Wayne Tinkle didn’t rush into picking his assistants.
Oregon State’s new men’s basketball coach took his time and got the combined knowledge, experience, energy and character he was looking for in Gregg Gottlieb, Kerry Rupp and Stephen Thompson.
With no time to waste given their relatively late arrivals on campus, each has hit the ground running as the program begins another rebuilding process.
All three have had success at previous collegiate coaching stops: Gottlieb at San Diego State and California; Rupp at Utah, Indiana and Montana; and Thompson at NCAA Division II Cal State Los Angeles.
There’s a path to be followed, though it might not be as simple as replicating what was done at those other schools.
“It’s about putting in the effort and putting in the hard work in this new situation and bringing past experiences that have made you successful in this business. But even pushing it a little further than that,” Thompson said. “We bring all these different qualities and abilities and making it come together and presenting it to these young men and getting them to believe in it.”
Gottlieb worked under Steve Fisher at San Diego State, where wins were at first hard to come by. The Aztecs would eventually win their first-ever conference title and go to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 17 years.
At Cal, the Bears went from near the bottom of the standings to winning the conference for the first time in five decades. In Gottlieb’s last six years there, Cal never finished lower than fourth.
“There’s a little bit of a formula for how you want to do things, for sure,” Gottlieb said. “Obviously you need to adjust it a little bit depending on the school, the location, all the other factors. I think for the most part you’re going to rely on your experience to help you navigate in situations.”
Rupp, who coached under Tinkle the past two years at Montana, had the confidence in Tinkle to make the move to Corvallis and is now OSU’s associate head coach.
Rupp’s career has included work at six (and now seven) Division I schools, including the head coaching position at Louisiana Tech for four seasons.
He saw what Tinkle had accomplished previous to Rupp’s arrival in Missoula and wanted to be a part of it.
“I think coach has a good feel and a grasp of what it takes to win,” Rupp said. “He does it with a great system and a great approach.”
All three assistants have been on campus for just a few weeks and recruiting efforts are under way.
They’re trying to fill the gaps left by the departure of nine players: six via graduation and three for other various reasons.
Corvallis is off the beaten path, compared to some other West Coast destinations. But Gottlieb doesn’t look at that as a negative.
“When you’re not close to a lot of players you have to work at it,” he said. “It’s the same thing when I was at Cal ... it’s not easy to get kids there all the time. They’ve got a thousand things going on. I think that’s the same wherever you are. That’s going to be our task, getting kids on campus.”
Gottlieb added that the resources and recruiting tools are in place, noting the Oregon State Basketball Center and a picturesque campus.
“You have to have a product to sell,” he said. “I think we’ve got a great product right here. If I didn’t believe in it I couldn’t take the job.”
Tinkle has hired a staff full of talented recruiters.
Rupp was Utah’s primary recruiter of Andrew Bogut, later the national player of the year with the Utes.
Gottlieb helped bring to Cal eventual all-conference players such as Ryan Anderson, Justin Cobbs, Allen Crabbe and Jorge Gutierrez.
Thompson, a former standout at Syracuse, developed Cal State L.A. into one of the top defensive teams in Division II.
“It’s one part to get players here that are of the right fit, and then we’ve got to coach and develop them,” Tinkle said. “The neat thing is, not only can they get us involved with some good players but then they can really help to coach, train and mentor those student-athletes once they’re here.”