Dana Altman is leaving Creighton.
But he never really came back from Arkansas.
That’s why it won’t be a bad thing for either party. That’s an amazing thing to write after 16 years of one of the strongest marriages in college sports.
Altman to Oregon is a done deal, sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed to The World-Herald.
Of course, after the last time, Bluejays fans will know Altman is gone only when he agrees to do a duck call.
The last time is absolutely why it makes sense that it is occurring this time.
Altman probably wouldn’t agree, but he was getting stale here. His teams weren’t playing with discipline or fire. They weren’t doing the things that made Altman an icon in this city. He needed a fresh start. A new challenge. He appears to be getting it in the clean, fresh air of Oregon, with Phil Knight money and a splashy new arena in a league where he can win.
A new look won’t hurt Creighton, either. The tenor changed since Altman backed out on Arkansas three years ago. There’s been a different feel, like he had cheated on the marriage. Some fans never forgot that. The fuses were shorter. There’s been a lot of sniping about nonconference scheduling and substitution patterns. People were starting to pull money, to give up some of their season tickets. Folks who once were afraid to say anything negative, lest they chase Altman away, were openly and loudly critical of The Coach.
You hear that today. There’s a lot of folks saying good riddance.
Altman knew that would happen. He worried about feeding the monster he had created. Altman expedited the process when he left and came back. And while there was optimism that things would turn next season, you got the feeling that this marriage wasn’t going to end well. I have no doubt Altman sensed that, too.
But if the time is here, it’s not the time to say good riddance. You should be thanking Altman on his way to Nike U.
He would leave as Creighton’s most accomplished basketball coach. More than Red or Eddie or Tom or Tony, Dana transformed Creighton basketball into a consistent winner, a model for the Missouri Valley, and put the Jays on the national hoops map when it was harder than ever to do at the mid-major level. He transformed this city, too. Talk about accomplishments: He had Husker fans buying and wearing blue Creighton shirts.
He was as responsible as anyone for Qwest Center Omaha. Then his program helped give the building the jump-start in credibility — locally as well as nationally — by filling the place on a regular basis.
Too often we focus on what people did not accomplish. That’s the nature of the beast. For some, Altman will be remembered for the levels he did not reach, for winning two NCAA tournament games in 16 years, for not becoming Gonzaga or reaching that Sweet 16. He’ll be seen as a coach with a ceiling, much like the overachievers he used to connect with so well up in that old gym.
That’s fair. And that’s the sort of expectation — realistic or not — that got him steered down a different path a few years ago.
Altman was never better at CU than when he was recruiting Iowa and Milwaukee. It was when he elevated assistant Brian Fish into his key recruiter’s role — and turned him loose on Southern California — that we noticed a change in the program. Throw in P’Allen Stinnett and you had a group of players who no longer would dive on the floor upon command. Moreover, you had a group who demanded playing time, without the willingness to perform fundamentals. Some left the team or were encouraged to leave.
There’s irony and a lesson here. We saw it last month. Northern Iowa dominated the Valley with the kind of team and style that Altman used to have. Northern Iowa slayed mighty Kansas and made the Sweet 16. Butler used that formula to make the Final Four.
Could Altman have stayed and remade CU in the old image? Sure. But he left Creighton for a reason in 2007, if only for a day, and that reason obviously hadn’t changed.
Three years ago, Altman stood sheepishly before a school and city and said he was where he belonged, where he would retire. Some of us believed him. But we should have known: If you can leave once, you can leave again.
Maybe it’s time for a new challenge. He’ll get it. It’s been 16 years since Kansas State. He must prove to the Ducks that he can recruit and coach the high-rated, high-maintenance player. If he can keep the southern California pipeline going, he’ll be fine. But he might have to loosen the reins a tad.
Altman looks like a consolation prize to Oregon fans, who had visions of Tom Izzo and Mark Few dancing in their heads. Missouri coach Mike Anderson turned down the job last week — sources say Anderson wanted $3 million a year and Oregon is paying around $2 million. The search was going nowhere. Oregon needed someone who would take the job.
Ironically, that was Altman. One of the reasons Altman danced but never left over the years was his level of discomfort with other schools’ athletic directors. Oregon currently has no athletic director. So after all these years, Altman finally goes to a place with no A.D. It must be time to go.
And this time, there’s no coming back.
Contact the writer: 444-1025, email@example.com