UC Santa Cruz Women’s Basketball Head Coach Todd Kent has announced his retirement from coaching.
The winningest coach in program history, Coach Kent compiled a 169-148 record in his thirteen seasons in charge. He led the Banana Slugs to NCAA Tournament bids in 2016 and 2017, their first-ever postseason appearances.
“On behalf of the University of California, Santa Cruz and the Department of Athletics & Recreation, we would like to congratulate Todd on his career as the Head Coach of Women’s Basketball,” said Interim Director of Athletics & Recreation Courtnie Prather. “Throughout his accomplished career, Todd has exhibited an unwavering commitment to his craft and all Banana Slugs including student-athletes, alumni, and all UC Santa Cruz students. He has played a vital role within the department and is also held in high regard across the country for his work with military service veterans.”
Coach Kent began his coaching journey in 1993 while serving in the Marine Corps Reserve. He coached at high schools in his native Washington and was an Assistant Coach at Division I Seattle University before arriving at UC Santa Cruz ahead of the 2009-10 season.
In the last two seasons alone, the program:
- Went 33-11 overall, including 18-2 at home;
- Achieved their first national ranking in program history;
- Defeated their first-ever Top 5 opponent, with a comeback 72-63 win over No. 2 Whitman on December 20th 2021;
- Had their first-ever All-American with center Kaylee Murphy earning consecutive honors from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).
Coach Kent with his 2016 team that won the Great South title to clinch their first NCAA Tournament appearance.
Between 2017 and 2020, UC Santa Cruz ranked in the Top 40 nationally in three-pointers made each year. The team scored over 100 points in a game five times in his 13 seasons after hitting the mark just three times in the previous 29 years. In January 2020, the team scored their first-ever win over a Division II school, never trailing in a ten-point win at Chico State. In addition, Coach Kent has coached four of the five top career scorers in program history (Ashley Kowack, Sarah Mackey, Leah Parrish and Murphy).
Beyond the wins, Coach Kent’s tenure has been marked with the academic success of his team. Over the past three years, three different basketball student-athletes have earned Scholar-Athlete of the Year with the highest GPA among all Banana Slug NCAA teams (2021- Lilli Hammons, 2022-Surina Beal, 2023- Tess Oakley-Stilson). The team had an average cumulative GPA of 3.55 the past three seasons and earned the highest GPA among all Banana Slug teams six times in the past ten years.
“When I think back on being coached by him I remember little about anything he taught about basketball, but so many things he taught us about life,” said Parrish, who played for Kent between 2012 and 2015 and is now an attorney.
“I remember so much about the relationships, friendships and learning to grow up a little.
It’s funny-you think you are going to college to play sports, and it has almost nothing to do with sports but growing up and figuring out how to be an adult, taking all the lessons that kind of come from sports and turning them into being a resilient person.”
“The first word that comes to mind when I reflect on my time playing for Coach Kent is ‘fortunate’,” said Mackey, who as a senior in 2015 shared the University’s Student-Athlete of the Year honor with Parrish. “Fortunate for an understanding coach, a huge support system, a second family, life lessons learned, and my success in this program. Coach Kent was not solely focused on your ability as a player, but also supported and encouraged all his players to become their best self. I feel extremely fortunate to have chosen to play for Coach Kent and this program. A phrase that he probably said to me a million times was, ‘Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.’ He taught me growth doesn’t happen in a place of comfort and sometimes you have to be vulnerable in order to grow as a person. Currently as a school counselor, I frequently remind myself of this quote and help my students understand its importance and support their growth at school.”
Coach Kent served on the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-American committee and volunteered for the WBCA coaching mentorship program. He was also selected in 2015 to participate in the WBCA Center for Coaching Excellence leadership development program at Columbia University.
Under Coach Kent’s tenure, the program increased attendance and visibility massively. Under a partnership with the Santa Cruz Warriors, the program moved to Kaiser Permanente (KP) Arena ahead of the 2013-2014 season. A then-record attendance of 460 people came out for the opening win over St. Catherine on November 15th, a moment voted one of the Top 40 moments in UC Santa Cruz Athletics history.
The partnership to play at KP Arena allowed the program to build its national reputation. Top programs from around the country have visited Santa Cruz for competition. The December Classic held after finals is one of the most prestigious holiday basketball tournaments in all of NCAA Division III. The six largest attended home games in program history have been held at KP Arena under Coach Kent’s tenure.
Coach Kent also spearheaded efforts for more community involvement – from halftime parkour demonstrations, to pep bands and guest coaches from the Santa Cruz community. The outreach has been reflected in increased crowds and support both from on and off campus.
Coach Kent and his team undertook several community service projects off the court – including Toys for Tots, Grateful Dead night in partnership with the UC Santa Cruz Library, and Pride Night in partnership with the UC Santa Cruz Cantu Center. The team volunteered for multiple youth basketball organizations in Santa Cruz, including Boys and Girls Club and G-ball. “I am grateful to all the student-athletes and assistant coaches I have worked with in my career,” Kent said. “I have had a great fulfilling 29-year career and worked with many wonderful people.”
“We are appreciative of Todd’s work throughout the years and more importantly for the great person he is, which is evident through the numerous individual and team academic and athletic accolades amassed throughout his tenure and exceptional standing among the communities he serves,” Prather said.
“Again Todd, we thank you for all you have done and wish you all the best. You will forever be a Banana Slug.”
Assistant Coach Monica Armstrong will serve as Interim Head Coach while Coach Kent supports with the transition.