Oregon men are still in transitional phase

2011-01-20T23:08:00Z Oregon men are still in transitional phaseBy Jesse Sowa, For the Gazette-Times Corvallis Gazette Times
January 20, 2011 11:08 pm  • 

EUGENE - The changeover in head coaches for the Oregon men's basketball program might best be described as a bumpy transition so far.

Dana Altman had some big shoes to fill when he took over the program last spring.

Altman was taking the spot of Ernie Kent, who made two trips to the NCAA Elite Eight and is the winningest coach in school history.

The Ducks are 8-10 overall and 1-5 in Pacific-10 Conference play entering Saturday's 334th Civil War at Oregon State.

"Our numbers haven't been what we had hoped. But the guys have been great," Altman said Thursday after his team wrapped up practice.

"There haven't been a lot of problems. We've just had trouble finishing some plays. We're not anywhere near where we want to be, but the guys have been great."

Altman came to the Ducks from Creighton, where he won 20 or more games 11 straight seasons and helped the school reach the postseason 13 times in a row, including seven NCAA tournaments.

Oregon guard Garrett Sim admitted he didn't recognize the name of his new coach when it was announced. But when the junior from Portland's Sunset High heard Creighton he knew it was a good thing.

"I didn't follow Creighton, but Creighton is always a good team," Sim said. "I had a lot of respect for that. I knew he was a productive coach, so I was excited about that."

Sim said the most difficult part has been learning a new system, where to get your shots in the offense and how to get teammates open. He credits his new coach with bringing intensity every day but for also keeping a positive atmosphere.

Altman says there haven't been a lot of high points in the season, but he remains upbeat about the future.

"I enjoy coming to the gym," he said. "We haven't had the wins. We haven't finished the games the way we want. It's been good working with the players. I think there's plenty in front of us."

Altman brings with him a physical style of play, which drew some negative comments from a few UCLA players last Saturday. The Bruins claimed the Ducks were making some "cheapshots."

Oregon State's Omari Johnson did less finger-pointing earlier this week, calling Oregon's players a "feisty bunch of dudes."

"Coach told us from the beginning of the year ... we're a smaller team, we have to outwork teams," Sim said. "We definitely don't try to cheap-shot teams, that's not a goal of ours. We just try and come out and out-work teams.

"We know we're smaller. We have to box out. We have to move guys and hit guys to keep them out of the lane."

Oregon sophomore forward E.J. Singler says the coaching change has been "tough."

In such a situation, there's a lot for the players to learn as well as the new coaching staff. The Ducks also have three new assistant coaches.

But Singler, from South Medford High, credited Altman with progress so far.

"It just takes time to understand each other, for the players to understand the coach and the coach to understand the players," Singler said. "In due time we're going to really understand each other, really be on the same page and everything is going to start clicking."

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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