Wayne Tinkle saved his job going 16-16 last year, after a a 5-27 disaster of a season in 2016-17 that saw the Beavers winning just one conference game. He will be starting his fifth year as coach of the Oregon St. Beavers. Tinkle expects the improvement to continue this season:
Q. Just wondering, you guys had such a big improvement last year. How do you make that jump to get back to where you were in 2015-16?
WAYNE TINKLE: Yeah, good point. I think the biggest jump was because we were healthy. Don’t get me wrong, we felt like we left a few out there last year. But I think the fact that we’ve got a good, mature group of I guess fourth-year players, some juniors, some seniors, got a full group that’s coming in that we feel can have an instant impact.
I think I mentioned earlier this is our deepest team we’ve had. It’s also the biggest team on the interior, and we’re led by some pretty incredible players, the two that we have in back just the start. We feel like we’ve got a great combination of maturity, youth, depth, strength, and then we’ve got to learn from some of the issues that maybe cost us some of those close games a year ago in order to flip it and make more progress again this season.
Q. How will you lean on those two’s leadership this year going into their fourth season?
WAYNE TINKLE: I think both of them are much more equipped to handle when we get after them. It’s never a question of effort with those two, but being vocal, leading the way, they’re good kids, so sometimes they’re afraid of maybe offending a teammate by getting after them. But now, those two are very hungry, and they’re not the only two, and so I think if you talk to them, they’re going to explain that. They no longer want to be competitive — last year was a nice, competitive year. Well, shoot, we’re tired of that. We want to win. We want to get back to the postseason. We’ve got the guys to do it now.
We have a big saying, talk is cheap, so we don’t talk about it, we’ve just got to get on the court and get it done.
Q. You talked about this being maybe your deepest roster since being at Oregon State. Did that affect how you scheduled non-conference games at all?
WAYNE TINKLE: A little bit. We felt like this was a group we could challenge. Obviously we were asked to try to strengthen our — not just us but as a league, strengthen our non-conference schedule. But my history as a head coach, when I feel like we’ve got things in order is to play challenging preseason games, starting the year off playing against teams you’re hoping to face in March, and we’re getting a lot closer to that now at Oregon State.
Q. You guys lost a ton of close games last year. How do you get your guys to understand how to execute — are there certain drills? Do you watch film on executing under two minutes, one minute? What are some of the things that you need to specifically address to get over the hump and — really it’s the difference between you’re going to be in eight, nine games that are one possession?
WAYNE TINKLE: We feel like we could have been 20-12 easily. But the big thing is I think a lot of the residue was from the year before, where we were super competitive for 32 minutes the year we had all the injuries, and then we just didn’t have the horses to finish.
And so I think a year ago, we got into a lot of situations where it was time to shut the door, didn’t have the confidence maybe to do it, and as much as I’ve had years where, boy, every close game went our way, and the team just knew it doesn’t matter, we’re not going to lose.
But the flipside is true, you can learn how to lose. But it’s simple. It is things you can watch in film, and we’re going to do that. We talked about in some of our meetings, the discipline. You’ve got a three-point lead. You don’t need a hero play in the next defensive possession to stretch it to five. Be solid, contest the shot, rebound it, time just came off, wind them up, now go stretch it to five, but you took a minute off the clock, and we had some young guys that were thirst at this to get back to success, and it was a, well, now it’s my time to get a steal and a dunk and shut the door on this deal, and we’ve talked about that.
So it’s discipline, it’s drills. We always do a ton of time and score. Two minutes left, up five on D. We’re up seven, and it’s our ball with three minutes to go. We do a ton of those. Now it’s just an issue where the guys with the maturity, the added maturity we have now, have to put that — implement that, put it into play, and I think when you have a little bit of success early, then it really drives that home, and that’s how you go to where you win every close game.
Q. You said you feel pretty good with Ethan running the point?
WAYNE TINKLE: Yeah, and he’s almost really blossomed since we told him that over the summer. Stephen did such a great job playing out of position for a couple of years, and it’s going to help him down the road that he developed some of his play-making abilities.
So he’s not just known as a scorer, but we feel like with Ethan’s size, strength, court vision, the fact that he’s vocal, I think that’s important when you’re talking about a point guard. You have someone that’s out there that will put the ball under their arms and lead and direct and in huddles, and it’s going to free Stephen up to come off some of those screens and be more of a guy that really looks to score and complement on one side on the floor, and Tres on the other, I think that’s going to be a pretty good trio.
And then when you look at Alfred Hollins and Reichle and some of the new kids we’ve added, that’s a pretty talented and experienced group.
Q. Does it feel like an experienced group but also the depth —
WAYNE TINKLE: I say experienced, but we’re going to have three sophomores that play a lot. They did play a lot as freshmen, so I think that experience and the depth that you talked about, obviously we added Antoine Vernon and Jordan Campbell, those are going to be some guys that we get to develop over the course of the year that hopefully will add to our arsenal once we get into conference play.
Q. So the experience will be kind of what you got off the bench in terms of —
WAYNE TINKLE: Yeah, that’s the big key. On the inside, too. Depth is great. It takes a little while to cultivate, though, when you look at the amount of young guys that we have.
Q. Does some of the pressure come off Ethan, the fact that Stephen can bring it up, Tres has done it? You might not need him to be as ball dominant as some point guards are?
WAYNE TINKLE: For sure. We know how much the game has changed, who’s really playing with a true point guard. But we do like the leadership skills that Ethan brings, and I’m not letting anything out of the bag. There’s going to be times that Tres plays the point. It’s all really predicated on our opponents, their weaknesses, their strengths, and how we can maximize ours and minimize theirs.
Q. If G is in shape, and it sounds like he is, how does that change what you’re able to do out there?
WAYNE TINKLE: Well, G is obviously not just our most experienced post player but he’s one of the most experienced post players in the conference. It’s his fourth year. I don’t know how many fourth-year bigs — I know Stanford has maybe got one and maybe Washington. But his experience. But the fact that he’s really changed his body type will allow him to go from playing in two-minute spurts to maybe five- or six-minute spurts, and by having him out there, I think it — his personality is one that our young guys can learn from, and he’s willing to help teach those young guys.
Where sometimes you look at that, there can be guys that don’t have that maturity level that see it as competition, and they don’t hand down any of their knowledge, and G is a guy I think that can impart a lot of that on this young crew.
And then, listen, we’ve got some tough early games. It’s going to take a while for these young bigs to get some things figured out, but the nice thing is, we always talk about depth being the great creator of discipline and character. If this guy is not getting it done, we have an option B and an option C, and that’s what holds them accountable every day in practice.
We haven’t had that luxury, so I think we’re going to see the best of what our guys have to offer this year because of the numbers we have, if that makes sense.
Q. You’ve mentioned the other bigs; how much do you think you’re going to be able to count on them this year? Is that going to be like maybe January it’ll click in, or do you have any idea?
WAYNE TINKLE: You know what, I have no idea, but there’s always somebody that steps up maybe a little bit earlier than you anticipate, and then maybe somebody you think is going to be ready a little sooner takes longer.
The good thing is we’ve got four or five options, so if we throw this guy out because we think he can be physical and maybe he’s not getting it done, let’s give this guy a try.
Now, that might not do a lot for their confidence early on if their playing time is not consistent, but that’s something we won’t have any problem getting them through.
Q. Beyond just wins, what are you looking to improve upon this year? Obviously wins is what matters at the end of the day, but what are you looking to improve on?
WAYNE TINKLE: Well, I think our standing in the conference. We want to be able to climb the ladder there, finish closer to the top, and we feel like we’re going to be very competitive as far as chasing a league title. We’re talking about postseason.
Now, this all being said, a lot depends on the health of our team moving forward. But if we can keep our team intact, we feel like it’s very realistic goal for us to get to the postseason.
Q. Also, a big achievement of your program has been academically, as well. You had a lot of guys in the Pac-12 All-Academic and a lot of guys who got NABC academic honors. How important is that to hammer that into your players to keep it a major part of your program?
WAYNE TINKLE: I’m glad you brought it up because I don’t think those things are talked about enough. There’s a lot of your donors and maybe some alums and former players that don’t want to hear about that all the time. They want the wins. But we feel like to build a successful program, and I’m talking about a level of consistency, so you don’t have the ups and downs and the dips.
I think it’s a direct correlation with how your guys get their work done in the classroom and in the community and then where it ultimately carries over to the court. Our guys have really bought into it. You mentioned the number of guys the last few years we’ve had on All-Academic lists, and with the NABC’s recognition, it’s going to win out overall. These two guys are two figureheads that got it started, and it’s a very, very proud accomplishment of our group and our staff and our relationship with our academic people on campus. It’s a big priority, and it’s going to carry over, and I think in the end, again, reflect the success that we’re going to have on the court. There will be a direct correlation.
Q. Speaking to the two guys you pointed to over there, I asked them before what the benefits are of having a coach for a dad, and he kind of mentioned that he sees it a little bit differently, his IQ is a little bit higher and he has a broader perspective. On the flipside, having your son on the team, how much of an advantage is that for you?
WAYNE TINKLE: Well, it’s not just the fact that he’s my son, but the way he goes about it, because I’ve seen other situations where guys might just have free rein to roam because Dad is the coach. We made sure he understood that that had to be earned early on, and it’s very easy for me to give him more — I don’t want to say leash or green light, but freedom, because of the work he puts in and who he is and what he stands for.
There’s a vast difference there. It’s not just because, oh, that’s my kid, I’m going to go let him pad his stats. It’s I know what he stands for, I know what his goals are as far as the team is concerned, and anything individual, and he works his ass off for them every day of every year.
And so that gives me the confidence to let him go do his thing, and I know and trust that he’s going to make the right decisions for us, if that makes sense.