Dana Altman, Chip Kelly and the different ways to make a contender
Oregon's men's basketball and football programs have found success in much different ways the last decade. For Dana Altman's Ducks, the hope is consistency still plays.
EUGENE — A Dana Altman practice in 2022 doesn’t look much different than it did in 2010 when he got here, 2016 when Dillon Brooks was here or all those years with Payton Pritchard.
Altman combs his hair, tucks his shirt into his shorts and barks about simple plays, assistant coach Mike Mennenga bangs bodies in the paint with players a foot taller than him and more familiar faces on the staff keep the tempo fast and light from the bench. Even Brian Fish is back this year, the long-time Altman assistant who returned to Oregon after a five-year stint as Montana State’s head coach.
Their first year working together came back at Marshall in 1989.
“All the time I was in the office, he was there,” Altman said. “He’d show up on weekends and so he kind of earned the GA job and has just been with me at different times throughout the last 32-33 years.
“He knows our stuff.”
It’s worked for the Ducks before and Altman is relying on it to work again after the team failed to reach the NCAA Tournament last spring for just the second time in the last seven seasons. The Ducks lost five of their final seven games, including a 76-60 loss to Texas A&M in the second round of the NIT that left Altman searching for answers.
“I didn’t have to chase anybody out of the gym this year,” he said then. “We’re going to have to get back to what helped us be successful.”
Altman had his team running at practice Monday, but kept the mood light with constant ribbing. In his 33rd season as a head coach, the Nebraskan can still instantly pick up on a habit and start chiseling away at it throughout the course of two hours.
Monday’s marble was Kel’el Ware, a 7-foot, top-10 recruit in the 2022 class who dominated on the All-American circuit last spring. Altman only referred to him as “Freshman” on Monday.
Freshman bend your knees. Freshman get back on defense. Freshman hustle.
“There’s a lot of different ways to play a game,” Altman said, emphasizing Oregon’s need to improve its rebounding and defense. “We feel that certain things have been successful for us in the past and hopefully we’re trying to establish those.”
Be sure, there hasn’t been a more successful basketball coach at Oregon. Entering his 13th year with the Ducks, Altman is 300-125 with four regular season conference titles and a Final Four run. But he is also the outlier, not only in the Pac-12 where rivals like Sean Miller and Steve Alford are long gone, but also at his own university.
When Altman came to Oregon from Creighton in 2010, football was at its peak here with Chip Kelly and his revolutionary offense leading the Ducks to the national championship game. That was five football coaches ago. The latest, Dan Lanning, has been a welcomed addition of fresh blood that has the Ducks 5-1 with an offense putting up Kelly-like numbers.
The combined age of Lanning and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham is 69. Altman is 64.