. When the day was done, the Cougar faithful had to be smiling as well. Read on.
• Make no doubt about it, Kent is impressive. There is sizzle there, as his new-old boss Bill Moos likes to say. But there is also the other part of that old saying Moos uses: the steak. Kent has depth to him. And a lifetime of experience. He knows his basketball, that's for sure. No one could have won 325 games without such knowledge. But he also has something more. Speaking with him yesterday, one was hard pressed not to be impressed by his plans. Kent understands how to run a successful college basketball program. He understands it's not just built on dribble drives and matchup zones. It's built on the backs of young men, young men with the same problems and challenges and hopes as every other student in the school. Basketball is their ticket to overcoming or realizing all those things, sure, but it isn't who they are. It's what they do. Listening to Kent it struck me how closely his leadership core values were to those of Dick Bennett, the last guy called on by WSU to rebuild its basketball culture. On the surface the two couldn't be more different but when you drill down you understand they see the same foundation at a program's core. Character. It's what Bennett preached and it's what Kent is looking for right now. It's not just having "good" kids, either. Character to both has a correlation in toughness. Finding kids who have the physical and mental toughness to do what it takes to succeed on and off the court. Kent is going to look for those kids everywhere, from small towns in the Northwest to the big cities in the Midwest. He's going to attract them to the Palouse and build a team out of them. It won't be easy. He understands that too. But he has the energy to get it done. Don’t question it. Anyone who survived the 4 a.m. practices Dick Harter used to run in Eugene back in the Kamikaze Kids days of Kent's college years has an unlimited supply of energy for the rest of their lives. And Kent's batteries were recharged the past few years as he worked the dark side, being part of the media entourage that surrounds Larry Scott's Pac-12. When Moos decide to replace Ken Bone, I'm not sure Kent was his first choice. But he always knew Kent was a good choice. They go back a ways as you know. And know they will try to resurrect the Cougars as they once did for the Oregon Ducks. It will be interesting to watch. And never dull.
• By the way, I got up quite early today because I wanted to be done by the time the online Masters coverage began. I have a particular affection for the coverage of Amen Corner, 11, 12 and 13. There is something about the 12th hole, a short par 3, that says Masters to me. Maybe it's the flowers. Maybe it's the trees, the creek and the wind. And maybe it's just because so many great golfers have seen their hopes dashed on the bank fronting the green, as their just short shot backs up into the water.
• WSU: Jacob Thorpe was in Spokane yesterday as well, which cut into his Cougar coverage a bit I'm sure. But he didn't miss the announcement a running back from Boise State is transferring to Washington State. ... Jacob also has his morning post with links. ... It's never too early to start thinking about next college basketball season. ... I missed this yesterday but I still want to pass it along. It's Jacob's college baseball notebook.
• EWU: As spring football continues, Jim Allen is looking at each of the position groups. He has his running back preview today.
• Chiefs: Kelowna swept Seattle out of the WHL playoffs last night.
• Shock: Portland will come to town this weekend with a new quarterback, though he's an AFL veteran.
• Mariners: Last night the much-improved Mariners' offense looked like the old-school Mariners' offense of a couple of years ago. The Angels held Seattle to just one hit in a 2-0 win at Safeco. ... James Paxton's injury was diagnosed as a strain after his MRI. The lefthander was put on the 15-day disabled list. That means each of the Big Three – Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen – are all on the disabled list. Walker should be back soon, though, as he made a rehab start last night.
• Golf: One thing about golf. It lends itself to really good sports writing – and photography. That's why we tooled around the Interweb today and found a bunch of different features and columns on this year's Masters.
• Before we go, I have to apologize again. I made a factual error yesterday in Kelly Graves' new contract with Oregon, getting the length of the deal wrong. I pride myself on not making errors of fact – errors of opinion, that's another story – and that one hurt. Especially since I loutishly stated I wouldn't get something like that wrong, not even noticing I already had. Just so you know, I called myself something Red Forman used to call Eric all the time in "That 70s Show." Once again, sorry. Until later ...