Wayne Tinkle led Montana
to a 158-91 record in eight seasons. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
Wayne Tinkle is expected to be the next coach at Oregon State, moving along after eight seasons and 158 wins at his alma mater, Montana. It's about the least inventive move that the school could make: A coach from a nearby lower-profile program tasked with jumpstarting a sputtering high-major outfit.
That doesn't necessarily make the move, first reported by The Oregonian on Sunday, doomed. It's just ho-hum, similar to the choice another struggling Pac-12 team made five years back in hiring a different up-and-coming Big Sky coach. After luring Ken Bone away from Portland State, Washington State never finished better than .500 in league play, and so it fired Bone and went looking for another coach this offseason, too.
It could be that Oregon State's pursuit of Ben Howland hit impassable road blocks – money, perks, whatever – and it could be that name assistants like Arizona's Damon Stoudamire truly weren't impressive or interested enough. It could be that Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins, a reported finalist and the sort of intriguing candidate who blends credibility and untapped potential, wasn't sure about leaving Jim Boeheim's side for one of the toughest jobs on the West Coast. It could be that Oregon State really did look, that it really did try to color outside the lines a bit before circumstances led it to Wayne Tinkle.
And Oregon State is left to hire and hope again. The school went the experienced assistant route with Arizona's Jay John in 2002, and that lasted six years before a firing. The school overextended its imagination in choosing the relatively unproven Craig Robinson in 2008 only to fire him after six years, too.
So here's what the Tinkle hire doesn't seem to be for athletic director Bob De Carolis: A repeat of the same mistake.
Wayne Tinkle is not in his head coaching infancy, as Robinson was two years into the Brown job. He isn't being hauled clear across the country and into unfamiliar territory, as Robinson was. Tinkle's Montana teams made three NCAA tournament appearances and four postseason appearances overall in the past five years. While a program such as Oregon State needs to think creatively or take some risk in order to extricate itself from mediocrity, it also now has an infrastructure that suggests it can hedge its bets. It has a new $15 million practice facility. It must replace its top five scorers from last season, but one of Robinson's successes was proving that talent would come to Corvallis, as he had two top 100 players and another four-star prospect in his first two recruiting classes. Oregon State hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 1990, so it still must take some chances. But it doesn't have to take near-complete fliers as it did on Robinson, and in that sense a Howland or a Hopkins or a Tinkle all would have suited the program well.
When he arrived, Robinson faced the two-tiered challenge of acquiring talent and then implementing it effectively. His failures in the latter task – Oregon State won just 36 percent of its Pac-12 games during his tenure – cost him his job. Six years later, Tinkle faces a strikingly similar test. He has to restock a roster depleted by graduation, early NBA departures and transfers and then coach it well enough to get Oregon State into the top half of the Pac-12, and therefore most likely back into the NCAA tournament. The difference may be the resources Tinkle has to make that happen, but it's not like Oregon State is flush, either. Ultimately he's the local guy with some experience brought in to right the ship, and if it's not a plainly successful or invigorating hire, it at least doesn't look like a mistake.