Wayne Tinkle got a text from a former Oregon State player talking about making Beavers basketball relevant again.
That’s certainly one of the biggest tasks ahead for Tinkle, who was introduced as OSU’s new men’s coach during a press conference Wednesday evening.
Tinkle comes to Corvallis after eight years as head coach at Montana, where he guided the Grizzlies to the NCAA tournament three times and had four straight seasons of 20-plus wins.
Tinkle, 48, said he heard all about the potential hurdles of coaching the Beavers and the struggles that have lingered since OSU’s last trip to the Big Dance in 1990.
“And I quickly asked, ‘Tell me where there’s an easy job in the game of basketball,’ ” he said. “And we see opportunity, where there may be obstacles to others we’re excited about the opportunities here.”
Tinkle said it wasn’t easy leaving Missoula, with the returning players and incoming recruits there, and “walking away really, really beat me up.”
But he was sold on both Oregon State and Corvallis.
One of those doing the selling was Freddie Owens, who was an assistant under Tinkle for four seasons before spending last year at OSU under Craig Robinson, who was fired three weeks ago after six seasons.
“Coach Owens became a great salesman in talking about the people not just in the community but within the department and campus-wide, what a special place it was,” said Tinkle, who was hired Monday.
“The biggest factor in it all was that it was an unbelievable place to work, that environment.”
Owens attended Wednesday’s press conference, though Tinkle’s staff has not been finalized. Owens used the words “energetic” and “passionate” to describe Tinkle and that he has the best interests of his players and the university at heart.
“When you start going off the checklist of things, and the qualities in a next head coach, in my opinion all the checkmarks were checked off. He has a physical presence about him. From a player’s perspective, you’re going to listen to what he has to say,” Owens said.
“I think it’s a home run hire. It’s going to take some time, but I think he’s the guy for the job because he understands everything that needs to be done to build a winning program.”
The coaching search included several other highly qualified candidates, including ex-UCLA coach Ben Howland.
But in the end, OSU athletic director Bob De Carolis said, Tinkle was the correct man for the job.
“Coach Tinkle has the right priorities, the right character and he is definitely the right fit for the right time at Oregon State,” De Carolis said.
Tinkle was 158-91 overall and 97-39 in Big Sky Conference play as Montana’s head coach.
His teams went to four straight Big Sky postseason tournament championship games from 2010-13 and won three.
He was the Big Sky coach of the year in 2012 and 2013 and was also an assistant on three Montana teams that reached the NCAA tournament during his five years in that position.
Tinkle is a Montana alum who played 12 years of professional basketball in Europe.
Tinkle takes over a depleted roster after six players graduated and three others decided to leave the school for various reasons since the season ended more than two months ago.
Forward Olaf Schaftenaar, who will be a junior next year, said it was a difficult time after the returning players learned from De Carolis that Robinson would not be back.
“It’s just weird walking around campus and not knowing who your coach is,” he said.
Schaftenaar said Tinkle’s words about being disciplined players during a meeting with his new team was something that stuck with him and that he appreciated.
In addition to meeting his new players, another of Tinkle’s first tasks was to contact those players who have signed with the Beavers for this coming season.
Guards Chai Baker and Gary Payton II, the son of OSU great Gary Payton, reaffirmed their commitments, Tinkle said, adding that he hopes to have “some good news” in the coming days about the others.