Having already seen former Montana coach Larry Krystkowiak take previously struggling Utah to the cusp of contention in the Pac-12, Oregon State is hopeful another coach hailing from the same school might be able to engineer a similarly impressive turnaround.
Oregon State will announce that it is hiring Montana's Wayne Tinkle to replace recently fired Craig Robinson, the Oregonian and other outlets reported Sunday night. Arizona assistant Damon Stoudamire, Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins and former Cal assistant Travis DeCuire had each also been linked to the job since ex-UCLA coach Ben Howland removed his name from consideration last week.
Though the hire of Tinkle probably isn't a big enough splash to immediately satisfy Oregon State donors, his track record makes him a logical choice for the job. He was part of three NCAA tournament teams as a Montana assistant under Don Holst and Krystkowiak before leading the Griz to three more NCAA tournaments in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
Fueling those three runs were under-the-radar recruits Tinkle uncovered and sold on coming to Missoula. Two years before he arrived at Montana, standout guard Anthony Johnson had quit basketball and was washing dishes at a seafood restaurant in Tacoma, Wash. to try to save up for a car. All-Big Sky guard Will Cherry had zero scholarship offers when he visited Montana early in his senior year at McClymonds High in Oakland, Calif., while Kareem Jamar also was under-recruited as the third and fourth option on loaded high school and AAU teams.
Tinkle will need to sprinkle in some more highly touted recruits to win at Oregon State, but the ability to identify and develop lesser-known prospects will serve him well in Corvallis. The previous staff upgraded the talent level at Oregon State by landing the likes of Jared Cunningham, Roberto Nelson, Eric Moreland and Devon Collier, but Robinson finished eighth or higher in the Pac-12 only once in six years because he could never parlay recruiting success into a cohesive team.
The challenge Tinkle inherits at Oregon State is a daunting one.
This is a program that has only produced two winning seasons in the past 25 years; That hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 1990 when Gary Payton was still in uniform; That already was probably the second toughest job in the Pac-12 even before the offseason exodus that will leave Tinkle with a threadbare roster and no returning starters from last season.
Tinkle will require patience to get Oregon State competitive in the Pac-12 again, but he already has a leg up in recruiting before his first official day on the job. There's a good chance that Tres Tinkle, Rivals.com's No. 124 player in the Class of 2015, will join his dad in Corvallis.
It will take more than one player to rebuild at Oregon State, but expect Tinkle to follow the same path that his former boss Krystkowiak has.
In Krystkowiak's first year at Utah, the Utes went a dismal 6-25 after eight players left the program before the start of the season, the starting center was lost for the season to a foot injury and the starting point guard was dismissed midway through the season. Krystkowiak weathered that disappointment and gradually rebuilt by upgrading his roster via recruiting and emphasizing defense and discipline.
Where Utah was a few years ago is close to where Oregon State is today. Where Utah is today is where Oregon State hopes to get under Tinkle.
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