Inside Look at College Programs

Our basketball coaching staff from Flathead High School visited Willamette University and Oregon State University

By Jeff Epperly

Have you ever wanted to go on the inside of some organization to see how it works and what makes it tick? For me, I have several such teams and organizations that I would love to see operate up close and personal. Obviously, the White House would be a great place to start, or maybe the CIA or the New England Patriots or Golden State Warriors, or even basketball’s Kentucky Wildcats or Duke Blue Devils.

Like most sports, basketball has its own culture, and each team has its own sub-culture. In fact, coaches often talk about creating a culture of winning based on their school’s values, attitudes, goals, and practices.

So when I recently had the opportunity to go visit another school and another athletic culture, I couldn’t pass on the trip. Our basketball coaching staff from Flathead High School visited Willamette University and Oregon State University in late October. Both universities were into their pre-season workouts and beginning to prepare for their season openers in early November.

Our time at Willamette University with head coach Kip Ioane was very interesting. Coach Ioane is from Billings Skyview High School, having played for his dad Kasimilo in the mid-1990s. Willamette is a NCAA Division III school that has no athletic scholarships yet plays in the very competitive Northwest League with other smaller private universities. 

One thing I learned from Kip is that you must constantly evolve as a coach. After eight seasons, he continues to tweak his way of doing things to better help his players grow and develop as student-athletes. For instance, this year he is demanding more from them mentally by requiring them to determine what plays to run based on what they see from the other team. They work on this in practice. He feels like his players will grow from this experience, understand the game better, and perform at a much higher level.

At Oregon State University, former University of Montana coach Wayne Tinkle is now the Beavers’ head coach. Coach Tinkle is doing a terrific job at a place that has not been very successful over the last 20-plus years. The Spokane native, who made his way to the University of Montana to play for the Grizzly basketball program in the late 1980s, is now having impact in the Pac-12 conference. He recently was given a two-year contract extension through 2022. Tinkle says he’s been influenced by former Grizzly coaches, such as Mike Montgomery, Stu Morrill, Blaine Taylor, and Larry Krystkowiak.

Being able to take a peek inside Beaver basketball was illuminating. Can you say money? Wow! And Oregon State University’s basketball budget is one of the smaller ones in the Pac-12 conference. Nonetheless, the facilities and resources available are just amazing. The men’s program has its own practice facility, own medical training room, and own weight room, along with basketball offices, player lounges, locker rooms, and a dining hall. The men also have coaches, operation staff, videographers, media directors, trainers, nutritionists, academic advisors, and a staff that coordinates travel arrangements. It is just fascinating to see how it all functions to promote and serve Beaver basketball.

One thing I learned from Tinkle is that he is not going to change who he is just because he now has a big-time college coaching job. Wayne is still very personable. He is very good to his players and treats them as family. He is warm toward them but coaches them hard, wanting them to improve. As I like to say, he has never lost his Montana touch. Yes, it’s a big-time program, but Wayne still has that small-town touch.

I thoroughly enjoyed looking inside other organizations to see how they do what they do and why they do it. If you have the chance, do likewise. It will be good for you. I know it was for me.

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