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Wayne Tinkle – arguably the most successful men’s basketball coach in University of Montana history – is leaving his alma mater for Oregon State of the Pac-12, OSU Athletic Director Bob De Carolis announced Monday evening.

Tinkle replaces Craig Robinson, who was fired earlier this month after six seasons at the Corvallis school.

“Today, with the hiring of Coach Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State University begins a new era in Beaver men’s basketball of regularly competing within the top echelon of the Pac-12 for the conference championship and for postseason NCAA competition,” De Carolis said in a press release.

“The more I went through the process, the more recommendations I received about Coach Tinkle. I met with Coach Tinkle for several hours last week and came away very impressed with him. His success on the basketball court as a coach and player is well documented, but even more so, I was impressed with his demeanor, family and philosophy. I think he is a perfect fit for our basketball program, Oregon State University, the community and this state.”

Tinkle, who has been asked not to comment until after he is introduced in Corvallis, leaves Montana with the second most wins in school history with an overall record of 158-91, trailing only Jiggs Dahlberg’s 235 career wins. Tinkle had a record of 97-39 in regular-season Big Sky Conference games, 106-44 including league tournament games.

The Griz won Big Sky championships in 2010, 2012 and 2013 under Tinkle, losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament each time. No other UM coach had taken the Grizzlies to more than two NCAA tournaments. Including his five seasons as an assistant under Don Holst, Pat Kennedy and Larry Krystkowiak, Tinkle made it to the NCAA tournament six times.

In the four-year stretch from 2010-13 when the Griz made three NCAA tournament appearances, they posted an overall record of 93-35, 64-13 against Big Sky teams – an unprecedented run of success for the Montana program.

“We’d love to have kept Wayne Tinkle forever, that’s for sure,” Montana Athletic Director Kent Haslam said. “From a personal standpoint he’s been a great mentor, a great coach, a great person who I’ve relied heavily on. I wish nothing but the best for him and Lisa. They’ve done great things for Missoula and we look forward to tracking his career now that he’s at Oregon State.”

Tinkle takes over an OSU program depleted by departures. Six OSU seniors from this past season have graduated or will soon, the Corvallis Gazette-Times reported Monday. Junior forward Eric Moreland is leaving with the hopes of playing in the NBA. Freshman point guard Hallice Cooke has said he will transfer to Iowa State. Junior point guard Challe Barton decided to return home to Sweden and play professional basketball in Europe.

“It’s a fresh start and we’ve just got to make the most of it,” sophomore center Daniel Gomis said. “We have a hard-working group and we just want to do our best.”

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Tinkle had one year left on his contract that paid him just under $140,000 a year in base salary. Tinkle – or Oregon State – owes that amount to UM as a buyout. 

“When these things were happening we wanted Wayne to know that we’d do what we could do that was prudent to keep him here at Montana, but eventually you look and say you just can’t compete at that level,” Haslam said. “There are times when you take great pride that your current coach is going to the Pac-12 and the one he replaced (Larry Krystkowiak) is at Utah in the Pac-12. You take pride in what you’re able to do and be the very best where you’re at.”

Haslam said a national search would be conducted to find Tinkle’s successor, but that he does not have a definite timetable for naming a replacement.

“We’ll move quickly but judiciously in hiring his replacement,” Haslam said. “He certainly set the foundation for us and there will be tremendous interest; there already has been just since the rumors started that Oregon State was going to hire him. It’s a great job, no doubt about it.

“It will take as long as it takes to get the very best coach. We want to move as quickly as we can, but not so fast that we’re not being thorough.”

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Jordan Gregory, who will be one of the senior leaders on next season’s team, said he’s happy for Tinkle.

“It’s not something you hope for, but basically he’s been here so long and done so many great things that I’m happy for him that he has the opportunity to go,” Gregory said from his home in Pueblo, Colorado. “I know he’s going to do very well at Oregon State.

“He’s worked hard for this and he’s reaping the fruits of his labor right now.”

Tinkle’s staff – Jono Metzger-Jones, Kerry Rupp and Kurt Paulson – are all still at UM.

“Obviously I’m happy for him,” Metzger-Jones said. “I know how much he loves it here in Missoula and at the University of Montana. I know it’s not the easiest thing for him to leave, but at the same time it’s an incredible opportunity to work at the highest level of college basketball.”

The future of the current Griz staff will be determined in the coming months as Tinkle fills his staff at OSU and Montana finds a replacement.

“You’re always thinking about your future, especially now with a little guy in the fold,” said Metzger-Jones, who welcomed a son in January. “First and foremost I really enjoy my job; I love it here and I’d like to continue working with all the guys. I know that situations arise and sometimes things change in this business. Sometimes you have control and sometimes you don’t. It’s a matter of waiting and seeing how things play out.”

Metzger-Jones said he was not sure if the 2014 recruiting class had been contacted.

“Wayne’s done a tremendous job, there’s no doubt about it,” Haslam said. “But it’s a program, a university and we have a lot to build on. It would be attractive to any recruit.”

Gregory said he will be behind whoever Montana hires as its next coach.

“When I was a senior I committed to the Grizzlies,” Gregory said. “Now I’m a senior in college and I’m still committed to the Grizzlies. Whoever they bring in I know is going to be a good coach.”

Sports editor Bob Meseroll can be reached at 523-5265 or at sportsdesk@missoulian.com.

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Sports editor Bob Meseroll can be reached at 523-5265 or at sportsdesk@missoulian.com.

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