After more than two months of searching, the Oregon men’s basketball team appears to finally have a head coach.
Creighton coach Dana Altman was set to be introduced as the successor to Ernie Kent at a press conference on Monday afternoon at the University of Oregon’s new Matthew Knight Arena.
Former athletic director Pat Kilkenny had been scouring the nation in his private plane, trying to woo a big-name coach to Eugene to replace Kent, the former Oregon player who was the winningest coach in UO history after 13 years at the helm.
Then-athletic director Mike Bellotti, who has since left for an analyst position with ESPN, announced in a press conference on March 16 that he had had told Kent of the firing on Feb. 22. Meaning that when Altman is introduced as the new coach, on April 26, more than two months will have passed since the Ducks began looking – informally, if nothing else – for a coach.
During that time, two players – Drew Wiley and Matthew Humphrey – left the program, and at least two others – Josh Crittle and Jamil Wilson – have acknowledged that they’re considering leaving.
Whether they, or anyone else on the team, opts to transfer now comes down to how well Altman is received.
The former Bluejays coach was flown to Eugene on Sunday aboard Kilkenny’s private plane, and although he’s not the big name the university was hoping for – think Mark Few, Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan – the 51-year-old Altman is a good pick to run the program.
He led Creighton to 13 consecutive postseason appearances and compiled a 327-176 record in 16 seasons there, including 11 seasons with at least 20 wins.
Entering a season in which the Ducks will play in a new, expensive arena – replacing the venerable McArthur Court, which was adored by many fans – and coming off back-to-back dismal Pac-10 Conference campaigns, Oregon fired Kent in an attempt to provide the program with a jolt and re-energize the fanbase.
If Altman’s name doesn’t do that, his style of play might.
The Ducks, who often settled into a lethargic half-court offense over the past couple of seasons, will be running and gunning under Altman. The coach is also expected to install the same game-long full-court press he used at Creighton, which will also be a new twist for the Ducks.
Altman was said to have made just over $1 million a season at Creighton (since the university is private, salaries don’t have to be disclosed) and he’ll likely see that figure doubled by the Ducks.
The only figure Oregon wants to see increase is the number of ticket sales, and whether Altman can do that between now and the start of the 2010-11 season will depend largely on what he says over the coming months and whether he can keep any more of the UO players from bailing.
Once the season starts, he’ll need to inject some life into the program with an exciting style of play that’s fun to watch and makes the Ducks something they haven’t been for a few years now – competitive in the Pac-10.
Oregon Ducks Fire Ernie Kent
Ducks Land New Coach, The Register-Guard