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Did Colorado State make the right choice going with Eustachy over Kent?

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Larry Eustachy and Ernie Kent (AP)

Instead of handing the reins to its program to former Oregon coach Ernie Kent as seemed imminent as recently as Tuesday evening, Colorado State has apparently experienced a sudden change of heart. reported Wednesday that a Colorado State administrator stepped in and blocked the hiring of Kent for reasons that remain unclear. As a result, Colorado State opted to instead offer the job to one of its other finalists, Southern Mississippi coach Larry Eustachy, who reportedly has accepted it.

Eustachy will step into an improving program capable of winning immediately even in what promises to be a formidable Mountain West next season. The four best players from a Colorado State team that reached the NCAA tournament under Tim Miles last season are all juniors including starting guards Dorian Green and Wes Eikmeier.

The debate over which candidate was a better fit for the Rams will likely endure for days if not longer, but there are plenty of signs Eustachy may have been a wiser choice than Kent all along.

Whereas Eustachy built Southern Mississippi into an NCAA tournament team last season despite aging facilities and limited administrative support, he'll find Colorado State to be an upgrade in both areas. The drinking problem that got him fired at Iowa State nine years ago should no longer be an issue either considering he says he hasn't had a sip of alcohol since entering AA in June 2003.

Kent has a successful history too with a pair of Elite Eights and five NCAA tournament berths in 13 years at Oregon, but the latter part of his tenure with the Ducks largely did not meet expectations.

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Top Oregon talent like Kevin Love, Kyle Singler, Mike Moser and Brad Tinsley left for out-of-state programs. The prospects Kent landed via his staff's pipelines to Chicago and Detroit didn't develop. And the program failed to win or draw fans consistently the way it did early in his tenure, finishing above a fifth-place tie in the Pac-10 only once in Kent's final six seasons.

Maybe Kent merely needed a change of scenery to reinvigorate his career. Maybe he can make a successful transition from TV back to coaching the way Steve Lavin and Mark Gottfried appear to be doing.

Regardless, Eustachy appears to be the better choice for a Colorado State program hoping to establish itself as an NCAA tournament contender for years to come.

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