Many factors contribute to a team’s success both on and off the field (or court, or whatever appropriate type of playing surface), but one of the biggest keys to a successful program is a great coach. These four teams had just that. Here are the nominees for Best Coach in ATQ’s second annual Webfoot Awards
When I was a freshman at the University of Oregon in 2009, Ernie Kent was still running the show. I still remember how painful that season was. Winning a conference game today is expected. Back then, it was more or less a toss up. The next year, the Ducks brought in Dana Altman, and each season, you could tell he had the Ducks on the verge of a breakout year.
Last season, the Ducks finally achieved their breakout season. Altman led Oregon to a 31-7 record, a Pac-12 championship, the team’s first No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament in school history and a magical run to the Elite Eight. He did so even without the help of Dylan Ennis, a Villanova transfer who was supposed to provide a spark at the point guard position. Perhaps one of the sweetest moments of the season (upcoming pun intended) was Oregon’s big win over Duke in the Sweet 16.
While the Ducks have many talented players, Altman is a huge reason the Oregon men's basketball program is where they are today.
This year, Casey Martin led the Oregon men's golf team to their first national championship in program history. The Ducks capped off a cinderella run in the NCAA tournament by beating the Texas Longhorns, with local product Sulman Raza (South Eugene High School) sinking the winning putt in a sudden-death playoff.
Oregon became the first host team in the NCAA championship to win the title since Ohio State did so back in 1945. Casey Martin, also a hometown guy, was plenty familiar with the home course as he would play rounds with his brother and dad at the Eugene Country Club growing up.
"It's gotta be the top, it has to be," Martin said. "It was great as a player, but it's more rewarding when you're responsible for these guys."
Three seasons ago, the Oregon women's basketball program hit rock bottom. During the 2012-13 season under legendary coach Paul Westhead, the Ducks went 4-27 and 2-16 in the Pac-12, losing eight straight games on two separate occasions.
This season, the Ducks went 24-11, including an impressive 18-4 record at home. reaching the WNIT semifinals. Behind the rebuild is Kelly Graves, who now has the Ducks one step away from a trip to the NCAA tournament.
The highlight of the season had to be the very first game, when the Ducks marched into Chapel Hill and came out with an upset victory over No. 22 North Carolina. Even though the conference schedule was up and down for Oregon, Graves is clearly the right man to lead this team.
For the seventh straight year, Oregon track & field head coach Robert Johnson led at least one of his teams to an indoor track & field national championship. This year, Johnson led both the men's and women's team to indoor national championships, sweeping the meet in Birmingham.
The men ran away with the competition, scoring 62 points while Arkansas, the runner-up, had just 39 points. On the women's side, the Ducks narrowly beat out Arkansas by just three points.
It was Oregon's third straight indoor national title for the men while the women won their sixth national championship in the past seven years. Forget being a football or basketball school, Oregon is a track school.