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Searching for Dennis Erickson

Note: The following comment from "EngineerScotty" come in yesterday in response to my "Defending the Craig Robinson Hire" post. It deserves front page recognition, and here it is: --JB--

I think that there are some in Beaver fandom who remember the impact that Dennis Erickson had on the OSU football team--and forget the years immediately preceding.  They remember DE getting the Beavs their first winning season in forever in Year 1, and an 11-win season (and I think we would have given Oklahoma a better fight than FSU had we made it to the Orange Bowl).  There is an assumption that what worked for football, would work for basketball.

And Dennis Erickson did benefit the program intensely.  He's one of the best recruiters in the business, he knows the game, and he knows how to motivate.  Of course, DE has lots of flaws as well--he always keeps an eye on the exit, he'll lie through his teeth to your face if it suits him, and he tolerated a lot of nonsense while he was here.

But the rebuilding of the OSU football program from laughingstock to one of the top 30 programs in Division 1 happened way before Erickson was brought in.  Arguably, it happened with the Pettibone hire--a coach who insisted upon hard work, and used an unorthodox system (the wishbone) which made the Beavs a difficult team to prepare for.  Granted, the 'bone isn't gonna get you to the Rose Bowl (or even to any bowl), but OSU football at that time needed to take that first step--from god-awful to mediocre, and Pettibone enabled it.  Unfortunately for Pettibone--mediocre still gets you fired after a while.  Mike Riley was step 2 (and 4) of the rebuilding program, and Dennis Erickson was the capstone--the guy who put OSU football on the map.  Once he left, a less-known guy like Riley could successfully run a program and have a chance at good recruits, whereas before, the Beavs were generally getting players who were considered not good enough to play elsewhere.

Right now, the OSU basketball program is where the OSU football program was in 1991--in the toilet.  We're not ready for a Dennis Erickson; and no coach with those credentials is going to come here--at least not for the terms we can offer.  The Beavs need to take that first step--to mediocre--before we're even on the radar screen of a "big-name" coach.  

Is Craig Robinson the basketball equivalent of Jerry Pettibone?  I don't know.  Some similarities are apparent--Robinson is known for using a Princeton offense; which while not as unorthodox in hoops as the wishbone is in football, is a "use this if your players suck" offensive strategy.  It's a scheme you generally don't run if you have talented scorers who can reliably create their own shots.  As others have indicated, it probably is good for a few wins next year, as opposing teams won't be used to defending against it.  However, it isn't the scheme that will get the Beavers back to the NIT (let alone the NCAAs)--star caliber players often don't like it, as it de-emphasizes guys who can beat a defense by themselves.  In short--it's a good scheme to get us to mediocrity.  Whether Robinson is a "believer" in the Princeton, and intends to employ it everywhere he goes, or would use other offensive sets given the appropriate players, I don't know.

It could be, that Robinson will be the coach that brings us to respectability single-handedly; that the OSU basketball team will not need a series of coaches (and nearly a decade) to do it.  You only need a handful of guys to have a good basketball team, not the dozens that football requires.  It could be that Robinson is indeed a Pettibone--and that his OSU tenure will end with his firing, but his successor will do well with the foundation he has built.  Or, he could be yet another Dave Kragthorpe or Jay John--a guy who succeeds at lower levels of college ball, but doesn't succeed in the Pac-10.  Only time will tell.

But for those who are searching for Dennis Erickson--don't.  The basketball equivalent of Dennis Erickson (that would be Larry Brown) ain't coming to Corvallis.  The Beavers are not ready.



Again, I'm interested to hear your comments.