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Ernie Kent after Colorado

Ernie Kent

(Do you expect any more attrition this offseason?)

Well first of all, if you want to look at last year's team, you lost two fifth-year seniors and you lost an all-conference player in DaVonte Lacy. That's a lot of experience. We said at the end of last year, if we could have that team back, we could be really good. … Whether or not we're going to lose guys off this team yet, there were 750 transfers last year in Division I basketball. You always guard against that. I don't have all those answers for you yet. We just got done with this game, so if we do then we'll be ready to make moves. 

(Do you plan to make any moves to take this team in a new direction?)

It's too early to say that yet, just because we just got done with this game and it's going to take some time for me to really take a look at this group this year. And sometimes it takes getting some tape to see that, too. 

(What does Josh's decision not to transfer mean for the younger guys?)

Well first thing, and I had this conversation with Josh, if he's on an established team and all those pieces are around him, maybe his numbers aren't where they are either. But I'm proud of him for staying with his school. Our job now is to give him an opportunity to have as much success as possible with what we put around him, what we do in the spring and what we do during the summer as well, too.  So I think it shows a tremendous amount of character and loyalty to his school, on his part that certainly, not only the younger guys, but even the student body can understand. Here's a guy that has all those double-doubles and yet he's in an environment where he's not had the chance to have success and have a winning season yet. He is sticking with it. So now your focus becomes trying to make sure him and Ike have an opportunity, Que, have winning seasons next year. And we've got some work to do but we also know that this conference is going to change again, it's going to look different with so many guys leaving it. We basically have everyone coming back. Those guys that are key guys and everything.

(What did you say to the team?)

I told them a couple things. Number one, I told them how proud I am of them for their character. Because through all of this season and it's tough for young people to go through this kind of losing and not stand up and point fingers at people. They continued to stay together, their character was amazing in terms of their chemistry and they continued to let us coach them. They would come back, get ready, get ready for walkthroughs, get ready for practice, get ready for games. We had a situation in this game, they just had no more mental left, they had no more mental to rise up to a Colorado team that couldn't afford to lose to us in talking about going to the NCAA tournament. So my biggest conversation to them was to thank the seniors and then just thank a couple of these managers that have been outstanding. And then just let them know how proud I am of them to have this type of character in this day and age where young people could've collapsed a long time ago. They did not do it, they kept fighting. 

(Any sense of relief that the season's over?)

I've not talked about it much.   because I don't look at it as a season. That's how fans and maybe in the media look at it as. We look at it as rebuilding a program and we know what we inherited and where we were. We have a sense of where we're going and having gone through tis before at a St. Mary's and at an Oregon, we keep big picture in mind. So what you call a streak again, we call it a process. So as I look at this year again, we might need to tweak it. Personnel, we might need to tweak it with our scheduling. We might need to tweak what we're doing offensively. You just keep looking, tinkering until you get it right and get it where it needs to be. So the season is hard on that team, it's hard on all of us, it's hard on the fans, it's hard on the students. It's hard on all of us. But to get the program to where you need to get to, sometimes you have to take a step backward to go forward and unfortunately that's what happened with this team this year. And I'm hoping with spring and summer, with what takes place and what we come together and look like heading into next year, you get a chance to turn it now and get moving. 

(Will you make any coaching changes?)

I'm not anticipating making any coaching changes, either. Again, we've been on the job for literally for 22, 23 months we've been on the job. And we're battling teams that, with the exception of Arizona State, you've got anywhere from four to five to Lorenzo, 12, 13, 14 years of continuity. That's the continuity of recruiting, of winning, of scheduling. That's a lot. You're not going to catch that overnight and the biggest thing that when I look at this team, you lose Junior Longrus and Brett Boese who have never won at Washington State. Now you've got Josh and Que and Ike who have never experienced winning at Washington State. So where's the blueprint that they can follow? Whereas every other program in the conference, the members of that team, some of them somewhere along the last four years experienced winning. … Andrew Andrews was a great example of this. You take a young team, but he knew what winning looked like and felt like and he led them. He led a group. So as we continue to work with this program, that's a big piece of it. Can we gain it going abroad this summer and figuring it out and doing some things that way? We tried to do it with our scheduling this year early on and that's a big piece where we need to take this group. Understanding how to win, putting that blueprint in place so the teams down the road can see it and feel it as well, too. Now, what do we need to do to get there? That's my job. And that's my job to really step back and evaluate everything. And as much as I'm not anticipating anything anywhere, I'm going to still evaluate to make sure we're moving in the right direction. But I've also got to keep in mind we've been here for 22 months. 

(What was the conversation like with Josh when he told you he's coming back?)

It hasn't been a big conversation. I talked to him and his family is what I talked to about what we need to do for him just in terms of looking ahead. You've got, I think every underclassman in the country should throw their name into the draft and I think it's going to be that way. And then the next step in all that is, there's a combine that's invited. There's going to be about 70 players, there's going to be 35 of them that are underclassmen. The rest are going to be your seniors, your European players, your D-League players. That's a small field from so many players out there. And then somebody might have an opportunity to go do a tryout somewhere, so they nee to explore that. Josh, Que, Ike. Whatever is available out there for them. I think that in the big scheme of things, he needs to get stronger, he needs to have more success. It doesn't hurt him coming back at all in this situation.

(But it's still important to test the waters?)

Every underclassman is going to and they should test the waters. Yes.

(This team has been able to bounce back, but not necessarily on the win column. How can they do that next year?)

I think again, you've got to understand, even the winning is kind of the last piece. They've got the character piece, the academic piece. They've got a lot of things that they've got in place. The last piece is the winning. And that's going to be the hardest piece because they've not experienced it before. So how do they do it? They've got to grow, they've got to mature. You may need to add. Don't know that yet. And it's just all a part of the process again of getting them where they need to. That doesn't happen overnight. So when you ask that question, ask it again at the end of the summer and lets' see where they're at, let's see who got bigger in the weight room, who put weight on, whose work ethic increased, whose confidence came up. Do those two freshmen, typically freshmen are better in their second year. Viont'e and Robo are like Ike and Josh were as freshmen. Well they're going to have significant improvement from freshman year to sophomore year, which could change the trajectory of your program and where it's going and everything. To me, as you look as building it, it's not just one thing you pinpoint. You look at a lot of things. The work ethic, what's going on in the weight room, your scheduling, your summer and spring workouts, your skill development work, your trip overseas, do you make some changes? It's all of it you look at when I talk about an opportunity to take a deep breath and look at your entire program. Just look at it inside and out and just see where you can get it better, because in my opinion, you're trying to build your program. This is what we did at St. Mary's. We tried to catch Gonzaga, we wanted to look like Gonzaga. When we're at Oregon, we wanted to beat Arizona, we wanted to look like Arizona. Once we got those teams there, we started winning. Here we are again. To beat them, we've got to look like them. And we're not there yet. We're not there yet.

(Do you want to form a core group of seven, eight guys or can you work with this malleable lineup?)

Eventually, ultimately you're going to narrow that down, but we're so far away from that right now. We just ended this season, you're talking about stuff that will take shape, all that stuff will take shape, all of that will take care of itself moving forward. The confidence, Conor will be so much better next year, Val's going to be better. But ultimately, you don't want to have all of these multiple lineup things, but we did that because we were just trying to find pieces that were working. We were hurting, injured at times. But at the same time, you're giving those guys a lot of playing time. It gave us an opportunity to do two things: to evaluate and to grow in some cases as well, too.

Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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