Dave: With the recent firing of Doc Sadler, the coaching rumors are hot and heavy in Cornhusker country. A name that keeps popping up for the vacancy is one Dana Altman, a coaching legend in the state of Nebraska, who just happens to be the head coach of our Oregon Ducks. This would be a chance for Altman to go home, to a place that was once considered his dream job. However, it also represents a clear step back, to a place where basketball is a massive afterthought. Nebraska has only six NCAA Tournament appearances, and none since 1998. Its well off the recruiting path, and in a much tougher conference. So, knowing that going in, should Dana Altman go back to Nebraska if offered? And, more importantly, would he?
Matt: If I'm Dana Altman, I take the job. I know there is a huge buyout for Sadler, and adding Altman's to that would be an undertaking for any university, but let's not forget that Nebraska just moved out of the money pit that is the Big Xii, and into the B1G Ten's mansion. So I don't think money will be the issue. If Nebraska wants him, they'll be able to make it work... more on this later.
For Altman though, this is an opportunity to return home, be a savior for a school he's always wanted to work for and get out of the putrid Pac 12. Let's be honest, looking at the quality of competition and opportunity to move up from here, the Pac 12 isn't helping him. We can't even get our conference champion in the NCAA tourney. Even if Altman is incredibly successful at Oregon later, what job is he going to take that will a) be better than what Oregon offers (money, facilities, support, etc) or b) better than what Nebraska can offer (B1G Ten competition, Altman's home, a lot less scrutiny)? This is Altman's chance to make his one last move. He can swoop into Nebraska, pick up on his old recruiting trails (anyone see how well Creighton is doing lately, I don't think Altman will have problems recruiting in Nebraska) get Nebraska on the right trajectory as a program, eventually make the NCAA tourney and be the hero of his home town.
Lastly, what's keeping Altman at Oregon? He doesn't have a bunch of recruits that he has made promises too (most of them have already left). He got Oregon to back-to-back 20+ win seasons. He ushered in Matthew Knight Arena, and he has now taken a team that was in the bottom half of the Pac for a number of years to the top half and a post season berth. Basically he brought consistency to a terminally inconsistent program. I'm sure he feels like there is more to accomplish, but he won't be leaving Oregon high and dry and he put Oregon in a much better position than when he arrived.
Dave: Quality of conference competition can be cyclical, but I would think that works in Oregon's favor. As the Pac-12 rebuilds itself, with the messes at UCLA and USC and with Arizona and Washington being down, he has everything he needs to put Oregon at the top of the league. He's got the facilities, the money, the support from his adminstration, and a brand name that he doesn't have at Nebraska. Nebraska has always been a dead end job, a school where football isn't supported, and nobody has success (five NCAA tourneys in their history, none since 1998). The job is a wasteland. Plus, to be good in the Big Ten, you have to get yourself to the level of an Indiana, Michigan State, etc. There is no history to suggest that Nebraska can do that. Oregon has been on the cusp of that in their conference for some time.
But to me, it boils down to this. Altman can go home to Nebraska, and join a low ceiling program where he will be loved and there will be little pressure. Where getting to the NIT and CBI are accomplishments. But if Altman wanted a cushy job where he had security and low expectations, why didn't he stay at Creighton? Altman can't win big at Nebraska, he very potentially could at Oregon. And that has to be the reason he left Creighton, he wanted that one last chance to win big. Unless his goals have changed, there is no reason to make that move.
Matt: Why didn't he stay at Creighton? $$$$, money. Altman got a 700k pay raise to go to Oregon. I'm sure the "win big" and "play with the big boys" had something to do with it too, but it's not like he wasn't making NCAA's and other post season tournaments at Creighton. Also, I don't think money will be an issue at Nebraska. Altman showed he can fill arenas in that state, by selling out their 18k+ stadium for the Bluejays in Omaha. You have to think that if Nebraska is serious about winning in college basketball (which it appears they are considering they are paying $3.6 million for Doc Sadler to go away) then they are going to want someone that can fill their stadium as well. Altman looks like one of the best cases to make that happen.
Sure expectations may be lower, but why is that a bad thing? Does that mean Altman will work or recruit any less or coach differently? Can coaches not succeed unless they have huge expectations and really high ceilings? In fact, I'd argue, Altman will be better able to build his team the way he wants it without the pressures of opening a new $250 million dollar arena. Without a fanbase that is clamoring for wins right now. Oh, and he'll get to do all of it at a place he's really comfortable, he gets paid well and he gets to play with the big boys.
Another thing to consider is whether Oregon will fight to try and keep him. Oregon was in a much different position the last time they went looking for a head coach. The Ducks got turned down more often than a fat kid looking for a prom date. But that was when Oregon was coming off of a horrible 3 year stretch. Now Oregon looks like one of the up and coming teams in the Pac. Now Oregon doesn't have a roster loaded with 10 kids in one class. Now Oregon has athletes returning, a national name brand, a new media deal and still the best facilities in the country. It's not out of the realm of possibilities that some of those big name coaches that didn't want the dumpster fire last time around may take a second look.
Finally, if Nebraska is such a dead end job, they probably won't be able to attract anyone that doesn't have connections to the state. Name me a better coach than Altman that would possibly take that job. If you're Nebraska, how do you not make a serious run at Altman?
Dave: Oh, I think they'll take a serious look at Altman. The question is whether Altman will take a serious look at them. It will come down to what Altman wants. If he wants a chance to compete for league titles and, ultimately, a national championship, he stays at Oregon. If he misses home and wants job security and doesn't mind the lower ceiling, then he should absolutely go. If $$$ was the only reason he left Creighton, then this is his chance to have both. If he wants to win, the move makes no sense.
As for that $$$ issue, if Altman is the guy Phil Knight wants long term, we know that $$$ really won't be an issue.
Matt: You seem to be assuming that he can't win as much at Nebraska as he can at Oregon. What is going to prohibit him from winning in Nebraska compared to Oregon? Especially considering what he was able to do at Creighton.
Dave: There are so many reasons to believe this. Never mind that Nebraska has never been good historically. Oregon is already near the top of the Pac-12. Nebraska is nowhere near the top of a more talented Big Ten. Further, with Oregon, recruiting is much, much easier. You have a brand and the best facilities in the country, and there are more than enough recruits in the NW and California to go around. If you're Nebraska, you have to shift your recruiting from Texas to the midwest with the conference shift, with facilities that don't in any way stand out, and the only thing that is associated with your brand is good football and really crappy basketball. I'm not saying you can't win at Nebraska. But its a hell of a lot harder, and a much, much longer road.
Matt: I don't put a lot of stock in the tradition and history thing, otherwise Oregon would never be good at football, right? What you need to change something like that is a coach that can teach the fundamentals, get guys to improve and recruit the right type of players for his system. Sound familiar? Plus, I'd say it would be harder to recruit and be successful at a school like Creighton with no media deal, a small school in Nowhere, Nebraska than at Big Red any day of the week.
Lastly, Altman doesn't need to recruit Texas. He's got connections and pipelines already set up in California. That's what he was doing at Creighton and that's what he's been doing at Oregon. That wouldn't stop with a move to Nebraska.
All in all, I think we agree that Nebraska is going to at least check his interest in the job, I just don't see him turning them down if they end up offering.
Dave: To me, it just depends on what he wants. He can win bigger and more quickly at Oregon. But the hometown draw is always a wildcard, and you absolutely cannot dismiss it.
And, lets be honest, given the family dynamic here, Mrs. Altman will probably be making this decision.