Dana and His Ducks: What Just Happened?

Duckster Editorials

When Dana Altman scratches his head and gives that little rueful smile of his it means he’s just as confused as the rest of us. And there was a lot of head scratching going on last weekend, like when I pulled Mr. FishDuck away from his fun at minimum deposit casino to share in our amazement of Our Beloved Ducks. Miraculously, the almost unwatchable Oregon Mens Basketball team of 2024 transformed itself into Champions of the very last Pac -12 tournament while simultaneously securing an invitation to the NCAA’s. Wait a minute … WHAT???

Several years ago, I wrote an in-depth article about Altman for FishDuck. It was a deep dive into the man, and one of my all-time favorite articles to research. For any who enjoys the human-interest side of sports, I think you might enjoy it. Anyway, at the time I wrote it, I thought Altman was one of the very best coaches, in any sport, in the history of Oregon athletics.

Fast forwarding to the present day, I was of the mind , like many others, that the game had passed him by. His teams of recent vintage were remarkably similar: Deeply flawed, and frequently stacked with highly touted players who were typically one and done, injured, and/or never played to their potential. His teams lacked any discernible style of play, displayed little cohesion, and couldn’t shoot a lick.

This year’s version may actually have been the worst of the bunch. As I said, they were literally unwatchable for much of the season. The offense consisted of a high perimeter weave between the guards that frequently sucked the life out of the shot clock ending in a forced, highly contested 20-foot brick of a shot. The long rebound would invariably lead to a fast break by the opponent that the Ducks would fail to hustle back and defend.

The result? Drooped shoulders, questionable looks and some very bad body language. Rinse and repeat. The team didn’t hustle, played porous defense, and of course, couldn’t shoot a lick. And then this last weekend happened …

It’s been a while since we saw Dana smile like this! (Photo by Oregon Basketball Twitter or X Account)

Down to an 8-man rotation due to injuries, the Ducks somehow morphed into a Dana Altman team, displaying tenacious rebounding, tight defense, and a scrappy, cohesive, and gritty style of play. They still don’t shoot the ball particularly well, and their free throw shooting doesn’t instill one with confidence.

But they did just enough from the outside to relieve pressure inside the paint, allowing a now (remarkably) injury free N’Faly Dante room to dominate. And my oh my, did that young man DOMINATE!

It almost doesn’t matter what comes next. As the 11th seed headed back east, the Ducks are playing with house money. If, N’Faly can stay healthy, if Jermaine Cousinard can reign in his shoot-first mentality and play facilitator, if the Ducks can bring the same level of intensity to the Tournament, maybe, just maybe they might surprise us once again.

But for me, this is more about the resurrection of Dana Altman. Because getting THIS TEAM to flip the switch and play Dana Altman basketball may go down as one of his most underrated and impressive coaching achievements. “Deep In the Woods“ and lost? Maybe not as much as many of us thought. Good to have you back Coach …

Cupertino, California
Top Photo from Oregon Basketball Twitter, X Account

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