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Originally published Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 9:01 PM

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Bud Withers

With Oregon's Ernie Kent likely out, who will replace him?

The Ducks would like a big-name coach with the opening of a new building, but will likely keep the basketball coach's salary below that of football coach Chip Kelly.

Seattle Times colleges reporter

A statistic from the Oregon-California basketball game the other day tells you not only where the Ducks are, but also where they're going.

In a 64-49 defeat, they had one assist. You read it right — one. That's like a PGA golfer finishing a round with one par.

The disjointed, hard-to-watch Ducks are in last place in a bad Pac-10, and the fate of coach Ernie Kent is pretty much conceded. Unless Oregon does something miraculous down the stretch, Kent won't be joining the Ducks across campus next season in their new arena.

Kent's fate is something of a sign of the times. At a school that doesn't have a wealth of basketball tradition (outside of being the first NCAA champion in 1939), and yet doesn't always know it, Kent is the all-time wins leader. He's taken the Ducks to five NCAA tournaments, and two Elite Eight appearances, in 2002 and 2007.

It's the wild swings that will do Kent in. Since that '07 season, the Ducks have a 15-35 Pac-10 record. Senior guard Tajuan Porter, firing shots willy-nilly, is reflective of the aimlessness of the Oregon offense the past couple of years.

So, where to, after Kent?

This may be a tricky hire for the Ducks. The common perception that they'll just throw a cubicle of cash at Kent's successor is unlikely. Although Oregon no doubt would like some splash with the opening of a new building, it still figures to have to keep the basketball coach's salary below that of football coach Chip Kelly, who earned $1.8 million, including incentives, for a Rose Bowl season.

So Bill Self isn't coming. Somebody good might be, but probably nobody especially sexy. Assuming Oregon gives Gonzaga's Mark Few the obligatory call, and that Few responds as he always has, that might lead Oregon to places like this:

Mark Turgeon, Texas A&M. No doubt the Ducks will take the temperature of Turgeon, who worked under Jerry Green in Eugene in the '90s. But he signed for $1.2 million a year with A&M in '07 and, ranked No. 22 with a 19-7 record, could be hard to pry loose.

Scott Drew, Baylor. How about another Big 12 coach? Although he signed a 10-year deal after the 2008 season, who makes Baylor (20-6) his last stop? Drew recruits with an edge and was sought unsuccessfully last spring by Memphis.

Steve Alford, New Mexico. The Lobos (25-3) are 10th-ranked and Alford makes about a million a year.

Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa. Jacobson, 39, is one of the mid-major coaches du jour, with a 24-3 record and what should be a second straight NCAA-tournament team.

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Gregg Marshall, Wichita State. The Shockers pulled him away from Winthrop, where he had big success, and now in his third year, he has his team 22-7.

Randy Bennett, Saint Mary's. Steak without the sizzle, Bennett has done an excellent job chasing Gonzaga in the WCC. Good coach, good guy who has somehow eluded the clutches of bigger programs.

And what's more ...

• The texts between WSU's Klay Thompson and his brother Mychel must not have been too cheery Saturday night, after they combined to go 3 of 28 from the field for WSU and Pepperdine, respectively.

• Entering the last two weekends of the season, eight Pac-10 teams can still win or tie for the conference title.

• Washington didn't make much hay of two quick fouls on USC point guard Mike Gerrity last week, and it came back to bite the Huskies when Gerrity emerged as the key figure after Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill let Gerrity play through the fouls. Says O'Neill, "Three more possessions, we were going to lose that game. Without him in there, it wouldn't have come down to the last two minutes, it would have been over about midway through the (second) half."

• Avoiding the opening-night 8-9 game in the Pac-10 tournament takes on more importance than ever this year. The league is balanced enough that a dark horse could win it, but most coaches believe it's supremely difficult to win four straight games rather than three.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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About Bud Withers

Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
bwithers@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8281

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