OSU blueprint should focus on defense

MOST OF THE college sports world is focused on basketball's upcoming Big Dance. In Corvallis, they're looking to simply start the music again. After a disastrous season where the Beavs went winless in Pac-10 play, all eyes are on the coaching search. There's a blueprint for how Oregon State can return itself to a tradition rich in hoops history.

First, it's going to take time to return the program to it's winning ways. There's really not any simple way around that in college basketball. That doesn't mean there won't be some highs along the way.

Dick Bennett, when he came out of retirement to coach Washington State, famously said he first needed to recruit players he could lose with. The reasoning is straightforward -- if they're not mentally tough, strong work-ethic types, they're going to fracture. Because there will indeed be more losses while the foundation is being poured in place.

Oregon State A.D. Bob De Carolis has said he's looking at the Washington State model in terms of committing to a system, and then the time it takes to build to that system.

That system should center on defense.

THERE ARE NO shortage of names on the wish list for OSU fans -- Mike Montgomery, Bob Knight, Portland State's Ken Bone, Blaine Taylor of Old Dominion, Randy Bennett of St. Mary's...the list goes on. Bone is the one getting the most play in the media right now because of the local connection.

But whoever it is that lands the job, be it an established name or a rising talent, what Oregon State needs to do is ensure it is a coach who preaches character followed closely by defense. And on the pecking order, offense then comes third.

He and his staff also must love the recruiting part of the game -- and not all coaches do.

Oregon State, given the state of the program, is not going to find it an easy task to convince the better athletes to come to Corvallis, the Beavers just became the first team in history to go 0-18 in the Pac-10.

That doesn't make 17-year olds come running when other schools are filling their heads about how they're going to be a star while playing in March and April.

AND SO IT WILL BE easier to land the recruits who can be molded into great defensive players easier than it will potentially great offensive players.

The sharpshooters and offensive players will need to come later, after Oregon State has built the program back into a contender based on defense. Many prognosticators think WSU first did that this last class -- five years after the reclamation project began.

Opposing schools should first dread coming to Corvallis. And even when they win, they should feel frustrated they couldn't score more than 65 points.

And it will be an arduous process, this rebuilding task TO Oregon State. If it was easy, everyone do it. As difficult a challenge as it will be, it's also well within a school like Oregon State's grasp. Look at Washington State.

The Cougars were god-awful not so long ago, every bit as awful as Oregon State was this year and in some ways, more so. Dick and Tony Bennett's first class included Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver, Robbie Cowgill, Daven Harmeling and Chris Henry. None of them had offers from any other Pac-10 school.

And it's easy to forget it now but the first two years, that WSU group lost often, and plenty of times in heartbreaking fashion. But because the players were built of strong character and because they bought into a system, one that was not going to bring them personal glory or airtime on ESPN showing off their dunks, they found success in the third year and became the comeback story of college basketball.

OREGON STATE does have some young talent in the cupboard -- guys like Lathen Wallace have shown flashes. But it is talent that is not yet refined and most of the potential remains untapped.

The right coach can take some of that existing talent and utilize it on defense, adding the other pieces to the puzzle through recruiting. And if the next OSU coach makes character and defense the founding principles, the Beavers can again rejoin all that is March Madness rather than just being mad in March.

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