Altman philosophical about latest ‘obstacle’;Sports Columnist
Byline: George Schroeder The Register-Guard
A little more than three years ago, the bad news came in a
manila envelope, delivered as he stepped off the podium.
Dana Altman had just been introduced as the school’s new head
basketball coach. But after the
sudden and disturbing status update, he decided he’d rather go back
We don’t know how or when Altman got the news of Oregon’s
NCAA trouble. But you have to wonder
today if he’s feeling deja vu.
Like it’s Arkansas, all over again.
“Two totally different situations,” Altman said.
And they are, for a lot of reasons, but starting with this:
Altmanis committed to rebuilding the Oregon program. There’s no
But I bring up the past because suddenly, the job isn’t what he
thought he was signing up for; it’s just become a lot more
We don’t know what the NCAA will find as it combs through the
program’s recent past, from Michael Dunigan’s sudden departure for
an Israeli pro league to potential issues with other former
It might turn out to be nothing, though I doubt it. It could
turn into something big, and bad. Or something between. There’s no
way to know.
Which is why I feel for Altman.
Whatever happened at Oregon, let’s be clear on one point.
College hoops is a sordid business, and we should never be
surprised to hear of possible wrongdoing, but Altman has a
reputation as a straight arrow.
The Ducks’ new basketball coach isn’t a part of this
But he’ll deal with it anyway.
We already knew this would be a difficult transition.
The 2010-11 season has been written off as lost by many – though
not, we should note, by Altman.
He and his staff begin individual workouts today with nine
scholarship players. In a few days, they’ll conduct tryouts to find
some walk-ons to fill out the roster. In a few weeks, they’ll go
ahead and play the schedule.
“We’ll put the best team on the floor that we can,” he told me
Tuesday. “That hasn’t changed any.”
And it hasn’t changed because of the potential NCAA trouble.
Things were already bad, which is why someone suggested, in
light of the NCAA issues, that the school should self-impose a
postseason ban. Hey, maybe make it a three-year thing, retroactive
to the last two years. (On the bright side, though, at least there
aren’t very manywins to vacate.)
There’s not much funny about this mess, of course. Especially to
But it’s not the jokes that will hurt. Or probably even the
penalties, if and when they come.
It’s the whispers.
On Wednesday, the coach returned a call but declined comment.
It’sprobably exactly the right move.
He couldn’t say much of anything about the investigation. And
anything he said about the bad spot he’s been put in might come off
So I’ll say it.
On Tuesday, speaking in generalities about the entire situation
– the player defections, and the resulting limited roster – Altman
“We’re all judged by how we overcome obstacles,” he said. “This
isjust an obstacle we’ll have to overcome.”
And how large is the obstacle now?
Altman was out of town when we spoke, both days.
September is a critical time for basketball coaches to visit
recruits in advance of the November early signing period. Given the
depleted roster, Oregon’s current recruiting has greater urgency
So the head coach was visiting homes, talking with moms and
dads, making his pitch: immediate opportunity for playing time.
“I think we’ve got a lot to sell,” he said. “We’ve just got to
do a good job selling it.”
But Altman is already hearing from parents who want to know
what’sgoing on with the NCAA.
That’s not going away until the NCAA finishes up (and we’ve all
seen, haven’t we, how that can take a while ). Until then, coaching
rivals will whisper warnings to kids and their parents, and there’s
no way Altman can provide satisfactory answers.
It’s not just another obstacle. It’s a roadblock.
Suddenly, it feels like Altman’s rebuilding job might take a lot
longer – and that’s without considering any sanctions that might
result from the whole mess.
Oregon appears to have acted quickly, asked the right questions,
then forwarded the information to the Pac-10 (and from there, to
the NCAA). Good. Cooperation is the only right course, anytime
there’s potential wrongdoing.
But given the challenges ahead of Altman, including the immense
pressure to produce a big winner that will fill seats in the new
arena,the school has an even bigger obligation to keep digging, and
then deal with any rule violations.
The new coach deserves the very best chance to succeed. Because
he’s committed, and there’s no going back.
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