Ernie Kent is out at Oregon | NevadaAppeal.com

Ernie Kent is out at Oregon

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) – Oregon formally let go of Ernie Kent after 13 years as men’s basketball coach at his alma mater.

The dismissal has been rumored for the past two weeks, after Eugene’s KVAL-TV reported that Kent had been informed on Feb. 22 that he would not return as the Ducks’ coach.

It was made official on Tuesday, when Oregon announced it had terminated Kent’s contract effective June 30.

“You may find a better basketball coach, but I don’t think you’ll find anybody that has the passion and love that I have for this university,” said Kent, who had to pause for several moments to fight back his emotions.

Oregon went 16-16 overall and 7-11 in the Pac-10 this past season, finishing with a 90-74 quarterfinal loss to California in the conference tournament.

Kent, 55, leaves as the winningest coach at Oregon, with a 235-173 overall record. But Oregon has slipped in the past two seasons, going 24-39 and finishing 10th and ninth, respectively, in conference play.

Kent played at Oregon from 1973-77, part of the so-called Kamakazi Kids under coach Dick Harter.

He was the longest tenured Pac-10 coach. He took Oregon to the NCAA tournament five times, advancing twice to the round of eight.

“I think the accomplishments that Ernie has done speak for themselves,” said athletic director Mike Bellotti, who admitted it was a difficult decision. “He’s given his life to the university as a student, a teacher and a coach.”

According to KVAL-TV, Kent met with Bellotti two days after the Ducks’ 64-49 regular season home loss to Pacific-10 Conference champion California. Bellotti informed Kent he would not return.

Kent told his players shortly after the regular season finale.

Both Kent and Bellotti, who appeared separately at a news conference on Tuesday on the floor of Mac Court, confirmed the details of the report. Kent said he was given the option of leaving the team at that time.

“I thought it would be very hypocritical of me to walk out on my guys,” Kent said.

The Ducks immediately begin the search for a successor. The Oregonian newspaper reported this past weekend that one possible candidate was P.J. Carlesimo, former coach of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Oregon’s next coach will usher in a new era with a new $227 million arena that is scheduled to open for the start of the 2010-11 Pac-10 season.

Kent took over as head coach of Oregon when Jerry Green departed for Tennessee after the 1996-97 season. Prior to the Ducks, Kent coached at St. Mary’s in Moraga, Calif., taking the Gaels to the NCAA tournament his final season there.