The Long Duck Nightmare May Be Ending…Posted by rtmsf on April 24th, 2010
If the reports we’re hearing are true (and every indication is that they are), Oregon will finally hire a head coach soon, ending a 37-day search that focused on unattainable coaches and resulted in raises for each one from coast to coast. Creighton’s Dana Altman is the choice, and although Phil Knight and company may not have lassoed the ‘big name’ that they wanted, the Duck program may have ended up with a better coach. Altman has been a program-building winner at both of his major jobs — K-State and Creighton — with eight NCAA Tournament credits on his resume and a wide recognition as one of the best x & o coaches in the business. From the 1998-99 to 2008-09 seasons, his Bluejay teams won 20+ games every year, finished first or second in the Missouri Valley Conference eight times and even won a couple of NCAA games in the process. Duck fans should be pleased with this hire.
Considering that the last month-plus has been embarrassing to the Oregon basketball program as it reportedly whiffed on Gonzaga’s Mark Few, Minnesota’s Tubby Smith, Butler’s Brad Stevens, Missouri’s Mike Anderson and Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny didn’t panic and make a face-saving hire just to do so (ahem, Sidney Lowe). Although we thought that UO would eventually settle on local coaching meteor Eric Reveno (Portland) or fellow WCC rising star Randy Bennett (St. Mary’s), Altman has a much more impressive resume than either of those coaches.
Assuming Altman shows up and actually accepts the job in Oregon this week (remember the Arkansas debacle in 2007), the big question for him will be recruiting. Isn’t it always? His coaching roots are midwestern in nature, having been born in Nebraska and spending his entire life in the general footprint of the area. At 51 years old, Eugene, Oregon, and Pac-10 basketball will certainly represent a different challenge than what he faced in Omaha, Nebraska, and the MVC. Three returning reserves have already decided to transfer out of the program, and two national top-50 Portland high school stars — Terrence Jones and Terrence Ross — are reportedly looking out-of-state. If Altman can convince those two players to stick around to become Ducks, then he’ll be in a much better first-year position in 2010-11 than not. Even without the two Terrences, though, he comes into a situation where five of the top six players return. With a new arena and new coach, Oregon could be poised to surprise in the Pac-10 next season even despite the last month of futility.