Where Is The Wizard?


Déjà vu (according to Wikipedia): from French, literally "already seen", is the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced had been experienced in the past.

Yes, when it comes to Oregon State University’s men’s basketball, there appears to be an overwhelming sensation that we have been here before. After the Beavs closed out their year with a season ending typical ’close but so far’ performance loss to the Colorado Buffaloes, 74-68 in the Pac 12 Conference Tournament, Beaver nation again resides in bewilderment. We have been down this road enough times.

Instead of dreaming or joining March Madness, Corvallis again slides in to a basketball coma for another Spring and Summer. More cobwebs for the Gill Coliseum rafters. No one has a problem of going down the yellow brick road to happiness. Finding IT is the underlying problem.

From 1929 through 1989, a span of sixty years, Oregon State had three basketball coaches: Slats Gill, Paul Valenti and Ralph Miller. After Miller, six men have coached the team in 23 years. Not one has coached more than six years in the basketball director‘s chair. The current resident is Craig Robinson, who has led the team since the beginning of the 2008-2009 season.

Athletic director Bob DeCarolis has done a magnificent job with all the OSU sports programs. One of his best moves was not placing Charlie Sitton (former Beaver standout) as OSU basketball coach. Sometimes players, because they have played or left a legacy, does not necessarily mean they will be great coach. There is always fine line on who is responsible for winning and losing. The analogy correlates with a team and his players as it does the with the AD and head coaches. DeCarolis hires someone and it is up to him or her to perform. Same as a coach putting players on the field or court. Once out there, these players are in a position to do what the coaches teach them. However, at some point, the coaches are responsible for the direction of their respective programs.

Robinson took over a maligned program spearheaded by coach Jay John, someone whose ship I was never able to board. His strategy seemed perplexing to me. Once, in a game against the Washington Huskies at Gill Coliseum, the Beavs were leading by two with five seconds to go. Instead of applying full court pressure, John had the OSU defense hang back allowing the Huskies to do the inbound roll (keeping the clock from starting) all the way across half court. Washington’s Nate Robinson grabbed the ball, took two dribbles and nailed a three pointer to beat the Beavers. Prevent defense. Basketball or football, does not matter. All the prevent defense does is prevent you from winning.

In five full seasons, John never had a winning record in conference play as head coach of the Beavers. In mid season 2007-2008, after going 0-6 in conference, he was relieved by interim coach Kevin Mouton. John’s predecessor did not fare much better. Ritchie McKay won eight conference games- in two years. Brrrr.

Oregon State ranks 20th on the all time NCAA Division I victory list. Had the team kept a slightly lower winning percentage achieved during the Miller era or above .500 most of the 23 years following, the Beavers could be standing in the top 10 of that list with the elites such as North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA. It is certainly not the end. But one has to wonder if the hoopsters are heading in the direction the football team was once in, the lost world of losing seasons for decades.

Robinson can get OSU back on the winning track. Looking back, hiring Robinson was a great move. It still can be. That being said, this off season and next year will be critical in the Robinson tenure. Of the fears facing Beaver nation will be that of the same progression of John who was held over a half season too long (if not longer). Robinson’s stock is sinking, becoming a slow, depreciating asset. Heading in to his sixth season the time is now for dividends to start paying off.

So, of the many questions that lingers, how do we get to Oz? You know, the land of make believe? The lollipop guild, good witches and ruby slippers? More importantly, brains, courage and heart? Because the Beavs need a lot of the latter three if we are to get back to basketball‘s version of the Emerald City.