Kent declines comment on report he's been fired

Mar 7, 2010 - 5:43 AM EUGENE, Ore.(AP) -- Oregon coach Ernie Kent would not comment about a report Saturday night that he has already been fired before his 13th season with the Ducks ended.

With 12 minutes remaining in the Ducks' 74-66 win over Washington State in the final Pacific-10 Conference game at McArthur Court, Eugene's KVAL-TV reported that Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti told Kent he would not return as coach next season on Feb. 22.

Bellotti said he would make his decision on Kent's status "around the (Pac-10) tournament," which begins Wednesday in Los Angeles.

"I have no comment about that," Bellotti said as he left the building Saturday night. "Ernie and I have talked and we will continue to talk and that's it."

Kent, who played at Oregon from 1973-77, deflected questions about his reported firing following the game. He repeatedly changed the subject toward his seniors and his former coach Dick Harter, who was honored before Thursday's game.

"I have an ability to drown out noise," Kent said. "I've not heard of no report. I'm talking about Tajuan Porter and Dick Harter. I don't know why you guys won't listen to me on that because it's their week and their day."

Kent, 55, has led the Ducks to a school-best 234-172 record, and he is the longest tenured Pac-10 coach. He has taken Oregon to the NCAA tournament five times, but the team has finished in 10th and ninth place, respectively, over the last two seasons.

"He's been going through that his whole career so we support him," said Porter, a senior. "Hopefully they bring him back because I think he deserves to coach at least one more year in the new arena. We love him to death."

Oregon junior guard LeKendric Longmire also expressed his admiration for Kent and said he hopes to play for him next season in the Ducks' new $227 million arena that is scheduled to open for the start of the 2010-11 Pac-10 season.

"We all want to see coach here," Longmire said. "We're all aware of everything that's going on with him and media. I just feel like he's done a good job. He's had two down years, but you always want to win for your coach. He's like a father figure to many of us who are from single parent homes. That means a lot to us."

Porter, a Detroit native, credits Kent with giving him an opportunity to play at Oregon when many Division I programs did not.

"He's an unbelievable coach," Porter said. "The media bash him a lot. The fellow people around Eugene bash him because his team's not doing well. But he's a strong man. He keeps coming back. He's never changed, he's never quit on us."

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