The mighty Duck
Oregon's Altman takes rightful place among coaching giants
INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA men’s basketball tournament has created high points in the careers of Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino. And with the impressive head coaching resumes that accompany those names, they are recognizable for good reason.
Those three coaches boast six national championships and 23 Final Four appearances, making them annual tournament threats and household names. With a Midwest Regional stacked with Hall of Fame caliber coaches and matchups worthy of a Final Four showdown, it seems easy for No. 12 seed Oregon and its head coach, Dana Altman, to get lost in the shuffle.
But according to the other coaches gathered for Friday night’s highly anticipated Sweet 16 games, Altman is exactly where he belongs.
“He’s every bit as good as any coach that I’ll coach against,” said Pitino, whose top-seeded Louisville team will face the Ducks in the regional semifinals. “I have not coached against Dana, but I have always watched his teams at Creighton.”
Michigan State's Izzo agreed. “The job he did at Creighton was phenomenal. When he got hired out there [at Oregon], I told people, ‘He’s going to be successful.’ Successful people are going to be good no matter where they’re placed," Izzo said.
Altman is no stranger to success. Before arriving at Oregon in 2010, he spent 16 years as head coach at Creighton. During that time, his 327-176 record made Altman the school’s all-time winningest coach. He led the Bluejays to seven NCAA tournaments and five NIT appearances.
In the eyes of Oregon’s leading scorer, forward E.J. Singler, Altman has lived up to the high expectations. “He’s done an unbelievable job the past three years he’s been here,” Singler said. “This year really has been his first true recruiting class and that’s made a huge difference. … Overall, he’s been a really, really good coach and he’s taken Oregon basketball to the next level.”
For Altman, the next level of Oregon basketball has included his first appearance in the Sweet 16 and the honor of being named the Pac-12 coach of the year. So, how does he feel about competing against high-caliber coaches such as Pitino, Krzyzewski and Izzo?
“It’s exciting,” he said. “Those three guys have unbelievable careers and they’re all going to be Hall of Fame coaches. … [They] have accomplished what a lot of younger coaches would love to accomplish and they’ve done it in a way that everybody in the profession has great respect for them.”
However, as coaches often have a tendency to do, Altman quickly shifted the attention from himself to his players by stating that he wouldn’t be the one on the court competing against Louisville, the tournament's overall No. 1 seed.
According to Izzo, the player-first mentality is precisely the one Altman needs to win.
“[Altman will] do a great job,” he said. “It is a little harder, especially when you’re in a region that has guys with a lot of experience, but experience doesn’t win games. It helps you win games. Players win games.”
No matter how the Midwest Regional shakes out, Altman is sure to leave Indianapolis motivated by the success of Louisville, Duke and Michigan State’s head coaches.
“All three of those programs have great records, great traditions,” Altman said. “We’re trying to build a tradition. We’re trying to build something that consistently competes year in and year out and that’s a big challenge for us.”