Dana Altman: Roster Construction Extraordinaire

Ryan Robertson Editorials 57 Comments

He’s done it again. Dana Altman has rebuilt the Oregon Ducks Basketball roster from the ground up once again.

The Ducks are 4-1 after yet another road win against the hapless Huskies in Seattle. Their only loss, coming on a short notice game against Missouri, looks solid as the Tigers sit at 5-0 after beating sixth-ranked Illinois.

Oregon lost program legend Payton Pritchard to the NBA. They also lost several other key players from the 2019 Pac-12 champion roster, along with star Will Richardson due to be out for a significant portion of the season. But the Ducks still look good. Almost as good as they did last year.

Altman doesn’t build a roster in the typical way. The long-time Oregon coach uses an odd combination of one-and-done’s, long time players and high profile transfers to win the conference year after year. He never has lottery players, but constantly gets the Ducks to outperform teams that do. He plays graduate transfers in key roles seemingly every season, meaning that his roster is always in flux, and never all that young.

Kevin Cline

Altman shakes hands with Memphis in 2019.

Altman has proven to be an adept recruiter. The addition of Bol Bol to a team that made the Sweet Sixteen could have put them over the top, but the five star and NBA draftee found himself ruled out of most of the season due to injury. Louis King and Troy Brown join several other five stars as recent Altman recruits.

Altman has coached the Ducks for 11 seasons, making the NCAA Tournament in six seasons. This total equals out to the total appearances from 1994 until 2010, when Altman took over the program. Altman and the Ducks reached the Final Four in 2017 for the first time since 1939, when the NCAA Tournament had only four teams.

For a program that spent an eternity in a state of mediocre-at-best play, Altman has changed the tune. The Ducks are among the nation’s best programs since he took over as head coach, and that is due, in large part, to his ability to construct and fine tune a roster. What do you think of Our Beloved Ducks basketball squad? Where would you rank Altman’s contributions to the program all-time?

Ryan Robertson
Yuma, Arizona
Top Photo By Kevin Cline

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Frozen Duck

I started as a basketball fan with Steve Belko and Stan Love. Even though we didn’t have a top team in those days, Mac Court was always rocking, or should I say, bouncing. Dana Altman is an outstanding coach and we are truly blest to have him in Eugene. I wish I could watch in person with the incredible atmosphere they have now.

Haywarduck

Too bad, always liked that kid, unfortunately he changed over to the trojans last second.

Jon Joseph

30, I rest my case.

Thank you.

FishIceCream

Thanks for the article. I am a little sad that the idea of watching players go from freshman bench-warmers to junior/senior contributors is over (for the top teams) but it is what it is. And I think Coach Altman is as good as they come for adapting to that reality.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

He has adapted far better and faster than I ever could have imagined. And with what happened last year with the departures? I thought we were toast for sure, but now it seems he assembled a potentially better team? Whew!

Naturally I love any handle name with “Fish” in it, but yours still makes me smile. You are unique, and hence perfect for this community!

GODUCKS15

What more could you ask for. Two Clay Heltons going at it. May the real Clay Helton step forward.

Jon Joseph

Ducks +3 vs SC with the O/U # at 62.

THIS IS IT MARIO! THIS IS IT BOYS! A shot at redemption. With signing day at hand and in front of a national audience, this opportunity cannot be wasted!

A shot at back-to-back conference champions. A chance for a road victory against a ranked opponent!

Win and you also get a shot to defeat a highly ranked Indiana in the Fiesta bowl, and finish highly ranked in the AP Poll.

COME ON DUCKS!

If you can’t get up for this game, something is WRONG.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Perfectly stated and on-point. And for many in the Cali-Flock…this is a homecoming that means a ton to win!

Great point regarding the guys from California. Many who were recruited by SC

Haywarduck

This is Moorhead’s and Avalos’s chance at redemption too. I hope they call their best games and Cristobal’s stands by as the proud CEO of it all. I can dream can’t I!

Jon Joseph

I see this as a referendum on this team from the top down.

30Duck

Absolutely, and should be what a coach preaching toughness would thrive at. The rub though is that I don’t think getting up for the game has at anytime been the problem with the Ducks under Mario.

Mario needs to move past the idea that “Tough” will win out in the end. That he needs to actually coach, or better yet, let Morehead. This could be Mario’s shining moment. But will he see?

30Duck

It’s a shame that links with Washington attached don’t seem to work here, I can only imagine what is being barked over there. You are absolutely right about getting up for this game, talk about a huge smack on the Huskies snout a win by the Ducks would be!

Jon Joseph

YES! Talk about a chance to rescue a disappointing season!

Let’s go Mario. PLEASE have the Ducks ready to play up to potential in this game. Please figure out a way to get pressure on Slovis!

I ‘assume’ that if Oregon wins it goes to the Fiesta Bowl. Under Pac-12 rules, the Ducks lose and Oregon at 2-4, will not be bowling in 2020.

GODUCKS15

Oregon would be 3-3 if they lose. They’re 3-2 now.

Jon Joseph

YES and SIGH.

duckcardinal

Duck loss would put them @ 3-3. I’m pretty sure losing to the Beavers & Bears only feels like 3 losses.

Still giddy after sweeping your picks last weekend?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Good one; made me laugh!

Jon Joseph

MY BAD! I need to get on the optimist side of things. Or, at least try to get my facts straight.

So, it’s the Fiesta Bowl or heading to Shreveport?

Jon Joseph

NOT my bad on going 5 for 5. And thanks for the kudos.

duckcardinal

BTW – we’ve just come off a de facto bye week, while Trojans had a very physical game vs Bruins.

Just sayin’…..

Haywarduck

Pressure on Slovis will be a key, maybe some blitz’s, stunts, please! We can’t lose the turnover battle either. A couple tall tasks considering how we have played so far, but I am a believer.

SeattleDuck

I don’t watch basketball nearly as much as I used to (football takes up most of that attention). But I do look in from time to time and I’m always impressed at how Coach Altman is always able to gracefully handle so much roster turnover every year and field a really competitive team. He’s one of the better coaches in the country and we’re lucky to have him.

SeattleDuck

Not to be negative but I don’t think the defense will improve enough in such a short amount of time. The offense will probably rebound but until we can shore up that run defense, it doesn’t look good. That being said, I hope to be pleasantly surprised…

P.S. Apparently UW’s entire offensive line is sidelined with COVID positives and quarantine via contact tracing which forced the withdrawal from the game.

Jon Joseph

Correct, UW does not have enough O line guys to compete.

What a shame, right?

ducker1

Oh darn!! LOL

they had no business being in that game anyhow.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Beating USC would place the ultimate sting on the Trojans AND Washington! I can hear the howling now….“it should have been us!”

A nice daydream, but the Ducks have got to give it their all…

SeattleDuck

Evidently the entire O-line roster is down, even the walk-ons. Thankfully it seems like none of them are experiencing more than mild symptoms.

duckcardinal

Oh my goodness! With four days to prepare; Karmic forces invoke a dramatic U-turn!

I’ve been a Grinch the last 2 weeks, but this is the match up Ducksters have been wanting since the 2020 season was resurrected.

UO should be a solid 5-8 point underdog, and Trojans will be getting all the Fox love all week! A 5 PM kickoff on Friday is also about as good as we could hope for with the only Conference Championship game that day/night.

Jon Joseph

Oregon +3 out of the box. My guess, this number will go up?

O/U 62

duckcardinal

Ducks didn’t cover in their last 3 games, and I don’t think it was close.

Jon Joseph

OT – The Auburn Job

The $ is great no doubt but other-than-that, why would anyone want to be the head football coach at Auburn?

Gene Chizak was fired two years after (SIGH) winning a BCS title.

Gus Malzahn was 68-35 at Auburn with a last drive loss to FSU in a BCS champ game. And Malzahn also defeated Nick Saban twice.

All in, Auburn is coming with $40M+ to pay Malzahn and his staff to go away.

If I’m the Arizona AD, I’m on the phone with Gus.

duckcardinal

They may be going cheap in targeting the San Jose State coach, Brent Brennan.

Jon Joseph

If this happened, I think Auburn fans would be tossing used TP?

Drake

With the amount of roster turnover that happens I have always been impressed with Altman’s ability to rebuild the team. Top talent has Oregon on their list of possible destinations because they recognize that he is one of the best coaches in the college game today. Opposing coaches know that they will have their hands full competing against any of his teams.

I attended Oregon at the end of the Harter era. To get into games students would camp in front of Mac Court the night before, they then would try to get the scoreboard to bounce and sway during games. Fun times.

Altman is one of Oregon’s best. I hope he gets an NCAA title to add to his list of accomplishments.

30Duck

For the first time this season the Lady Ducks didn’t win a quarter, Oregon State outscored Oregon, 18 -12 in the 4th. Fortunately, Oregon won each of the other 3, 67-41, on the way to a 79-59 win, the 3rd straight over OSU, at Gill Coliseum.

The game belonged to Te-Hina Paopao & Taylor Mikesell, finishing with 22 & 21 points respectively. Sedona Prince, back after ankle scare, and Nyara Sabally controlled the game inside. Jaz Shelley had her best game of the season, 5 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists, including a couple of incisions of the Beavers defense, that led to layups.

Oregon State is not the #15 team in the country, so the beatdown by #8 Oregon is not a surprise. But the 20 point blowout is the perfect example of the final score not reflecting what really happened.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

What I really like about the Womens schedule is how they can work their way into getting better by facing the Washington schools and then going up against UCLA January 3rd, Stanford on January 8th, and Arizona on the 14th.

Some great entertainment coming up!

Haywarduck

I don’t like to compare, rank coaches, as their era’s often are completely different. Highlighting some areas can be fun though. The Tall Firs won it all at the beginning, hopefully Altman will add to this soon.

Dick Harter’s Kamikaze Kid’s were the most exciting teams of any era, but didn’t have the NCAA success. He did have some exciting NIT runs, but UCLA was the juggernaut in his era. I actually remember listening to the NIT on the radio as the tv coverage wasn’t available.

Ernie Kent did great things for Oregon, and bled green and yellow as a player and coach. His NCAA runs and NBA talent were fun to watch at Mac Court.

Altman missed the NCAA Tournament his first season, but amazingly won the CBI tournament. This was the indicator of amazing things to come.

In the NCAA Tournament he has never gone out in the first round. Another point, is his winning both the Pac-12 tournament and the Pac-12 regular season titles, are unlike at any other time. I think this speaks to his ability to not only build this team to great heights at the end of the season, but he has them ready for the big games. This is something I think we all appreciate and value.

30Duck

Hayward, you are so right about Dick Harter and the Kamikaze Kids, led by Ronnie Lee. If you think that Chip revolutionized football with his Ducks football team, you will be shocked to realize what Harter & the Kids did to college basketball.

Before the Kids, college basketball was FINESSE. Defense was a deterrent, but just an obstacle really. Back then, offense was the point. So, here comes Oregon and aggressive defense, taking charges! Ref’s really didn’t now what to about these.

John Wooden hated Oregon’s style of play, and he even more hated coming in to Mac Court, “The Pit”. Wooden preferred the Wimbledon like crowd at Pauley.

As fouled up as the CFP is now, the case could be made that it’s more fair than the NCAA basketball tournament that UCLA dominated was.

Haywarduck

Never thought about the connection between Dick Harter’s Kamikaze Kids and CK’s hurry up offense, great take.

I think the “Pit” was universally scorned as a place to play, an experience you can’t describe and do justice to. The UCLA games were one of those life experiences you can’t get out of your head.

I love the story Bill Walton tells of being hit in the forehead with a tennis ball during the layup drill. The energy at ‘Mac Court’ was off the charts.

CJ

I really like the looks of the Ducks roster this season. You are right Ryan, Altman has been masterful at putting together these transfer rosters.

What really has me the most excited is that Dante looks to be stepping up. I would still like to see him get more minutes. He is still hovering around 20 minutes per game. I think it’s because Altman really like the speed game but big guys in the paint make the difference in my mind….. if you want to compete for championships.

Shooting was pretty putrid at Washington and they still won. That was after coming off a 60+% shooting night the previous game at home. So I think we will still see some of the inconsistency that we have seen from Altman coached teams in the past, but it seems like these guys are playing hard and playing with heart.

Williams Jr. and Omoruyi are great hustle players who can score. The freshman point guard Jalen Terry is quick and agile and has great ball skills. Amauri Hardy is a veteran with a good court presence who should rack up plenty of assists.

Overall I am cautiously optimistic that the Ducks can win the Pac 12.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I’m with you CJ about winning the conference, as Altman has it easier than Graves does…but both are steep challenges.

MaiTaiDuck

Dana Altman to me is the best D-1 Head Coach out there. Him and Graves will both get it done for Oregon.

bearlybalanced

It’s a bit weird because I miss seeing Payton and Sabrina out there, but I am enjoying the product on the floor of both men’s and women’s teams more this year than ever before. The depth and toughness and shooting are really impressive

Jon Joseph

Thank you Ryan.

In this day and age of 1 and done big time CBB recruits, I think Dana’s roster management makes all the sense in the CBB world.

Using this formula along with recruiting players like Pritchard, Dana has taken the Ducks deep into tournament final 4 territory. CBB, with the NCAA in charge of true PLAYOFF and not an Invitational, gives off-the-radar-teams a chance to compete and advance. The CFB Playoff? It’s Bama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma and on occasion, another program gets a shot. The four referenced teams have taken 70% of the CFB playoff spots to date. And this shows up in recruiting.

I do think the 1 time free transfer for CBB, CFB, baseball, hockey and women’s CBB is coming sooner rather than later. This is going to require far greater roster management for football. Maybe Dana can help Mario out as an roster-management-analyst?

FishIceCream

Agreed. I personally miss the day of having ragtag transfers and mid-level recruits that you have to coach up over 3-4 years.

But – you can’t argue with the success.

30Duck

Thanks Ryan, if you really think about it, Oregon IS a basketball school. The success of both Oregon basketball teams over the last decade says this loudly. Kelly Graves, the best coach Oregon has had? A lot of reasons to think so, unless you say it might be Altman, the leader in wins at Creighton, 324 and at Oregon, 257.

Graves took the Lady Ducks from the ruins, Altman didn’t have quite same hill to climb, as Ernie Kent’s teams had some great years. But both have arrived, not only winning but recruiting. This season Altman is still using his conventional offense and defense that the Ducks have executed to great success, while Graves has had to turn his operating plan over completely after losing, Ionescu, Sabally & Hebard.

Altman’s Ducks added another player yesterday, Frank Kepnang, 6’10 has been activated and will be able to play in the next game, Aaron Estrada still awaits clearance to play. Whoever is on the roster, Altman will have them ready.

Jon Joseph

30, love your knowledge of the hoops programs and your always interesting comments and information you provide for both CBB and CFB.

When it comes to the $ ball sports, the Ducks has been carrying this sorry conference for quite a few years now. On the whole, the Pac-12 in CBB and CFB is an uncompetitive mess. And in the case of CBB it cannot be blamed on the lack of resources and income disparity between conferences. Look at the success the B12 has in CBB. And how about Gonzaga.

It seems to me that many the Pac-12 schools have neither the $ nor the interest in competing at the highest levels in basketball and football.

duckcardinal

Ah, you youngsters….Bill Bowerman (the guy with the statue at Hayward Field) ?

Logger29

Ryan I agree, Altman is a great coach. But don’t forget Bill Bowerman. Every athletic accomplishment Oregon has achieved over the years has Bowerman and his commitment to excellence as an inspiration and guiding light.

duckcardinal

Seems Kepnang is an even more unpolished version of Dante. Will be great for both of them to be going after each other every practice, but I don’t see Kepnang getting much, if any, actual playing time this year.

Even after a full year redshirt Lok Wur seems very hesitant, thinking and not reacting on the floor. Hard seeing him getting many minutes this year as well, given the experienced depth across the front line.

30Duck

It’s hard to think of an “unpolished” version of Dante, though Dante has taken a HUGE step in the last 2 games. If he can keep this trajectory the Ducks will be in uncharted territory with Bigs and a great recruiting class coming next season.