Wayne Tinkle Wins Press Conference; Some Reasons He Might Win Some Games Too

Wayne Tinkle being introduced as the new men's basketball head coach at Oregon St.

Oregon St. Athletic Director Bob DeCarolis was dead on correct when he said the new men's basketball coach, and any hire for any program, for that matter, needs to win games and win "the right way", and also win the press conference. Which by implication also means in the court of public appearances, and opinion; the impression of the coach and their program translates to ticket sales, which in turn determines tv exposure and advertising dollars, and recruiting, as well as donations and sales. College sports are a business, and when its a bad business, it won't be a winning one.

New Oregon St. head coach Wayne Tinkle did that on the day he was announced at an evening press conference by De Carolis on Wednesday.

We don't know if Tinkle will ever win a game at Oregon St., or ever lose one for that matter (though results will be somewhere in between those extremes); that's what the season is for.

But Beaver fans did see several things happen Wednesday that are the things Tinkle can do right now that will help now, and come basketball season.

The most important thing was probably getting players previous coach Craig Robinson had recruited, JC transfer Gary Payton II, and guard Chai Baker, to reaffirm their commitment to come to Corvallis, and Tinkle got that done before the press conference.

There's more to be done, with other recruits, but salvaging half the recruiting class in his first day is a good start.

Tinkle also met with the remnants of the team, which saw 6 seniors leave, shortly followed by 3 other players with remaining eligibility, Eric Moreland for the NBA, Challe Barton for European professional basketball, and point guard Hallice Cooke, who transferred this week to Iowa St.

After meeting their new coach, there was unity of support from the returning players. No one in that situation is probably going to have something negative to say, but silence would have been a bad sign, a very bad one. A coach coming in with an impressive record, but one at a perceived lower level, the Big Sky in this case, but without a household name wasn't going to automatically get an outward show of support from the existing guard, but Tinkle did.

Every Oregon St. player will also be going to summer school, something Tinkle strongly wanted to see, for academic reasons, team building reasons, and work load balancing during basketball season reasons as well.

Tinkle also put himself into the middle of the masses, participating in the taping of an interactive session for an upcoming episode of the Ellen DeGeneres show, which will air next Wednesday.

It was part of an afternoon in which Tinkle got out and got himself immersed in campus life, not just meeting or speaking to students, but engaging them, something even the more popular and successful Oregon St. coaches rarely do.

Those students are important for several reasons. First and foremost, because they are a part of a distinct Ralph Miller Court advantage. Robinson consistently acknowledged the difference the fans made, and he was right; his teams were 67-40 at home, and just 20-55 in true road games. This while seeing attendance drop to its lowest total in the 65 year history of Gill Coliseum. Getting the fans who live closest to Gill Coliseum, and are all courtside, back in force will help with immediate results, and Tinkle both understands that, and understands what that will take.

"Have to give them a reason to go. An exciting brand of basketball in a coaches mind is winning basketball," Tinkle said.

Those students are also the future customers, and it one of the things Oregon St. must fix is getting a ticket buying fan base that will actually show up, and reduce the embarrassing array of empty orange seats everyone sees on tv behind the benches. That requires interest and wins, and Tinkle grasps that, moving beyond the "exciting brand of basketball" ploy.

Tinkle also recoginzes the need to not just pay lip service to customers and investors, who are too often seen as just fans and donors.

"The people in the community, they are a part of the team as well," Tinkle said, and at least on his first day, his actions matched his words, which already has him ahead of some of his contemporaries.

Tinkle also represents a return to emphasis on local talent, something Robinson never had any real success with, if he even tried.
"We are going to start local. If you don't have players from your area, who grew up watching Beaver Basketball, it's hard to get others to buy in."

Tinkle might actually reconnect with the region's high school coaches, something Robinson seemed disinterested in, which at least will rekindle local interest during lean times that may ensue while rebuilding the program is underway.

Based on how Montana scheduled during his tenure, there's also hope that we will see the return of some Big Sky, Big West, and West Coast Conference opponents, and an end to games against teams from the Mediocre Athletic (MEAC) and Surprisingly Weak (SWAC) Conferences, game that had zero benefit in terms of recruiting or sales.

Tinkle won at Montana, where he was 158-91, and 97-39 in the Big Sky, going to 4 straight conference tournament title games, and winning 3, which in turn took the Grizzlies to the NCAA Tournament 3 times.

He also played there, and was an assistant coach there, so there was no pressure to leave, unless it truly was for a good situation, both in terms of the fit, and the likelihood of succeeding. So Corvallis isn't likely to be a stop-over, and therefore he will be willing to invest the considerable effort it will take to turn around a program that has been nearly a quarter century without an NCAA appearance, something that last happened in 1990.

Yet he understands he's taking on a tough gig, not something DeCarolis might have painted a rosy picture of.

"Tell me where there is an easy job?" Tinkle said in response to questions and concerns about the challenges facing him.

"He has the (winning) record, but he's also the right 'fit'; someone who understands and fits with the community and the Oregon State culture," De Carolis added.

There's also an interesting element to Tinkle as a coach that could play well to what talent is on hand.

At 6'10", Tinkle grasps the increasingly underdeveloped role of the truly big man.

7' sophomore to be Cheikh N'diaye and 6'10" junior to be Daniel Gomis should benefit from Tinkle as they might not under any other coach in the conference. And if Oregon St. is going to "steal" some games before a more fortified roster can be put in place, a powerful post presence is a way to do it that a lot of opponents might find hardest to match up with.

It also lends credence to Tinkle's stated aim of rebounding and protecting the rim on the other end as priorities, areas that at times were glaring causes of the difference between wins and losses in recent seasons.

Robinson didn't set out to underperform, and Jay John didn't try to fail on an unprecedented level, so only time will tell how the Tinkle era will work out, aside from the inevitable humor in poor taste that's already occurring. But there at least was some style with some substance to back it up on day 1.

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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