Canzano: Three coaches -- and three wins we shouldn't ignore
I weigh in on Oregon's Dan Lanning, Oregon State's Jonathan Smith and University of Portland's Shantay Legans
I’m sort of undecided right now on whether Dan Lanning will do better than the 8.5 victories that Las Vegas has him slated for next football season. But I am really enjoying the run-up to his first season as a head coach.
The University of Oregon football coach and his wife, Sauphia, have been hosting small groups of Ducks’ players at their new home in Eugene. They BBQ and play backyard games. It’s team-building stuff you see frequently with college programs, but there’s something organic and natural about the way Lanning is doing it, isn’t there?
Lanning and family hosted the “newcomers” this week. They played Corn Hole and Connect Four and appeared to be having a blast. Lots of people are living their best lives on social media, but the smiles in the photos, Lanning’s children, and the grounded feeling of the scene just oozes authenticity.
Now… over/under 8.5 wins?
Gun to my head?
If I have to answer today?
I’d lean “over” because I currently think UO will get to nine wins. Lanning has a great front seven on defense and his transfer quarterback, Bo Nix, is experienced. I correctly called Oregon’s upset of Ohio State last season, but I don’t think the Ducks can go to Atlanta and beat Georgia. However, I suspect Oregon will play the defending national champions closer than the 17.5-point spread the bookmakers put on the game.
The BYU game at Autzen Stadium in Week 3 is really important to Lanning’s first season. It will likely be the difference between starting 1-2 or 2-1. That’s a big swing with conference play starting a week later on the road vs. a dangerous Washington State program.
A 1-3 start would make getting to nine wins tough.
Lanning is all-in on the team building right now. It’s turned into an early off-field victory for the program. When there’s a coaching change, teams often become fractured. He’s doing everything in his power to pull together the group while continuing to recruit and plan for the season. Oregon has a big official-visit recruiting weekend coming up July 15-17. Before that, though, Lanning told me he’s planning to “disappear with the family” for a week in early July.
BEAVER TICKETS: Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes told me that Beavers’ football season tickets were “tracking at the best renewal rate in more than a decade.”
More than 90 percent from last season signed back on, in fact.
Give coach Jonathan Smith some credit there. When he arrived in the wake of Gary Andersen’s abrupt departure the fan base didn’t much feel like showing up and buying in.
OSU went 7-6 in 2021 and made the LA Bowl. Smith has fostered some great momentum and positive feelings around the program. Also, Barnes and his staff decided not to raise season-ticket prices.
Next season, the Beavers have a reduced stadium capacity (26,407) as the west side of Reser Stadium is being renovated. Ticket sellers tell me it has been tricky to accommodate the demand for a few key dates, particularly the home games vs. Boise State, vs. Cal (parents’ weekend) and the rivalry game vs. Oregon.
Oregon State’s non-conference games:
Sept. 3 vs. Boise State
Sept. 10 at Fresno State
Sept. 17 vs. Montana State (at Providence Park)
A 3-0 start is on the table for Smith, but not if OSU looks past Boise State and Fresno State. Boise State fans are expected to fill about 10 percent of the seats for that game at Reser Stadium. And Fresno State’s Bulldog Stadium — where a fan once threw a screwdriver at an opposing team’s bench — is one of the most difficult places to play.
The Montana State game is NOT included in the season-ticket package, incidentally. It’s a 5 p.m. kickoff in Portland. I love the novelty of this game being played in the state’s largest city. The Beavers haven’t played in Portland since losing 49-0 to UCLA in 1986 at what was then called Civic Stadium.
A home date vs. a Big Sky opponent wouldn’t normally move the needle, but I’m thinking some families who don’t normally make the trek to Corvallis will show up for this one.
TURNING IT AROUND: Former NBA great Terry Porter had a rough run as the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Portland.
Porter had a 43-104 record in five seasons on the job. He was especially bad in West Coast Conference games, posting a 7-70 mark. During his last three seasons Porter went 1-40 in conference play.
It’s why we shouldn’t ignore what his replacement, Shantay Legans, did in his first season. Legans was 19-15 overall and went 7-7 in WCC play. It was good for sixth place. A really encouraging first season. So encouraging that a member of the Board of Regents at UP told me over coffee that the university is feeling bullish about its men’s basketball hire.
Legans was born in Southern California, attended Dos Pueblos High (Goleta, Calif.) and then went to Cal to play basketball. He later transferred to Fresno State because he wanted to play for his long-time childhood mentor, Ray Lopes.
Legans was just an 8-year old when Lopes volunteered to mentor him through the “Big Brothers Big Sisters” program. He took Legans fishing, taught him to play golf, and then a couple of years later, showed up to watch him play an AAU game and was blown away.
“This little rascal could play,” Lopes told me earlier this year. “He could really play. He had a mouth on him, now. He was a talker on the floor. But he had the game to back it up.”
Turns out he can coach, too.
Legans went 75-49 in fours seasons at Eastern Washington and made the NCAA Tournament. AD Scott Leykam took note and hired him at UP after he fired Porter. I’m interested in what will happen in Legans’ second season with the Pilots, but it’s apparent that Leykam got the hire right.
MAILBAG: I’m going to post a mailbag in the coming days. Got a question? A thought? Sports related? Or not sports related? Let it rip. Shoot me an email, post in the comments here, or tweet me a question.
I’ll post the best questions and my answers.
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Don't sleep on Mike Meek, the women's basketball coach at U of P. He's building something special there. If he sticks around, the Pilots will soon be in the conversation for best Division I women's basketball program in Oregon.