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With Oregon State and Gonzaga making deep NCAA Tournament runs, Tinkle family has plenty to cheer about

With Oregon State and Gonzaga making deep NCAA Tournament runs, Tinkle family has plenty to cheer about

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Elle Tinkle

Former Gonzaga women’s basketball teammates Elle Tinkle, left, a Missoula Big Sky alum, and Laura Stockton were all smiles after the Zags defeated Creighton 83-65 Sunday in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS – Four horses, ample acreage and an outdoor basketball hoop were readily available for a teenage Wayne Tinkle at his South Hill home.

On the 57th and Dearborn property, Tinkle, a former Ferris High School standout, looked up to his 10 siblings and was often a follower of older sisters Jennifer and Rose Tinkle, who had athletic careers of their own at Whitworth University and the Community Colleges of Spokane.

Thirty-eight years later, they’ve been glued to their televisions and cellphones, following the Cinderella run of their tall, silver-haired brother.

The seventh-year Oregon State head coach and his Beavers have been the toast of the underdogs at an NCAA Tournament that has showcased the Corvallis, Oregon, program and his family to millions of viewers.

As 12th-seeded Oregon State – predicted to finish last in the Pac-12 in November before winning its first conference tournament in team history – prepares for an Elite Eight appearance against No. 2 seed Houston (27-3) on Monday in Indianapolis, the sizable Tinkle family has been caught up in the frenzy.

They’ve witnessed the process.

“I know Wayne. He wants players that have character first, and to be good players,” said Jennifer Tinkle, a teacher at Spokane’s Moran Prairie Elementary. “It’s taken time, but he is getting those, and it’s shown.

“It looks like they’re having fun and really sharing the ball.”

The Beavers (20-12) have upset No. 5 seed Tennessee, No. 4 seed Oklahoma State and No. 8 seed Loyola Chicago.

They are now a win away from their first Final Four appearance in the modern era.

Oregon State was often a forlorn men’s basketball program dwarfed by the resources and tradition of league rivals UCLA, USC, Oregon and Arizona, but Tinkle has helped manufacture a competitive product, reaching the NCAA Tournament in his second season in 2016.

It’s been a seesaw venture for the former Montana star and coach, whose Beavers clipped Loyola Chicago 65-58 Saturday in the Sweet 16.

Tinkle’s wife and three children – all former and current basketball stars themselves – wore shirts at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday that best conveyed the expected situation.

“My family made me a T-shirt, and for our whole group, that says Pac-12 (predicted to finish) 12th on one side, and Sweet 16 on the other,” Wayne Tinkle said. “And they put my dad’s initials on my right sleeve, and I wore that. Normally I wouldn’t do that, but I had so much confidence and belief in this group.”

Tinkle’s late father, Wayne Tinkle Sr., was the dean of students at Gonzaga during the family’s time in Spokane. He also worked at Loyola Chicago, another Jesuit school, that the Beavers beat to advance to their first Elite Eight since 1982.

Television camera crews often panned on Tinkle’s lively, basketball-centric family during the broadcasts, conveying the game’s sentimental significance.

It was a taut, physical and back-and-forth affair.

“It felt like I was playing in those 40 minutes,” said daughter Joslyn Tinkle, a former Stanford standout who went on to play for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. “It was exhausting.”

Joslyn, sister and former Gonzaga standout Elle Tinkle and brother Tres Tinkle – an All-Pac-12 talent at Oregon State and member of the Toronto Raptors’ G-League developmental team – were all raised in Missoula while their father had a successful run as the head coach at Montana.

Their mother and Wayne’s wife, University of Montana Hall of Fame basketball player Lisa Tinkle (nee McLeod), was also in attendance Saturday in an arena that allowed just 22% capacity due to coronavirus restrictions.

“We’ve all been group texting, getting on the refs,” Jennifer Tinkle said.

Jennifer Tinkle has the fortune of having two teams she follows reach the national quarterfinals, including No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga (29-0), which plays Tuesday for a trip to the Final Four.

Gonzaga associate head coach Tommy Lloyd’s children Liam and Sofia Lloyd were students of Jennifer Tinkle’s.

She also saw plenty of Gonzaga women’s games when niece Elle Tinkle was a Bulldog.

Elle, who exhausted her eligibility at Gonzaga in 2017 and now lives in Portland, was among Gonzaga’s fans on Sunday to watch the Bulldogs handle Creighton 83-65 at Hinkle Fieldhouse, a venue five miles from Oregon State’s tournament site.

But the family’s full allegiance currently belongs to Oregon State.

“We’re such a West Coast basketball family and it’s great to have these connections other schools,” Joslyn Tinkle said. “But for me, it’s pretty black and white who I want to win (the national title).”

Gonzaga and Oregon State, who are on opposite sides of the tournament bracket, are each two wins away from facing each other in the national title game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The two Northwest schools haven’t played each other since the 1990-91 season.

“I’ve previously asked the coaches, ‘Hey, so when is Gonzaga going to play Oregon State?,’ ” Jennifer Tinkle said. “I’ve been wanting them to play each other for years. That would be great.”

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