SANTA CRUZ — Todd Kent, the winningest coach in UC Santa Cruz women’s basketball history, has stepped down as the Banana Slugs’ coach after 13 seasons at the helm.
The NCAA Division III school announced Tuesday that’s he’s retiring from coaching.
“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 Courtnie Prather, interim director of athletics & recreation, told goslugs.com. “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.”
Banana Slugs assistant Monica Armstrong has been promoted to interim head coach.
Kent compiled a 169-148 career record and led the Banana Slugs to their first two NCAA Division III Tournament appearances in 2016 and ’17.
UC Santa Cruz head coach Todd Kent argues with referee Rudy Dominguez during a basketball game against UW-Whitewater at Kaiser Permanente Arena in 2022. (Raul Ebio – Santa Cruz Sentinel file)
The Banana Slugs enjoyed unprecedented success the past two seasons. Kent’s teams went a combined 33-11 in that span and earned their first national ranking in program history.
Under his watch, the Banana Slugs defeated a top 5 nationally ranked program for the first time on Dec. 20, 2021, when they rallied for a 72-63 win over No. 2 Whitman.
The program also secured its first win over a D-II school when it knocked off Chico State in 2019-20 campaign.
He also coached the program’s first All-American in center Kaylee Murphy, who finished her stellar career last season. She earned Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) honors twice.
Kent began his coaching career in 1993 at the high school level in his native Washington, while serving in the Marine Corps Reserve. He later served as an assistant at D-I Seattle University for two seasons, before taking over at UCSC in 2009-10.
The Banana Slugs massively increased attendance and visibility when they partnered with the NBA G League’s Santa Cruz Warriors ahead of the 2013-14 season, and began playing a portion of their home games each season at Kaiser Permanente Arena. UCSC’s top six most well-attended home games have been held at KP Arena.
The talent Kent recruited responded to his guidance and instruction. His on-court success paled in comparison to the impact he had on his players, several former Banana Slugs said.
“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 Leah Parrish, who played for Kent from 2012-15 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.”
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Former Banana Slugs star Sarah Mackey said that she felt “fortunate” to play for Kent.
“Fortunate for an understanding coach, a huge support system, a second family, life lessons learned, and my success in this program,” Mackey said. “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.”
Mackey said Kent often told her to “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,” she said. “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.”
GoSlugs.com contributed to this report.