February 26, 2008
Ducks, you may recall, went as far as the Elite Eight last year, where they lost
to eventual champion Florida. But they've spent the '07/'08 campaign circling
the drain, and they currently sit in 8th place in the Pac-10. This, despite
having four of their top five scorers back from last year.
Barring something miraculous, they won't be making the field of 65. They're 6-9 in the conference, 15-12 overall, and at the moment, not near the bubble.
This, according to Oregonian columnist John Canzano, who seems to hate every team he covers, could get head coach Ernie Kent fired. That would be a shame, considering Kent's willingness to teach his players proper "jazz hands" technique (as pictured).
"...there was a small, important faction of Ducks Athletic Fund donors who watched Saturday's game [a loss to UCLA], mildly rooting against their favorite team. A few of them were inside Pauley Pavilion, and even as they would have cheered an Oregon victory, they left with the comfort that a loss might somehow eventually lead to better days.Ignoring the "best basketball conference in the country" typo for a second, it's hard to imagine a guy getting canned one year after he took Oregon to the Elite Eight. No disrespect to Oregon intended, but they're not Duke. They're not Kansas. It's not like Elite Eight appearances are a birthright for Ducks fans.
"A victory over the Bruins, in Westwood, might have derailed the pseudo-master plan that was set up last spring when athletic director Pat Kilkenny negotiated a sweetheart of a deal for the athletic department.
"Remember, Kent got a five-year extension after the final-eight run, and a bump in salary that will pay him as much as $1.3 million a year. But in return, those charged with making the arena project work lowered Kent's buyout from $2.3 million to a flat $1 million, allowing themselves the flexibility to fire Kent the minute his team missed the NCAA Tournament.
"It was a shrewd move by Kilkenny. Probably his best as athletic director. And the negotiation win left open the possibility that Oregon could fire Kent if he misses the NCAA Touranament, then attempt to lure Mark Few, Kilkenny's pal, from Gonzaga with a life-altering financial package, a new arena and the opportunity to coach in the best basketball conference in the country."