Are the Oregon Ducks in danger of losing Dana Altman?

Jordan Ingram Editorials

Hell hath no fury like an underappreciated future Hall of Fame coach.

The recent venting from Oregon men’s basketball coach Dana Altman following the Ducks’ 61-58 loss to Wisconsin in the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament. Altman was not happy. But his frustration was targeted at a lackluster Oregon crowd, not his team’s performance.

Sure, Ducks fans were likely disappointed about Altman and Co. missing the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. But that doesn’t make this game unimportant or not worth buying a ticket, wearing green and yellow and heading to Matt Knight Arena to cheer on the Ducks against a quality Big Ten opponent.

“What are we not giving our players? What are we not doing as a staff? If that means more people, then I’ll go to (Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens) and beg,” Altman said after the game. “… You see the commitment Wisconsin makes; they have their cheerleaders, their band. We make a commitment; don’t get me wrong here. But you can see how important it is. It was important to them. It was important to me. 

Nate Bittle will be a big part of the Ducks’ strategy next season. But will Altman be the coach?

“What the heck, we should’ve had more people here tonight. These guys play hard, OK? 3,300 people, it’s not good enough. If it’s me, then get rid of me. If you need somebody else to be a promoter, do something. But 3,300 people is embarrassing. It really is. I’m not in a very good mood, you can tell that. If it’s me, then make the change. Make the change. Somebody will hire me somewhere. I’ll go coach junior college ball. But 3,300 people? For Wisconsin? I was disappointed.”

Altman is right. Just 3,300 fans in a 12,364-seat arena? That’s sad. Plus, we have to consider there was probably a good amount of Badgers fans in Eugene for the game. Since joining the Ducks in 2010, Altman has won at least 20 games every year.

Under Altman, Oregon has punched a ticket to the NCAA Tournament seven times in 13 years, leading the Ducks to the Final Four in 2017. He has been named Pac-12 Coach of the Year six times with a 321-140 career record at Oregon.

Where was everybody? I’ve been guilty of struggling to watch past Oregon teams, even leaving the room or taking a walk around the block to reset (I’m looking at you, Mario Cristobal. Ha! Just kidding. Sort of). This is different. When the stands are empty, it’s a reflection of the community’s feelings toward the state of the program. And any coach would likely internalize low turnout as a statement about their performance. All of this has real-world consequences. Did Oregon freshman center Kel’el Ware enter the transfer portal after just one season because he just didn’t feel the love? It’s certainly possible.

Just 24 hours after his postgame rant, Altman told John Canzano he wasn’t leaving Oregon. But this raises a big question: Are Ducks fans prepared to lose Altman? His contract extension is up after the 2025-26 season.

I hope fans will take Altman’s blunt feedback as a wake-up call. These hardworking student-athletes are counting on our support, good, bad or ugly. Either you bleed green and yellow, or you just like the Nike swag. Either way is cool but pick a lane. If it’s about the latter, future Hall of Fame coaches like Altman won’t stick around.

Jordan Ingram
San Diego, California
Top photo by Kevin Cline

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