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Final Four Spotlight: What makes Dana Altman unique in recruiting?


Oregon is in the Final Four for the first time since 1939 thanks to a Nebraska native, Dana Altman, who has remained true to his core beliefs. But it was his evolution on the recruiting front that pushed the Ducks to Phoenix.

Altman's career in Division I began as an assistant at Kansas State, before going on to become the head coach at Marshall, Kansas State and Creighton prior to his current position at Oregon.

So, how does someone who has spent nearly his entire life in the Midwest, take a program totally out of his geographical locale and with no background prior to it, to its highest point of success? As one Pac-12 assistant noted, Altman and his staff have scoured every inch of the continent.

“They have done a great job in the junior college ranks with guys like Chris Boucher and Kavell Bigby-Williams, gone to Canada, but also the West Coast. The key commitment was Dillon Brooks. He gives them the ability to play a ton of different positions due to his toughness and versatility,” he said.

The Pac-12 assistant coach also noted that landing Tyler Dorsey, a top 25 recruit in the 2015 class and the leading scorer in this year’s NCAA Tournament, was a major pick-up. Prior to Boucher’s injury last month, 60 percent of the Ducks’ starting lineup hailed from Canada. Thanks to the hiring of Mike Mennenga as an assistant coach three years ago, Altman’s vision for the program has received a boost.

“They have put a priority on getting to know the players and programs up here and as a result, they have benefited in landing some of the key Canadian recruits,” UPlay Canada director Dwayne Washington said. “If other college programs did the same, I know that they would be in position to achieve similar results.”

Tyler Dorsey
Tyler Dorsey (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Unlike other coaches that tend to micromanage everything, it is Altman’s ability to lead his staff to do what it does best, which has led to success reverberating all throughout the program.

“He (Altman) has the ability to connect and he really empowers his assistants to recruit,” Brookwood Bounce Elite director Joey McKitterick said. “Mike (Mennenga) gave Oregon the blueprint of where to look in Canada and who to look at. Then Altman just decides what is best when it is presented to him.”

Fighting off UCLA, Cal, Washington, Arizona, and in past years, UNLV, for some of the top West Coast prospects can offer major hurdles, which makes Altman’s shift to dominate Canada that much more impressive.

“One school that was the biggest pioneer was New Mexico State but Oregon has now done it at the high-major level. I think a lot of other schools aren't sure where to begin,” McKitterick said.

“Talent is needed to win and there is an abundance of talent across Canada so logically, yes, it should start more of a trend tapping into the country.”

Abu Kigab, a class of 2017 signee for the Ducks, feels like Oregon has already hit the jackpot.

“The connection with Canada, it is already a pipeline," he said. "A lot of Canadian players are really interested in Oregon right now because of the recent success and it is only going to go up from here."

And to top it off, Altman also has the ability to relate with high school prospects.

“Coach Altman kept it real with me," Kigab said. "He told me when I get there, you’re going to have to work for every single minute and that is what I like. The other coaches kind of hinted at it but didn’t make it as clear as he had. He is a really great coach that is down to earth. The first time I ever talked to him, I felt like I was talking to my high school coach. I had a really good vibe with him.”