A collection of random memories found in and around my desk at the Oregonian as I prepare for my Aug. 28 departure. Today:
A program from Jan. 15, 2002, when Oregon celebrated the 75th anniversary of Mac Court (and my apartment was robbed).
But let’s start with Ernie Kent. Ol’ Million Moves his own bad self. It seemed for a while there that he must have survived five straight years of being fired by everyone but the University of Oregon. He was impressive in a lot of ways.
Late in his tenure at Oregon — meaning maybe the second of those five years — I remember sitting in the office of a coach who should probably remain unnamed. That coach had watched Oregon’s game the night before on TV.
“What were they trying to do on offense?” he said to me.
“If you don’t know, I’m sure I don’t,” I said.
There were some long years on that beat. Years where every press conference included some exposition on “growth” — the need for it, the importance of it, the lack of it. Except when there was growth, so much growth you wondered why they weren’t finally tall enough to rebound better.
There were also great years, and 2002 was one of them. That was Luke Ridnour throwing lob passes to Freddie Jones and Jones dunking with the ferocity that makes entire arenas recoil. I remember one against Texas in the Sweet Sixteen that made press row choke on adjectives.
My favorite Ernie Kent memory came during that run to the Elite Eight. I was working on a profile of him, and he didn’t have time for a 1-on-1 interview.
And so the interview was me, Kent, the Register Guard’s Bob Clark, and an ESPN crew following the Ducks through the NCAA tournament.
Kent played at Oregon in the early-to-mid 1970s. A teammate had told me two fantastic details:
1) He had this very cool van. I got the idea, given the description, that the phrase shaggin’ wagon might apply.
2) Kent made a little extra cash by giving dance lessons.
As buttoned up as he was now, No. 2 interested me. And so I asked him about it. In order he:
1) looked like he’d choked on a cufflink, and
2) stared me down like he was doing the math as to whether or not he could make me run steps for the rest of the day.
Later, over at Mac Court before practice, the guy on the camera for ESPN looked at me and said, “Man, did he get mad at you.”
“Did you get that on camera?” I said.
As for that program up there at the top, it was a stupid January game against Willamette, a PR opportunity because Willamette was the first opponent in the building. I stayed the night in Eugene, got home the next day and found my apartment burgled. Lost a perfectly good Detroit Tigers hat and an even better Fender Stratocaster. I still blame Ducks PR guy Greg Walker for this, and he knows it.
(At the risk of stretching this out too far, my second favorite Mac Court memory is getting thrown in a headlock by athletic director Bill Moos two days after I’d filed a Freedom of Information Act request for his phone records.
I’d done this specifically because he wouldn’t return a phone call about a football scheduling issue.
“Are you mad at me?” Moos said.
“Call me back.” I said.
And we both laughed. Bill understands the game.)