2008 … That was the last time the Ducks were looked at as a legitimate contender in the NCAA Big Dance. Oregon was knocked out in the first round by an average Mississippi State team that ended up being taken out in the next round. Before that, the Ducks had a little run in the tournament throughout the 2002-2003 seasons.
But, when was the last time our beloved Ducklings were ever truly feared around the league for more than just a couple years here and there? The last Oregon National Championship the Ducks won just happens to be the first National Championship ever in 1939 … 1939?! I doubt any of us were even alive for that game.
Well, enough is enough, and Coach Dana Altman is here to help in making that extra push from being just another Pac-12 team, to a team that has the drive to win, no matter what.
Altman took over the program back in 2010, and the team has only seen positive steps since then. In his first year coaching the Ducks, Oregon went to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) tournament, and took it to Dana’s former Creighton squad as they won the championship.
The next season, Coach Altman pushed his players beyond their limits with a very unknown transfer roster, and made it to the Sweet 16, losing against who would later be crowned the champions, in the Louisville Cardinals.
But, Coach Altman wasn’t done just yet, as he decided to challenge his team to make back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament in his most recent season as head coach, something not done by the Ducks since 2007. Unfortunately, Oregon wasn’t able to sustain the same level of success as their previous season, as they were taken down by a surprisingly dominant Wisconsin team in a game that could have easily been won.
Dana has been an incredibly influential and successful leader for the Ducks, and his triumphs have come in some of the most unorthodox ways. His philosophy for the team all started with finding transfers who were willing to bring their talents to a place that doesn’t necessarily value its basketball as much as their other sports, hoping that one day more fans will be able to relate with the success the Ducks will have.
His strategy has worked surprisingly well; finding needles in a haystack called the NCAA — such as, most recently, Mike Moser and Joseph Young. All of Coach Altman’s success did not come easily however, as finding, recruiting, and signing these transfers is a very difficult job unless you’re the head coach of one of the top basketball schools in the nation. Altman is the master persuader, and his ability to entice anyone to come to Eugene to play for an upcoming team such as the Ducks, is impressive in and of itself.
But, why bring in all of these transfers instead of bringing in highly-talented recruits from most high schools? It’s simple, our basketball history simply doesn’t have the credibility others have, and thus, some guys just don’t have the confidence signing with our beloved Coach Altman.
Our last 5-star recruit, Jabari Brown, was with the Ducks for just two games of the 2011-12 season. [Ed. note: Brown bolted after enjoying an all expense paid trip to Italy with the team the summer leading up to both of his games in a Duck unie.]
He didn’t see the vision Coach Altman saw and clearly was unable to execute, so he ended up leaving, making it that much more difficult for the Ducks to succeed. But, through all of the adversity, Coach Altman has been able to turn every bad situation to good.
Let’s not forget about the incredibly weird season Oregon witnessed this year. Coach Altman was the genius behind bringing the team back together in the middle of the season, and urging his team to greater heights, getting them into the NCAA tournament by beating a No. 1 tourney seed Arizona Wildcats in the final game of the regular season.
So, let’s be honest … How much longer can this strategy really be effective? When will this madness end, and when will we be able to bring in some top [high school level] recruits so the real Madness can carry on long enough to lead us to our next National Championship? The transfers, although they have played with incredible heart, can only carry the Ducks so far in the post-season before they get taken out by one of the highly touted teams as seen in the past two seasons.
So, how will Coach Altman, who recently signed an extension with the university, begin to build a power program? The first step to turning Oregon into a known basketball school was to build a beautiful basketball arena to start bringing in recruits — is complete.
The next step is to show that the coach has validity, and that also has been shown by Coach Altman’s recent success. The third step is for top recruits to slowly begin to leak into the program to test the waters, is to make sure that there is an atmosphere here where winning is really possible.
And that is where Oregon stands at the moment. The Ducks were recently able to secure a commitment from JaQuan Lyle, a top-100 point guard recruit, to the Ducks for next year. From here on out, Oregon needs to continue their success, building on it every day until the program is winning — in all aspects of the term.
Coach Altman is definitely the right coach for this program and the future shines bright for our beloved Ducks, so fans, just stick with it. The football program wasn’t made in a day – and look at how it turned out.
Top photo by Kevin Cline.