Before considering what Dana Altman has meant to Oregon Basketball, one must consider what it was like before him.
In the decade prior to his hiring, Oregon had four NCAA Tournament appearances, twice advancing past the first round, one regular season conference championship and one conference tournament championship. They won 20 or more games five times.
In the decade following his hiring, Oregon had eight NCAA Tournament appearances, advancing past the first round every single time with five Sweet 16 appearances, two Elite Eights, and a Final Four. They won four regular season conference championships, three conference tournament championships, and 20 or more games every single year he has coached.
Prior to the 2021-2022 season, Men’s hoops had made the NCAA Tournament eight of the last nine seasons. But the past two seasons, they’ve missed it in consecutive years for the first time since Altman’s first two in Eugene.
What makes it more frustrating is that during that first decade Oregon always had a habit of transforming into a different team by March than it often looked like in December or January. Never was this more prevalent than in 2019, when Oregon sat in 6th place in the conference in late February, then reeled off four straight regular season wins, four straight conference tournament wins to earn an automatic berth in the dance, and two more wins in the tournament before taking eventual champion Virginia to its limit in the Sweet 16.
But the past two seasons, the Ducks have actually been in prime position to make the NCAA Tournament, and completely faltered down the stretch, a very un-Altman-like occurrence.
So what exactly is happening? Is Altman’s magic starting to turn into card tricks? Has he not been able to get players to buy into his system like they used to? Are his rotations not as effective?
One thing is certain: the 2023-24 Ducks will have about as solid of a roster as they’ve ever had…on paper.
Oregon will be bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in the nation with 5-star forwards Mookie Cook and Kwame Evans as well as 4-star (nearly 5-star) guard Jackson Shelstad. These blue-chippers will be added to returning twin towers N’Faly Dante and Nate Bittle, and guards Jermaine Cousinard and Keeshawn Bathalemy.
Undoubtedly Altman will add some transfers as well, he’s been doing so since before it was “a thing”.
Namely, the coming season will be very telling. If the Ducks are still not bound for the big dance with a roster like that, there may well be reason to worry that Altman is starting to lose his touch. It’s never just been about having the talent, it’s been about maximizing it. Oregon has finished seasons beating many teams they had no business beating and advancing much further than many would expect.
This roster should be able to accomplish some pretty big things. The question is, will they?
In Altman we trust…for now.