Canzano: A dozen things to look for in 2024
Football, basketball and Bill Walton
Remember when Dana Altman was angry at the world? It was March of 2023 and the University of Oregon men’s basketball coach fumed about the lack of fan support and poor play in a season-ending loss to Wisconsin.
“If it’s me, then get rid of me,” Altman vented in the post-game news conference.
“Make the change,” he continued. “Somebody will hire me somewhere. I'll go coach junior college ball. I love junior college ball. Those guys are dogs. They want to be in the gym all the time. I love those guys. But 3,300 people? For Wisconsin? I’m disappointed.”
I texted with Altman early the next morning and told him “Nobody wants you going anywhere.” Altman called and said: “I’m not leaving, unless they want me to.”
Oregon’s coach told me: “I was mad at the world. It was the end of the season. We gave away the game at the free-throw line. We didn’t execute. I blew off some steam. I usually don’t do that. I did last night.”
The Ducks are 10-3 this season, including back-to-back wins last week against USC and UCLA. Altman didn’t have to leave for a junior college. He’s found some “dogs” in freshman guard Jackson Shelstad and forward Kwame Evans Jr.
Shelstad scored 21 and 20 points in the latest two victories and was the best guard on the court. If Altman can get his big guys (N’Faly Dante and Nate Bittle) healthy (back in January?), the Ducks aren’t just an NCAA Tournament team, they’re one that could rattle around the bracket.
Analyst Bill Walton is going to love these guys, isn’t he? I know some find his act grating, but I can’t wait to hear Walton call college basketball over the next few months. And I’m curious how Altman’s team will finish the season.
Here are 11 other things I’m looking forward to seeing, hearing and learning in 2024: