Dana Altman and the Rise of Oregon BasketballPosted by Connor Pelton on October 8th, 2013
Four short years ago, the Oregon basketball program was nearly left for dead. Of the Ducks’ 12 losses to Pac-10 opponents, 11 of those came by double figures. There were also losses to teams like Portland and Montana, and while McArthur Court was still a classic, its age was starting to show in a bad way. In January of the 2009-10 season, the Oregon football team went to its first Rose Bowl in 14 years, and it felt like the hoops team was getting left behind in all of the athletic excitement.
Enter Dana Altman the very next season. Altman was hired after a lengthy search, one that reportedly had many many high profile targets turn down the job. The former Creighton head man made a splash immediately, sweeping the Civil War series with Oregon State, upsetting a top 20 Washington team, and making it to the semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament. They didn’t stop there, though, and after pulling an invitation to the CBI to close the season, the Ducks beat Altman’s former team in the best of three championship series in thrilling fashion. Also, halfway through the year, Oregon unveiled its state of the art replacement to The Pit, the Matthew Knight Arena. While drawing criticism from most of the nation for its oddly-drawn floor art, Oregon fans, and more importantly recruits, were drawn to it.
Over the last two seasons, Oregon has continued to gain momentum. It won 24 games in 2011-12, including road contests at Nebraska, Arizona, and Oregon State. That season concluded with a trip to the NIT, and the Ducks were bounced in an entertaining rivalry game at Washington in the quarterfinals. Behind key hustle players like E.J. Singler, Carlos Emory, and Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon continued its rise up the postseason ladder in the last year’s campaign. Compiling two streaks of five straight wins and one of eight consecutive victories, Altman’s squad put it all together in March, winning the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas and pulling back-to-back upsets as a #12 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The run ended against top overall seed and eventual national champion Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen.
That was last March, and believe it or not, Oregon could be even better this season. Altman’s niche in Eugene has been finding impact transfers with immediate eligibility, and all of the sudden the Ducks are a hotbed for players ready to move on and play right away. Kazemi, Waverly Austin, and Tony Woods were all transfers last season, and this year former UNLV and Houston standouts Mike Moser and Joseph Young should be able to suit up and contribute from the start. In addition to the transfers, the Ducks will be adding a pair of four-star recruits from California. Power forward Jordan Bell comes in from Long Beach Poly, while Tyree Robinson hails from Abraham Lincoln High. Grouped together with Austin at center and a pair of jitterbug guards in the backcourt, the offense should be just as lethal as last year’s effective version. Oregon will be tested right out of the gate when it faces Georgetown on opening day, and it faces a fun four-game stretch in December consisting of a road game at Mississippi, a meeting with Illinois in Portland, and home games against UC Irvine and BYU. The only question is, now that the nation knows what Oregon has going for it, is Altman prepared to keep up the high level of play and year-to-year improvement? Improving on a Pac-12 title and Sweet Sixteen appearance is no small task, after all.