A hard-fought game against what some would consider maybe against a lesser opponent, once again proved that Oregon State doesn’t always put it together on a nightly basis. It was another result that simply dragged the Beavers down after snapping a four-game losing skid at Stanford. And it put the question back on the table, the one that now has been looming for seasons, asking if we could finally be seeing the end of the Wayne Tinkle era in Corvallis. It’s one of those questions that’s answer is really still hidden somewhere in the clouds.
For one, Wayne Tinkle is not a bad college basketball coach. Between his time at Montana and at Oregon State, he’s made four trips to the NCAA Tournament and amassed a career 246-183 record. He’s overseen the growth of his own son Tres, into one of the top five players in the history of the program and he’s posted only one sub .500 year, during the infamous meltdown campaign in 2016-2017, when everything went wrong for a 5-27 team.
But in six seasons at Oregon State, things also haven’t been all rainbows and butterflies either.
The program has never won 20 games in a season under Tinkle, even during the 2015-2016 campaign, when he led the Beavers to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1990.
However, don’t let that stat fool you. Since 1990, Oregon State has had only one season where they broke that coveted 20-win plateau, which was the in 2011-2012 under then-head coach Craig Robinson and even that time around, they managed just a 7-11 conference mark that year. Not exactly a team for the ages.
And Tinkle’s one trip to the big dance, puts him in a category alongside names like Slats Gill, Ralph Miller, Paul Valenti and Jim Anderson as one of just five Beavers coaches who’s ever even made the NCAA Tournament. So maybe the question really to ask is, how much of a role should the relative mediocrity of the Oregon State program through time really factor into the decision of whether the Beavers should hang on to Tinkle or not.
For Beaver Nation, the biggest answer to this question may not only lie in how the 2019-2020 season comes to a close, but truly, in how much the narrative around the men’s program and the Pac-12 as a whole has changed. While Oregon has recently claimed the spot of top dog in the league, the fluid nature of the conference is breeding more parity than ever before. The days of Arizona and UCLA’s stronghold over the west coast are long gone. The chance to rise up the ranks is there. If only a program has what it takes to achieve such a feat.
The issues with moving on from Tinkle is that sure, there will be a change in the culture, but there also will be a level of a fall-out as well. Ethan Thompson, the team’s top returning looking ahead to the 2020-2021 season, is at Oregon State because his father Stephen Sr. is an assistant coach on the staff. His decision to remain on campus if the whole coaching staff were to be let go would likely be an easy one, considering he’d be a wanted commodity nationwide. It also wouldn’t hurt too much that next year’s roster for the Beavers looks extremely bare and filled with countless voids.
To carry on that point, one of the biggest criticisms of Tinkle when not discussing in-game adjustments, style of play and preparation methods for opponents, is that on the recruiting front, the Beavers are one of the league’s biggest enigmas and not for the right reasons. Throughout Tinkle’s tenure, the best recruits to come to Corvallis have mostly been the offspring of coaches and one main four-star recruit in Drew Eubanks.
Outside of that, Tinkle has seen 10 of his 22 signed recruits transfer out of the program, most of them well before their upperclassmen years. Player development has been sporadic, with crucial players not necessarily growing into their roles as expected. And in all, the true guts and grit of the program, the way the Beavers operate within their system, has been a needle in a haystack scenario more times than not. If you can’t answer what kind of team a program brings to the court after six seasons of a coach being at the helm, then maybe the hot-seat question is more warranted than you think.
So yes, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is the issue with Oregon State basketball, but like when a company is in trouble and the boss gets fired, the old saying of “they can’t fire the players” comes to mind. If there’s going to be someone who takes the fall for the current state of affairs for the Beavers, it’ll be Tinkle and rightfully so.
But is it the best move for the program overall? Well, for the answer to that question, I think only time will tell.