Wayne Tinkle has had a busy schedule in the two weeks since being named Oregon State’s new men’s basketball coach.
On the top of his to-do list has been connecting with his new players. He knows the emotional roller coaster they’ve been on since Craig Robinson was fired on May 1 after six seasons.
Also high on Tinkle’s list is forming his staff. He hopes to announce at least a few of those hires by Monday.
A one-on-one interview with Tinkle on Friday morning covered a variety of topics.
Here is a transcript of the conversation, edited for length and clarity.
What’s the status of your current roster?
WT: “Everybody is on board at this point. They’re excited. They’ve been through some tough times and they’re looking for some direction and some enthusiasm moving forward.”
You got confirmations from two signees, Chai Baker and Gary Payton II, on their plans to come to OSU. What about signees Isaiah Manderson and Cameron Oliver?
WT: “We’re working to try and make progress there. I’m sure they want us to recruit them and get to know us a little bit. We’ll see how that goes.”
What are your thoughts on looking at fifth-year transfers and having one available for next year?
(The Beavers lost University of Maryland transfer Nick Faust, a shooting guard who decommitted from OSU soon after Robinson was let go. Faust would have been available for the 2015-16 season.)
WT: “There’s some potential. We haven’t done that at Montana and I’m not sure if I’m sold yet on whether that’s a good thing or not. You know, getting somebody for just one year when they know it’s their last hurrah. What I don’t want to do is fill out a roster just to fill out a roster. We want to make sure we’re identifying the kind of recruits that we want and the student-athletes that we want.”
How similar do you think the recruiting is going to be between Missoula and Corvallis?
WT: “I think we’ll have to use a lot of the same tactics. Kids from the city, or different areas of the United States, when they thought Montana they probably thought covered wagons, cowboys, riding horses, sheep, cows … and so getting them interested in coming on a visit was tough. But that’s when we sold ourselves and what we stood for and built those relationships. When it was time to invite them to campus they were excited and they fell in love with it.
“I think that’s what we’re going to have to do here: sell people, which is what we do anyway, on ourselves and what we stand for. Then get them to agree to come on a trip and show them all the wonderful things we have here in Corvallis and on campus at OSU.”
How big of a selling point is the OSU Basketball Center?
WT: “It’s a big advantage. Our approach is selling all the positive things we do have and not worrying about what we don’t or what somebody else might have more than us. Those that buy into that are the ones we want to have here and coach. Those that don’t we’ll let them go elsewhere.
“But it is really neat because we had the same struggles at Montana when our arena wasn’t available because of concerts, trade shows, all that. But it’s hard to tell your guys you don’t have 24/7 access. So here we won’t have that obstacle. That’s a big thing.”
What are your expectations for this coming season whether it’s win/loss or otherwise?
WT: “I know people probably aren’t going to be excited about the way I say this … my expectation is just to really get engrained in the way we play. We’re going to play hard, we’re going to play smart, we’re going to play together, we’re going to play for 40 minutes from tap to finish. And so, we really need to address those things first and foremost, and then when we add the pieces we feel we may need to add, we develop the players we have currently into better players. Then when the time’s right, it will all come together and it will equate into more wins and more success.”
I’m sure people are interested in Tres and what he’s going to do next school year.
(Tinkle’s son is a highly recruited basketball player and a junior at Missoula’s Hellgate High School, where he won a state title this past winter.)
WT: “Initially he thought, ‘how can I leave all my friends from my senior year?’ They had goals as a team. Then he came out here. It was neat, some people from both CHS and CV reached out to him on Facebook and were trying to talk him into choosing their school.
“So, I think once he gets out here and can spend some time and get to know some people, then it will be an easy decision for him. We’re very close-knit, so the allure of staying and trying to win another championship there was great. But when he starts to realize Mom and Dad aren’t going to be there and we can’t see him, he can’t see us, that will figure into the equation.
“Hopefully we will have him out here. But we do need to be sensitive to it going into his senior year. But kids are resilient. We tell our guys and we tell our family all the time, curveballs are thrown at you all the time and you’ve got to deal with it.”
Is it almost a dream he could be playing for you in a year or two?
WT: “That excites us, the possibility. You’ve got to be careful though, because you’ve got to handle it the right way. I don’t want to be unfair and be tougher on him because he is my son than the rest of the guys. That wouldn’t be fair. I know I wouldn’t err on the other side, which is to not be hard at him because he’s my son.
“We’re going to let him go through the process. He’s earned that. You know, some schools have already crossed him off the list. They shouldn’t, because we may come to the decision that it might be better if he were somewhere else and get the total experience. But we’ll approach that decision cautiously and make the decision that’s best for him.”
How hard was it to leave Montana given your time there, your success and all your connections?
(Tinkle lived in Montana for 25 years, coaching the Grizzlies for the past 13.)
WT: “Very, very difficult. But I’ll say this first, there hasn’t been one nanosecond of regret. There’s been so many positives.
“I’m a big kind of karma, fate guy. There’s just been a calmness about this whole deal. There’s been no nerves, there’s been no anxiety. I feel very comfortable about it.
“The people, just like Corvallis are what make it such a neat place. So it was hard to consider it and then ultimately put that behind us. The relationships with the players past and present is really going to eat at me. But we’re so engulfed in what we’ve got to do here right now, we won’t be able to think about those days for a while. We’ll always have a big piece of us back there in Montana.”
The fact that you haven’t had any second-guessing, does that tell you internally that this is the right decision?
(Tinkle described the rainbow he saw outside his house in Missoula after signing the Oregon State contract. Then, as the family traveled back to Montana from Portland last weekend, the Alaska Airlines plane they boarded happened to be OSU-themed.)
WT: “So there’s been some pretty cool signs from somewhere that this is going to be a heck of a deal, and we’re excited about the challenge and the opportunity.”