He’s honest, down-to-earth, talented, forthcoming, and most importantly; he’s humble.
He is Dana Altman. The Oregon Ducks Men’s Basketball head coach.
In only his second season he has coached his 2011-2012 team to a 16-7 overall record, and a 7-4 Pac-12 Conference record. This may seem like old, or even repetitive news, but in looking at where Oregon was not just a year ago, but only five months ago, this 16-7 record is simply…magical.
Dana Altman came to Oregon from a 17-year head coaching position with Creighton, where he went 327-176. In each of those 17 seasons, Altman led the Blue Jays to either the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.
Altman led Oregon to an 18-15 record, and a miraculous run in the CBI Tournament in which the Ducks strutted away CBI champions only a year ago.
In Dana Altman’s early tenure as Oregon coach, his journey can be described in only one word; challenging…or frustrating, whichever you prefer. He’s had so many players not believe in his vision or system and as a result, have turned their back on Altman. Over this two year span he has had players outright look him in the eye and say “I don’t want to play for you.” In most situations like this, coaches would throw up their hands, retire, and go home. Not Dana Altman.
Going to back to when Altman was introduced as the new head coach in early 2010 Altman said, “To have a good basketball program, you have to have good players, and you have to have guys who want to be here. You need guys that want to work hard and train as a team, and play unselfish basketball. If we can do that, we’ll be very successful.” It would also appear from that statement, Altman revealed one of his many magic powers, his ability to foretell future events.
Fast forward to 2011 when Jabari Brown, Bruce Barron and others decided to turn their backs on Altman and their teammates by leaving the program. Altman revealed a plausible strategy when he said; “We’ll move on with the guys we have.” At the time, it didn’t seem like much, or if anything, it sounded like a dangerous philosophy. But at 16-7 Altman’s values have really sunk in. Most importantly, Altman is sticking to his vision and convincing his players that have stayed that his vision will work, and that it can pay off.
Is it possible that Altman’s way of coaching has worked like magic on such a raw team in need of a new direction?
Altman seems to have an uncanny ability to teach the importance of good effort with this Ducks program. The current Ducks team is blue collar and scrappy no question about it. The Ducks roster does not have any names that will win Player of the Year Award, but it has athletes that want to succeed every day they come to practice, give 100% all the time, and their record to this point clearly shows it.
Dana Altman’s greatest magical powers, which have proven to bring success to this year’s Ducks program, is his ability to motivate his team when he feels they need it most, and his prowess in making the right adjustments in short time. This is where Dana Altman truly works his magic like no other coach.
This power began back on Jan. 12 when Altman cast his first spell over the Ducks when they took on Arizona State in Tempe, AZ. The Ducks had a fairly poor collapse early in the second half where they went from up 11 to down four. When the run occurred Dana Altman sat his team down and had a short, 60 second heart-to-heart with his squad. Exactly what was said is unknown. However, his secret magic words helped the Ducks go on an enormous run to come back and win the game. More importantly, in those 60 seconds, Altman adjusted from a man defense to the full court press, which allowed for Oregon’s large comeback.
Who knew Altman’s hocus-pocus would be needed again only two days later?
The better question: Who knew that same mystic power would work two games in a row?
The Ducks took on Arizona and again lost a large lead (12 points) and trailed Arizona by two with only three minutes left. Altman again took only 60 seconds to work his magic. In the timeout he asked his seniors E.J. Singler and Garrett Sim to bring the team back to life. Altman once again switched the defense from man to full court press.
The result? Singler tied the game with an amazing basket in which he cut to the hoop and just threw the ball up in the general direction of the bucket as he fell to the floor and the ball somehow went in. As for Sim, he hit the game-winning 3-pointer from the corner. Switching to the press allowed Oregon to win the points-off-turnover battle 35-6.
Dana Altman’s enchanted powers work, simple as that.
Thursday night against the newest member of the Pac-12, the Utah Utes; Dana Altman’s thrilling soothsaying skills worked again without fail.
Coming off a shameful loss to Oregon State four days prior, it was surely interesting to see how the Ducks would bounce back against the worst team in the Pac-12. If they lost, it would prove the loss to the Beavers is where this team finally collapses falling back to people’s expectations on the season, ruining their chances to play in the NCAA Tournament. If the Ducks won, it would confirm that Altman’s post-Oregon State debacle talk with the team was just as magical as anything else he says.
At halftime the Ducks and Utah were tied at 36. Altman’s words to his team during the break yet again appeared to do the trick. Altman had the team switch to his signature full court press defense for the second half, which seemed to shut Utah’s offense down allowing the Ducks to surge. The second half featured 12 lead changes and seven ties, resulting in some thrilling final minutes.
Upper-classmen would once again be the factor for Oregon’s second half offensive intensity. Tony Woods and Carlos Emory were both benched in the first half “for disciplinary reasons” according to Dana Altman. However, both players came in for the second half and made THE difference. Emory shot 4-4 finishing with 14 points and five rebounds. Woods added six points and five rebounds. It was a driving layup and an ensuing free throw by Emory that finally broke open the close game in the final six minutes. Emory’s play sparked the start of a 10-0 run by the Ducks, which ended with a 3-pointer from Garrett Sim and a dunk by Emory to cement the Ducks 79-68 win over the Utes.
Who knows Altman said to Woods and Emory before they entered the game, but it was magical, whatever it was.
The other crucial adjustment Altman made against Utah? The Ducks committed a season-high 23 turnovers against Oregon State. Against Utah, the Ducks finished the game with only seven turnovers. Magic.
Two days later Oregon arrived in Boulder (barely!) as the college town dug itself out of a blizzard that dumped several feet of snow, closing airports and nearly canceling the game. The Ducks played extremely hard and held the lead for much of the 2nd half, but would experience a heartbreaking 72-71 loss to Colorado marred by a questionable referee call in the final second of the game that sent Nate Tomlinson to the line. He sank the game-winning free throw on the first attempt and intentionally missed the second. As a result, the clock ran out with Oregon only able to desperately heave the ball cross-court towards the hoop, and Colorado squeaked away with the win.
There were plenty of good adjustments by the Ducks. While E.J. Singler had his first double-double of the season, and fourth of his career with 13 points and 12 rebounds, the biggest story for Oregon in the CU game was the play of the big men; Olu Ashaolu and Tony Woods, who finished with a combined 15 points, 16 rebounds and one block.
However, no matter how good the play of Oregon’s comeback and big men were; the talk of the game was the call by the official in literally the final second of the game. The official called a foul on E.J. Singler from a position in which it appeared as though he could not have made an accurate call because he was almost completely out of view of the play. Nevertheless the official called a foul which resulted in the loss for the Ducks. The replay showed that Singler’s hand got all ball, a clean block. Jerry Allen’s exact words were, “are you kidding me?” Indeed Jerry, the ref was not kidding, handing Colorado a game that was so well-fought it deserved overtime to settle it, not free throws.
Despite the poor call, it can be assured that when Altman spoke to his team after the game concluded, he helped remind them that they are in no danger and should be proud of their miraculous play down the stretch to hang with one of the top teams in the conference on their home court.
When reflecting back to Dana Altman’s introductory press conference in 2010 and his vision; he said something that is of great importance to this newly transformed Ducks team. “To be a GREAT coach you need GREAT players.”
It appears that Altman indeed has had great players all along that have helped make him into a great coach; the rest of the country just doesn’t know it yet. Through his own image of triumph, Altman has been able to develop magic that is customized special for his team, and his team alone.
Based on this new prophecy and his team’s execution of it, Dana Altman has his team believing anything is possible as he takes them on a magical journey with dreams of reaching as far as New Orleans and the Final Four. He is asking that we all come along on this quest to glory. To embark on this amazing voyage in pursuit of one trophy to rule them all Altman has only one question, do you too believe in Oregon’s magic?
Full Court Press Preview:
The Ducks look to rebound this week coming home to the friendly confines of Matt Knight Arena to take on the Washington schools. The Huskies occupy first place in the Pac-12 (9-2), but share an identical 16-7 overall record with the Ducks. The two teams will collide on Thursday night at 8 p.m. Washington State will follow on Saturday afternoon (3 p.m.). The Cougars are 12-11 overall, and 4-7 in the Pac-12.