Dana Altman, now in his first Final Four, should have been fired over Oregon’s rape case

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dana Altman shouldn’t be coaching in the Final Four. He should have been fired three years ago.

Mark Few and Frank Martin probably shouldn’t be coaching in the Final Four, either, but the circumstances are entirely different.

Few is the head coach of a program that was considered the worst job in the WCC as recently as 25 years ago, a program that had no basketball pedigree to speak of when he got the job, a program in a city that is more Montana than it is Seattle.

Martin?

He’s a longtime high school coach and a former nightclub bouncer in Miami that took over a bad South Carolina program, one that had never won two games in the NCAA tournament and had taken just four trips to the NCAA tournament in the previous four decades, because he didn’t like his boss at Kansas State.

Those guys are the ultimate success stories.

Altman has done a terrific job building Oregon, who had been to just 10 NCAA tournaments in 73 years, into a national power that has been to five straight NCAA tournaments and, now, an Elite 8 and Final Four in back-to-back years, but the success that he’s had shouldn’t cover-up the black eye left on this program back in 2014.

In March of that year, prior to the start of the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments and after the Ducks upset then-No. 3 Arizona in Eugene, three Oregon players — Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Brandon Austin — were alleged to have committed forcible rape of a female student at the university. The woman’s father would notify the Oregon police department the next morning while the woman would make a report to the Eugene police on March 13th, the day that UCLA beat Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament. Artis and Dotson combined for 15 points and 23 minutes in that loss.

Austin did not play.

He had been suspended by Providence for the 2013-14 season because he had been accused of sexual assault by a female student in the fall of 2013, transferring to Oregon that January, just two months before his second allegation.

EPD contacted Oregon that day, alerting them to the fact that three players were being investigated, but, according to a statement from Oregon at the time, did not tell the school which players were being investigated or what the investigation was for. Artis and Dotson would combine for seven points in each of the two NCAA tournament games the Ducks participated in that year.

None of this was made public until early May, when the EPD released a graphic police report detailing the allegations against the players. All three were suspended from the university less than a week later and, within two months, were dismissed from the school and banned from campus for 10 years.

“I’m comfortable with the way we handled it,” Altman said. “It was three years ago. But I think in retrospect everything was handled correctly.”

The players never faced charges.

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Altman was rightfully questioned for allowing players that were accused of sexual assault to play in Oregon’s tournament games, but it’s hard to criticize — and, frankly, harder to actually believe — a coach for listening to the police when they told him not to interfere in a criminal investigation.

The mistake Altman made was with Austin.

The cause for Austin’s suspension did not become public until March 18th, when the Wall Street Journal reported the details of the allegations, but it was the worst-kept secret within basketball circles.

Everyone knew.

Which means one of two things happened, either:

  1. Altman brought in a player that had been accused of sexual assault just months prior to his transfer, and he allegedly did it again on Oregon’s campus, or;
  2. Altman didn’t put in the minimal amount of work required to figure out why Austin was suspended, which allowed him to make his way to Oregon, where he allegedly assaulted another female student.

There’s no middle ground there.

Either Altman didn’t do his job, accurately vetting why a player had been suspended, or he lost a bet on whether or not a kid he brought into his program was actually a predator.

Both of those are fireable offenses.

Altman escaped any real punishment — he was named along with the university in a lawsuit filed by the accuser for “deliberate indifference”, which was settled for an $800,000 payout in August of 2015 — and he almost immediately turned things back around. Despite returning just three scholarship players, he won 26 games in 2014-15, finishing tied for second in the Pac-12 and returning to the NCAA tournament.

“Our guys did a great job, our staff did a great job. We had great support from the university. So it went fairly smooth,” Altman said.

A year later, Altman was in the Elite 8 for the first time in his career.

That was one year ago.

He’s now in the Final Four; no one ever said he wasn’t a hell of a basketball coach.

That’s doesn’t mean that he deserves the job that he has, and it certainly doesn’t make him or Oregon a feel-good story.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.

Report: Nike, Adidas and Under Armour all pass on sponsoring Lonzo Ball

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Lonzo Ball will enter his rookie season in the NBA without a sponsorship deal from Nike, Adidas or Under Armour, only his family’s Big Baller Brand apparel.

That, according to a report from ESPN, is due to his father LaVar’s insistence that Lonzo not sign with one of the three major apparel companies unless they opted to sign a licensing deal for Big Baller Brand merchandise instead of outfitting Lonzo with their own gear.

“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”

LaVar had been representing his son in the negotiations, and is now expected to reach out to other shoe brands, including Chinese apparel companies like Li-Nang.

Big Baller Brand is a startup apparel company launched by LaVar Ball. They sell t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, with most of their products costing at least $50.

Lonzo declared for the NBA Draft after an all-american season that saw him and the UCLA Bruins flame out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16. UCLA lost to Kentucky in that game, and Lonzo had a quiet night while his point guard counterpart, De’Aaron Fox, went off for 39 points.

Lonzo is a likely top three pick in the NBA Draft and, potentially, could still end up going No. 1. He has two younger brothers as well. LiAngelo will be a freshman with the Bruins next season while LaMelo just finished his sophomore season in high school. Both will attend UCLA.