"Anyone but Ernie." Really?

"Anyone but Ernie."  Really?

Sport's illicit strange reactions, and there are reasons why they refer to sport's followers as fanatics, but I recommend anyone making comments resembling that in this article's title to take a timeout, a few deep breaths, and consider the contribution Coach Kent has made to this university, the city it inhabits, and the young men who've been lucky enough to be mentored by a proud Duck.

Ernie Kent came to Oregon in 1997 after a six-year-stint as head coach of the St. Mary's College Gaels. Since his arrival in Eugene, Kent has led the Ducks to a 219-157 overall record, qualified for the NCAA Tournament 5 times - including 2 trips to the "Elite Eight" - , recruited and graduated 5 NBA draftees – including 3 lottery picks – and boasts 1 conference regular season title, in addition to 2 conference tournament titles. In comparison, his predecessors beginning with Jim Haney (Oregon's first coach following Ernie Kent's college coach Dick Harter) and including Don Monson and Jerry Green, compiled a combined 241-297 record and amassed a whopping one invitation to the "Big Dance." In summary, during Kent's eleven-year-tenure he's won at a rate of 58% and made the NCAA Tournament five of those eleven seasons, while his counterparts won 45% of their games, qualified for the Tournament once, and did so over a nineteen year span.

Anyone but Ernie?

In addition to his record, Coach Kent is a proud alum of this esteemed university. Let us not forget that when Ernie was hired, he embraced the aura of Mac Court, while his predecessor (Jerry Green) spoke of it as a crutch which anchored the program to mediocrity. He also referred to Oregon as being his "dream job" and a place he hoped to end his career.

Many viewed it as a stepping stone.

He's also widely known as a key component to Oregon's "Kamikaze Kids" of the 1970's, and when asked his opinion of Ernie and the job he's done at Oregon, Ron Lee, Oregon great and fellow Kamikaze Kid once responded that he was "proud of him" and thought he was "…doing a fantastic job." While both comments were made prior to this past season's debacle, many people's disdain for Ernie goes beyond his most recent failure. They cite an anemic offensive scheme, a lack of adjustments, and an inability to develop obvious talent within the program as deficiencies, and to be honest I'd agree to an extent, but to dispose of Ernie's accomplishments, and to do so so easily, is not only irresponsible, but disrespectful to a man committed to a place he loves.

Anyone but Ernie?

Please. I will always respect an opinion if based on fact and sound rationale, but to act as if Ernie Kent doesn't or hasn't brought anything to the table in regards to the University of Oregon or any other collegiate basketball program is preposterous. He has a career winning percentage of 57%, recruits nationally, and has a track record of producing NBA talent, all of which are criteria which college basketball coaches are judged. Sure, he was incapable of keeping exceptional talent (Kyle Singler and Kevin Love) in-state, but most sane individuals will admit a greater force was at work within those situations. In addition to his success on the court, he boasts the leading academic progress rate in the conference and has more than left his fingerprint on various charities in around the Eugene area, including the Childrens Miracle Network, HIV Alliance, along with the mentoring program, Committed Partners for Youth.

Ernie Kent has been a very good coach for the University of Oregon, so good, he's raised expectations to a level previously unseen. He's made the Ducks a conference champion, a semi-regular amidst "March Madness," and a legitimate destination for recruits nationwide. He's graduated players, prepared them for the NBA, and laid the foundation for an arena which on completion will take a backseat to none. This doesn't mean he's immune to criticism, nor does it mean his time at Oregon hasn't potentially run its course, but to trivialize his ability as a coach and ambassador borders on ignorance.

Coach Kent once told the USA Today, "Regardless of if you win, lose, get fired or retire, you're still a Duck. You're still the same in your heart and you're going to bleed green and gold. I will always be a Duck so it's obviously more personal and something that I'm never, ever going to walk away from in my lifetime because it is my school, my Alma Mater, and it's that important to me."

Anyone but Ernie? Only if that "anyone" is pretty darned good.

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