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Next in line: A breakdown of 10 candidates to replace Ernie Kent as Washington State’s basketball coach

UPDATED: Fri., March 15, 2019

Looking to make Washington State’s basketball program relevant again, athletic director Pat Chun moved swiftly to fire Ernie Kent Thursday night, terminating the fifth-year coach less than 24 hours after the Cougars bowed out of the Pac-12 Tournament with an 84-51 loss to Oregon.

Chun’s next move is to find someone who’s willing to take one of the most challenging Power 6 jobs in the country – and perhaps someone willing to take it for the right price, as WSU spends the next three years compensating Kent for the final three years of his contract, a grand total of $4.2 million.

We break down 10 possible candidates who could replace Kent and use a 1-5 scale to rate how likely it is they’ll become WSU’s next coach.

Leon Rice

Bill Moos pursued Rice when he hired Kent in 2014. Even though the Boise State coach showed little to no interest in the job back then, it’s hard to imagine the WSU alum isn’t on Chun’s wish list, if not near the top of it. Rice has essentially spent the entirety of his career in the Pacific Northwest, with four years at Oregon, three years at Yakima Valley Community College, 13 years at Gonzaga and nine more at BSU. The timing could be better for Rice now than it was five years ago when he shook off Moos’ offer.

Likeliness rating: 4

Boise State head coach Leon Rice yells during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Nevada in the Mountain West Conference men's tournament Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Las Vegas. (Isaac Brekken / AP)
Boise State head coach Leon Rice yells during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Nevada in the Mountain West Conference men's tournament Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Las Vegas. (Isaac Brekken / AP)

Jim Hayford

The 51-year-old coach has spent the last 18 years of his career in the Evergreen State, reaching the postseason 10 times during stints at Division III Whitworth, Eastern Washington and Seattle U, where he’s currently stationed. For a program that could use a change in its recruiting scheme, Hayford’s international efforts might help the Cougars get back on track.

Likeliness rating: 2

Travis Decuire

Decuire is the flavor of the day in the Big Sky Conference. Within hours of Kent’s dismissal, the name of the fifth-year Montana coach came up a few dozen times – and appeared on many similar lists – as someone who could lead the basketball rebuild in Pullman. Decuire, a Seattle native, has taken Montana to four NCAA Tournaments already and his Grizzlies are the favorites to claim the Big Sky’s bid this year when they face Eastern Washington in the title game on Saturday. He also has Pac-12 experience as a former Cal assistant.

Likeliness rating: 4

Ed Haskins

Kent brought Haskins on board two years ago as an assistant, in part to enhance the Cougars’ recruiting efforts in Seattle. Not only does the longtime Garfield High coach has recruiting ties galore in the Puget Sound, he knows the current roster better than anybody the school would be pursuing and it would be relatively inexpensive to elevate him.

Likeliness rating: 3

Aaron Miles

The obscure name on this list. Miles is the 35-year-old head coach of the NBA G-League’s Santa Cruz Warriors. The Portland native/Jefferson High grad could be interested in returning to the Pacific Northwest for a Pac-12 coaching position. Miles employs the same offense in Santa Cruz that Steve Kerr has used to lead three NBA title runs with Golden State. A certain Warriors sharpshooter – and Coug great – by name of Klay Thompson gave him a ringing endorsement during a conversation about potential replacements for Kent last year.

Likeliness rating: 1

Shantay Legans

We like Hayford as a potential candidate, but we like his successor in Cheney, too. Legans doesn’t have the body of work Hayford has, but both of his teams at EWU have overachieved to some degree. His youthful energy could be helpful for a program that not only needs to revive the on-court product, but rejuvenate the fanbase.

Likeliness rating: 2

T.J. Otzelberger

There won’t be a third straight NCAA berth for Otzelberger’s South Dakota State team, which bowed in the first round of the Summit League Tournament. Still, Otzelberger’s won 70 games in three seasons with the Jackrabbits and he spent three years in the Pac-12 as an assistant to Lorenzo Romar at Washington. The 41-year-old’s name should pop up in coaching searches across the country as more jobs become vacant.

Likeliness rating: 3

South Dakota State head coach T.J. Otzelberger shouts to his team during the first half of a first-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament against Gonzaga Thursday, March 16, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (Rick Bowmer / AP)
South Dakota State head coach T.J. Otzelberger shouts to his team during the first half of a first-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament against Gonzaga Thursday, March 16, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (Rick Bowmer / AP)

Russell Turner

Turner’s won Big West Coach of the Year three times in nine years at UC Irvine and he made the postseason five straight times from 2012-17. The Anteaters are encroaching on another 30-win season. If they can clinch the Big West’s auto bid, Turner’s name could be one of the more coveted on the west coast. Plus, he has Pac-12 work on his resume, assisting Mike Montgomery at Stanford from 2000-04.

Likeliness rating: 3

Brandon Roy

The former Washington and Portland Trail Blazers guard recently accepted the head gig at Garfield High in Seattle. It’s unclear if he has a desire to move to the college ranks. Bringing a Husky to Pullman may cause some to grumble, but Roy would recruit the Pacific Northwest as well as anyone the Cougars could bring in and he was unbeaten in his lone season as a prep coach. Still, it’d be quite the stretch.

Likeliness rating: 1

Justin Hutson

He doesn’t have a ton of head coaching experience under his belt, but Hutson’s done a respectable job in his lone season at Fresno State, guiding the Bulldogs to a 23-win season and a third-place finish in the Mountain West. The Bakersfield, California, native has been a West Coast lifer with stints at Cal Poly, UNLV and San Diego State (twice), where he worked under successful coach Steve Fisher.

Likeliness rating: 2

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