Oregon State has again fired its basketball coach, and the chorus sings you-can’t-win-there.
Oregon State isn’t any more a coach-killer or basketball outpost than Iowa State or Wichita State, teams that combined for a 63-9 record this season.
The quality of life in Corvallis, Oregon, is certainly as good, or superior, to that in Waco, Texas, where Baylor has won 79 basketball games the last three seasons.
Have you ever been to Spokane, Washington, in the winter? Ice, baby. Drive 90 minutes from the Gonzaga campus and you’re in Canada.
That’s an outpost.
Oregon State is ranked No. 1 in college baseball. Incredible. Corvallis is the Rain Belt of America during baseball season. Yet Pat Casey has won two NCAA championships in recent years. He has a better baseball program than USC and UCLA.
The Beavers football program has been superior to those at Arizona and ASU over the last 15 years. And you can’t get top players to Corvallis? Mike Riley does.
There isn’t anything wrong with OSU basketball that Damon Stoudamire can’t fix. He has the pedigree and street cred that has escaped Oregon State since sainted Ralph Miller retired 25 years ago.
To hire Stoudamire, the second-best basketball player in Arizona history, Oregon State athletic director Bob DeCarolis would need to be bright enough to say no to the predictable and safe search-firm methods that helped to bury the Beavers for a quarter-century.
Don’t hire the trusted assistant and old-school hero: Jimmy Anderson, fired in 1995.
Don’t hire the hot young guy from a small school: East Carolina’s Eddie Payne, fired in 2000.
Don’t hire the trendy minority candidate: Colorado State’s Ritchie McKay, gone in 2002.
Don’t hire the career assistant: Jay John —bless him — from Butler, Oregon, Arizona and USF, fired in 2008.
Don’t hire the president’s brother-in-law: Craig Robinson, fired three days ago.
Hire Damon Stoudamire before someone else thinks of it first.
Stoudamire is from the Josh Pastner coaching tree, which is college basketball’s way of saying that in the 21st century you no longer need to hire a retread like Ben Howland or Ernie Kent and fund their retirement years.
It’s not microbiology. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many dues you’ve paid — if you can recruit two or three really good players, if you can hire a lieutenant wise in the ways of X’s and O’s, you can win.
Pastner is 36. He has already won 130 games at Memphis. Times change. When Lute Olson was 36, he was a junior-college coach.
This couldn’t be any easier for DeCarolis if it were placed on a tee.
Stoudamire is 40. He has worked the AAU recruiting circuit for four years, first under Pastner, now under Sean Miller. He’s a dude. Do you know what that means? He can communicate with the AAU coaches and the teenagers on their roster.
Do you know what UA insiders say about Stoudamire? They say he works his butt off. He didn’t return to his alma mater on a celebrity tour, bored and looking for a way to kill time. He was already on an NBA coaching staff, in Memphis. If he wanted the easy way, he would have stayed in a league where there is no 24/7 recruiting.
No one in the college coaching business has more Oregon blood than Stoudamire.
I was in the crowd at OSU’s Gill Coliseum in 1995 when Stoudamire required 27 tickets to accommodate his friends from nearby Portland for the Arizona-Oregon State game. He led Wilson High School to the 1989 and 1991 Oregon state championships. He played eight seasons for the Portland Trail Blazers.
The risk might be more on Stoudamire’s part than OSU’s. If Stoudamire remains at Arizona for a few more years, his jumping-off point to a head coaching job could improve considerably.
But realistically, the starting point for every assistant who has left Arizona has been to a school with serious issues: Rice, San Jose State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Detroit, Dayton, Ball State, Texas-San Antonio.
Gill Coliseum is ancient and needs an inner-bowl renovation much the same way McKale Center does. But OSU’s new 34,000-square-foot basketball practice facility is as good as any in the Pac-12.
Oregon State has better basketball facilities than Stanford and Cal.
When DeCarolis fully researches Stoudamire’s background, he’ll discover that Damon played for seven NBA coaches, from Mike Dunleavy and Mike Fratello to Maurice Cheeks and Gregg Popovich.
The education of a 13-year NBA point guard is priceless. It’s not necessarily that he learned how to be a good coach; it’s also that he learned how not to be a bad coach.
In April 1991, Stoudamire chose Arizona over Louisville in a highly publicized decision that went to the final hour. I called OSU assistant coach Andy McClouskey the next day; he had been a friend since my days covering the Beavers during the Ralph Miller era, including when OSU was ranked No. 1 in the nation.
“We’re catching hell for not keeping him home,” McClouskey said.
Now the Beavers have a chance to bring Stoudamire home in a way they never could have imagined.