There's really not a better word to describe our basketball program when you walked into it, Johnathan. We had come off two consecutive 9th place or worse finishes in the Pac-12. We fired a long-time head coach, had most of the existing talent exit out the door with him, and infamously botched the coaching search, leaving us with no commits and seemingly little hope that the program would improve in 2010. We were dejected, demoralized, and with an irrelevant basketball team that was outclassed by even the Oregon States and Washington States of the conference. We've had some dark hours around here, but there haven't been many that have been that dark.
You had options, Johnathan. You had offers from schools far more accomplished. Florida. Oklahoma. Michigan State. You could have stayed home and played at UNLV. You could have gone to one of the premier academic institutions in the world at Northwestern.
Yet, you called Oregon your "dream" school, citing the success of other smaller guards in Aaron Brooks and Tajuan Porter. In our darkest hour, you believed in us when few did. Those other schools could have had you competiting for national championships almost immediately. Here, you knew it was going to be a process. The program would need to be completely rebuilt.
It wasn't an easy rebuilding process. That first team looked like a roster straight out of the Big Sky. Somehow, that team won 20 games, and it's not hyperbole to say that may be one of the most incredible feats in the history of this program. We saw the next step the next year--a trip to the NIT--and nearly a trip to the NCAAs if not for a heartbreaking loss in the Pac-12 Tournament.
But it was the next year that you really shined. When Dominic Artis went down, you transformed from a mere role player to an Oregon legend. Holding down the fort at PG thorugh Artis' injury was one thing. Single-handedly dominating the Pac-12 Tournament was another. You took that team on your back and put them in the Tournament for the first time in way too long. And gave us quite a ride while you were there, all the way to the Sweet Sixteen.
And, of course, this year. Where we finally saw the trajectory of the program start to waver, only for you guys to put it back on track, and come within a rebound of upsetting Wisconsin, essentially on their home floor.
The accomplishments speak for themselves. Oregon had won 24 games in the two years before you arrived. You led this team to 96 in the next four--the most successful four-year run in school history. Four trips to the postseason. Two NCAA Tournaments. A Sweet Sixteen. A Pac-12 Tournament Title. And you represented the University with class and humility the entire way.
We didn't deserve you. But we needed you. And you left a legacy here that won't soon be forgotten. We look at the talent coming in. We have visions of Final Fours in our heads and, for the first time maybe ever, feel as if those visions are more legitimate than pipe dream. We're no longer a program of potential. We are a program that has arrived as a legitimate player in this conference, and on the national landscape. Oregon basketball is firmly on the map.
So from one Duck to another, thank you, Johnathan. Over the past four years, the pleasure has truly been ours.