Canzano: Oregon State wades through another kind of March Madness
One year later Wayne Tinkle watches Saint Peter's play Cinderella
I caught up with Wayne Tinkle on Saturday. It was just 12 months ago that Oregon State men’s basketball team danced into the Elite Eight as a No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
It was a wonderful story.
Now, Tinkle is busy gutting his program.
“It’s not as fun when you’re sitting at home and watching from your couch,” he said.
On Friday Tinkle informed long-time assistant Kerry Rupp that his contract wouldn’t be renewed. Another assistant, Stephen Thompson, was told he’d be re-assigned to another role in the OSU athletic department.
“It was brutal,” Tinkle said. “They’re members of your family. You love each other, you know their spouses and children. We’ve been through so much. It’s a terrible part of the job but it’s the nature of our profession.”
After Oregon State was eliminated from the Pac-12 Conference Tournament in Las Vegas a few weeks ago Tinkle’s team checked out of the Delano hotel and headed back to Corvallis. The coach packed up but decided to stay behind.
“I changed hotels,” he said. “I got away from all the team hotels. I needed some alone time. I needed some time with the family out by the pool. We had some in-laws there and friends there from college.
“I needed that time to decompress.”
Oregon State’s 3-28 season was historically disappointing. No Elite Eight participant had ever followed with so few victories in the ensuing season. How did it get so bad at OSU? Ask Tinkle and he’ll tell you that he misfired in recruiting last offseason. Also, that some of the returning players wilted under increased demands and expectations.
“We’ve been able to identify what some of the issues were and we’re addressing them,” he said. “Some people may be surprised that some of the guys won’t be back but what we’ve got to do is protect the program. When you’re on the outside looking in, it’s hard to see.
“Our culture took a hit — a big hit.”
Tinkle would have been a casualty himself had he not been given a long-term contract extension after last season. That deal runs through the 2026-27 season will pay the coach as much as $3 million per season. OSU simply couldn’t afford to make a coaching change and now Tinkle is starting over.
He told me on Saturday that he’d like to hire an experienced Division I assistant who can help be a voice in the room during practices and games. Also, he’d like to hire a recruiter who might open some new connections to talent.
“I do think we somehow didn’t get the right mix of personalities on the roster this last season,” he said. “It was a grinder of a year. When you add the ride we went on last year — to be totally blindsided is just disappointing and disheartening. Not being able to get the group to come together, it was a disappointment.”
I think part of what makes the season so alarming is that it came when we all expected Oregon State might surge. The Beavers played deep in last season’s tournament and we all expected them to parlay that into more success and stability.
Instead, the Beavers face planted.
“We felt like we weren’t able to coach them,” Tinkle said.
Tinkle said he’s watching Saint Peter’s University make their magical NCAA Tournament run. The No. 15 seed Peacocks advanced to the Elite Eight on and will play North Carolina on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four at stake.
“It sucks when you’re not involved,” Tinkle said. “It’s cool to see those stories that evolve like Saint Peter’s. Seeing the run they’re going has sparked some memories from our group from a year ago.
“That’s what makes it madness.”
CINDERELLA WATCH: Someone please send Saint Peter’s University a ‘thank you’ card for the work it has done in elevating the men’s NCAA Tournament in the last couple of weeks. My family was circled up in the living room on “National Peacock Day” watching the Peacocks knock out Purdue. I’ll bet yours was, too.
The No. 15 seed has now defeated No. 2 Kentucky, No. 7 Murray State and No. 3 Purdue in succession. Up next, No. 9-seed North Carolina on Sunday.
This tournament needed Saint Peter’s, didn’t it?
A couple of things:
The Saint Peter’s players didn’t blink in beating any of those more heralded programs. Not once. The Peacocks may play in a tiny gym in an unheralded conference, but they look and act like they belong. They play unfazed and I don’t expect that to change vs. UNC.
Saint Peter's men's basketball coach Shaheen Holloway made a salary of $266,344 in 2019 per university tax filings. Matt Painter at Purdue made more than $3 million in base salary. Seton Hall (Holloway’s alma mater) is currently looking to hire a men’s basketball coach. That’s not tricky math.
Just before his post-game interview with CBS’s Jamie Erdahl, Holloway was mobbed by his team. Erdahl asked the coach what he’d said to his players. He told her: “What they gonna say now? Anybody got something to say? We can’t do this, we can’t do that, Cinderella, underdogs. Listen, I got guys that just play basketball. I got a bunch of guys that just play basketball and have fun, that’s all we do.”
A No. 15-seed had never made the Elite Eight before the Peacocks did it. Saint Peter’s now has that distinction. No team lower than No. 11 has ever reached the Final Four, in case you’re wondering.
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First, thank you John for continuing what you do. Even though I didn't always agree with you, you were the best part of the Oregonian.
By chance, we flew to AZ on the same plane as our basketball team. Sat across the aisle from Coach Tinkle and gave him a little encouragement. He certainly needed it! Elite 8 was no small feat and I like to think that he can regroup and do good things again. Like you wrote, we certainly can't afford to get another coach.
Mike Parker was on the plane, too, and it was nice to finally meet him. What a fine gentleman he seems to be.
Speaking of good stories, UP men are fulfilling dreams too