Women's College Basketball

Still in the Game: Bent continues climb up coaching ladder

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 1, 2020 12:01 am

CLAREMORE, Okla. -- After more than two years living in the Sooner State, Kyle Bent needed just one word to sum up the biggest difference between growing up in rural Illinois and living in Oklahoma.

"Hot," he said emphatically.

Just how hot is Oklahoma these days? The high temperature reached 85 a few times in April, stayed above 80 throughout May and hit 90 or higher more than half the days in June.

Now compare that to Camp Point, where the Rogers State University women's basketball coach grew up. The high temperature in April hit 80 once, was 60 or lower on several occasions throughout April and May and didn't reach 90 until last week.

"It's hot here," Bent said. "It's so hot for so long. Holy cow."

Gradually, he's adjusted to it.

"I don't mind the heat," Bent said. "I don't miss the snow. It's just a little bizarre when you're going to practice in October and you've got shorts and a T-shirt on because it's 82 degrees outside and you've got a heat wave coming on. I do like the state and the people. They've been great."

His challenge now is to give them an on-court product equally as wonderful.

Bent is entering his third season at Rogers State with a recruiting class he hopes will have an immediate impact. The Hillcats signed eight players -- three high school seniors, three junior college transfers and two Division I transfers -- as they look to rebound from a 4-24 season.

There also is the added burden of changing conferences. Rogers State left the Lone Star Conference to join the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, and because of the coronavirus pandemic and the NCAA limiting Division II programs to 22 games, the Hillcats will play only conference games this winter.

"It's going to take some time," Bent said. "It's not one of those things where you can have a one-year plan or a two-year plan. You want to be as competitive as you can, but as a coach, it's easy to get frustrated. I'm trying to have some patience and I understand we do have what it takes to win here."

Bent is 100 percent convinced Rogers State has what it takes to win in a highly competitive conference.

"Anytime you can associate yourself with the resources and the personnel that are going to support you, you're going to have the opportunity for success," Bent said. "The rest comes back on you as a coach. It may not happen as soon as you like, but I think at some point as coaches, we have to bet on ourselves once in a while.

"I've always been involved in these builds or rebuilds. It's kind of what I'm known for and it's what I enjoy."

It wasn't exactly what the Central graduate had in mind.

A first-team all-area shortstop as a senior and a two-sport standout in high school, Bent went to the University of Illinois with the intention of getting a degree in sports management and campus recreation. He figured he'd wind up one day on a major college campus.

It wasn't until he was in graduate school at Illinois that he found a passion for coaching.

"I kind of fell into it, kind of an 11th hour type of thing," said Bent, who was asked to coach the Illinois women's club team and led them to a national title his second year in grad school. "Once I got the taste of coaching, I got the itch. I put campus recreation on the back burner and really tried to get my foot in the door in the coaching spectrum.

"It's been a great decision. I can't imagine doing anything else right now."

Bent's first job came as the head women's basketball coach at Danville Area Community College, where he led the Jaguars to a share of the Mid-West Athletic Conference championship in his fourth season and a pair of Region 24 runner-up finishes.

"Being able to cut my teeth at the junior college level, there are a lot of benefits to that," Bent said. "You have to wear all the hats. You can really get after it from a recruiting standpoint. You can have success because you don't have to wait as long because of the turnover every year or every two years.

"It allows you to have some success and enjoy what you're doing. I was young, so I recruited real hard and got after it."

The guidance he received from Danville athletic director Tim Bunton and former men's basketball coach Mike Carpenter allowed him to do that.

"Being able to start there and be surrounded with really good people was a key factor in being comfortable enough to make your own mistakes and learn from them and grow," Bent said. "It was a fantastic starting spot for me and set the table for everything else."

The next step was to Martin Methodist, an NAIA school in Pulaski, Tenn., where his teams went 95-38 with one Southern States Conference regular-season championship and four NAIA national tournament appearances. His success there opened the door at Rogers State, where he's diligently working to continue his trend of building winning programs.

"I still have a lot to learn, but I like where the program is at right now," Bent said. "I couldn't have asked for a better trail to begin my tenure as a collegiate coach."