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Rosenthal: Altman was the real Pac-12 Coach of the Year

Before the start of the Pac-12 Tournament, the conference announced its end of season awards — an event that hasn’t really had much impact on campus over the last few years. But as anyone who has been to an Oregon basketball game recently can tell you — there is something different about this year’s Ducks.

So it was that I stared intently at my Twitter feed on Monday afternoon, curious to see just how far the Ducks had come in the conference’s eyes. Devoe Joseph’s impressive numbers led to his name being whispered for the league’s Player of the Year, but that award went to California’s Jorge Gutierrez, which seems almost like a lifetime-achievement award for one of the better defenders in the conference. @@[email protected]@

Gutierrez surprised me as the pick for POY, but it didn’t anger me that Joseph didn’t win. Lorenzo Romar taking home Coach of the Year honors, however, is a different story altogether. @@[email protected]@

It seems that coach of the year awards all too often go to the coach of the team with the best record, and sometimes that’s the right choice. But in a conference where first and seventh are separated by only four victories, that doesn’t seem right. @@[email protected]@

Romar may have lead his team to a conference title, but he did so with a team that, when I put on my objectivity hat, is probably the most physically gifted in the conference and at a school with a winning basketball culture.

And with that gifted team, Romar and the Huskies laid an egg in their first Pac-12 Tournament game. Sure, the Ducks did too, but the Ducks are new to this whole “being relevant” thing.

What I’m driving at here is that Dana Altman got absolutely robbed.

The second-year head coach led the Ducks to a 22-8 season that included a 13-5 mark in conference play (which tied with Cal for the second best record in the league, though the Bears had the season sweep of the Ducks to take the tiebreaker). @@[email protected]@

Consider that it was a good thing when the Ducks were picked to finish fifth in the conference, because that put them in the top half.

Altman’s accomplishments this year are especially impressive considering that would-be freshman phenom Jabari Brown left the program early in the season. That just cleared the way for the Ducks to find their true identity as a team. @@[email protected]@

Brown was heralded as the future of Oregon basketball — many of the Ducks promotional materials this season featured him prominently, prompting him to be quickly photoshopped out once he left the program. With Brown literally out of the picture, Altman turned the Ducks into the most entertaining Oregon basketball team of the past few years.

He’s also done that using three key players who weren’t on the team last season, including the Ducks’ leading scorer, Devoe Joseph, and probably the best sixth man in the conference in Olu Ashaolu.

It was clear that the Ducks had talent, but much of that talent had never played together. That’s where a good coach comes in.

Under Altman’s leadership this year, the Ducks have lost just nine games and don’t have what bracketologists would call a “bad loss.” Even the Ducks’ Pac-12 Tournament loss to Colorado doesn’t look as bad as Washington’s loss to Oregon State, though it effectively pops Oregon’s NCAA bubble.

Altman’s true coaching talent needs to come out next season as the Ducks look to continue the momentum he has brought to the program over the last two seasons. If it does, given all the talent the Ducks lose, Altman’s name will be in the coach of the year conversation again.

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Isaac Rosenthal

Isaac Rosenthal