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Altman hire is a win for Oregon
I know he makes more money in a year than I’ll likely earn in my lifetime, is an Oregon alum and took on the undertaking of heading up the search to replace Ernie Kent pro bono.
I also know Kilkenny is a businessman.
A smart and successful one.
He tried to take a several swings for the fences with guys like Mark Few, Jamie Dixon, Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan and Brad Stevens.
And he missed.
People were crucifying him for the drawn-out coaching search that wound up taking five weeks. But no one will remember that if Creighton's Dana Altman — a selection that truly came out of left field — is successful in Eugene.
To stick with the baseball references, Kilkenny wound up with what can be termed as a ground-rule double.
He knew he wasn’t going to win the press conference after missing on the big boys, but that’s a one-day deal. He’s more concerned with the next seven years.
Oregon got a guy in Altman who can flat-out coach and should be able to keep the Ducks in the top half of the Pac-10 each and every year (once he gets it going).
Kent was, frankly, an enigma.
There were years in which he was embraced, such as 2007 when he led the Ducks to a 29-win campaign and an Elite Eight appearance. There was another Elite Eight berth back in 2001 and three more first-round exits in the Big Dance.
But there were also five seasons of finishing with a sub-.500 record.
Altman will give the Ducks stability and consistency.
It wasn’t an easy task to go out and find someone to leave their current BCS situations for Eugene. Sure, the Nike backing is nice and so is the brand-new arena that’ll open this year, but it’s a tough job tucked in the corner of the country.
It was also not true that Oregon was willing to toss $3 million around for just anyone. Sure, Izzo could have likely filled in a blank check, but Altman will earn a shade less than $2 million per season for the next seven years.
He’s a guy who, at one point, led the Bluejays to seven NCAA tournament appearances within a nine-year span.
Just three years ago, he was as hot as just about anyone.
That was when he verbally agreed to take the Arkansas gig, then reversed field quicker than Barry Sanders used to do once he arrived in Fayetteville and saw it just didn’t fit his profile.
Since that point, Altman’s reputation has cooled off. It’s been three years since he went to the NCAA tournament, but the guy can still coach.
And this job fits Altman.
No one would know better than Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon, a one-time Oregon assistant coach who went up against Altman plenty of times when he was the head coach at Wichita State.
"He’s a great hire for Oregon,” Turgeon said. "He runs a great system that is disciplined, but very exciting. I’ve watched Dana do more with less better than any coach in the country. Dana and his family will fit perfectly into the community. It’s a great hire by Pat Kilkenny.”
Altman spent a few years out west and comes into the Pac-10 when it’s clearly down. Sean Miller took over a decimated Arizona program a year ago and wound up winning 10 league games.
Dana Altman hopes to turn around Oregon after disappointing seasons the past two years under Ernie Kent.
There’s no reason that Altman can’t do the same.
Sure, three players have already opted to transfer out, but none of them did much of anything a year ago for a team that wound up 16-16, so how good could they really be?
Drew Wiley is already heading to Boise State, and Illinois natives Matthew Humphrey and Josh Crittle started a grand total of five games last year.
Altman, instead, will be able to bring in his own guys — and the key becomes whether he’s able to land players that can fit his system and also win in the Pac-10.
The first order of business is to go out and find a big-time recruiter, whether that means keeping Oregon assistant Kenny Payne on board or getting someone else that’s plugged into the West Coast.
Whether or not he keeps Payne, the bottom line is that Altman still has significant resources. He has the backing of Kilkenny and Nike czar Phil Knight, two powerful businessmen who have poured their hearts and dollars into the program.
How about the brand-new $200-plus million Matthew Knight Arena, which will replace McArthur Court this year in Eugene?
It’s widely regarded as the premiere facility in the country.
Now, it's the place Altman will call home.
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