KREM Sports Director Brenna Greene sat down with WSU AD Pat Chun last week to discuss a variety of topics that have come up in his first full academic year on the job.
Q: You decide to let Ernie Kent go. What went into that decision making process for you?
A: Number one, it was the experience our student-athletes were having. This predates Ernie. We've been on a downward slide of our men's basketball program for about a decade. Our student-athletes wanted a different type of experience. It's a really quality, quality group of young men. I believe Ernie Kent's a good coach, just probably wasn't the right coach for Washington State. So when you put all the things together, where we're at, and there's a financial component to it. Men's basketball is a revenue driver for this athletic program and the Pac-12. Our performance, where it was headed, just necessitated a change. Those are never easy, but we felt like it was the right thing to do at the time.
Q: Were you able to get donors to help pay for his contract?
A: We've talked about it. There's a cost of action and there's a cost of inaction. Just look at our attendance. We'll do less than $300,000 in gate receipts this year. In the peak of the Tony Bennett days, we were doing over a million dollars in gate receipts. There are other levers that need to be pulled. At the end of the day, when you bundle everything up, finances are one of the reasons why we were forced to make a change.
Q: What led you to Kyle Smith?
A: An extraordinary interview. Really knocked our socks off, but he fits what we believe is the DNA of a Coug. He's a phenomenal human being. He's got a work ethic and kind of a chip on his shoulder. He has a belief system and a style of basketball that he knows he can recruit and coach to. His wife is from Chelan, Washington. One of the great high school basketball players in the history of our state. So he just fits us really well. We're excited about the next steps of our program.
Q: What have you thought of the job he's done so far?
A: Fantastic. I mean, college basketball is a broken sport. I think there's 351 schools. Over 1,000 kids will put themselves in the transfer portal this year. You kind of live year to year. Been really impressed with what he's been able to do in terms of recruiting in a short period of time, but it's a build. The term I like to use with all our new coaches, it's year zero. Because we've got to make sure the culture is right within all of our programs.That and making sure we're recruiting the right student-athletes that can can thrive academically, socially, and athletically in our campus. To date, he's done a great job, but like all of our coaches, that's kind of the expectation.