After the Buzzer: Dana Altman on Waverly Austin, nearing his 500th win and new foul rules

Oregon head coach Dana Altman talks strategy with the Ducks during the second half. The Oregon Ducks host the Oregon State Beavers in the  341st civil war game at Matthew Knight Arena Sunday, Feb.16 (Andrew Seng/Emerald)

Oregon head coach Dana Altman talks strategy with the Ducks during the second half. The Oregon Ducks host the Oregon State Beavers in the 341st civil war game at Matthew Knight Arena Sunday, Feb.16 (Andrew Seng/Emerald)

Posted by Victor Flores on Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 2:04 pm.

During Dana Altman’s Pac-12 media teleconference this morning, Oregon’s head men’s basketball coach discussed the state of his team and the new foul rules, but he also touched on his coaching career. He’s one win away from 500 career wins at the Division I level, and he said this has caused him to reflect on his 25-year coaching career, which started while he was pursuing an MBA.

Have you seen an improvement from Waverly Austin the last couple of weeks?

“I’ve been encouraging Wave to focus in on the defense and rebounding all year. He went through a stretch where he didn’t get a chance to play a lot, so in practice, he really started becoming a better defender and doing a great job on the boards. The Arizona State game, we were having a hard time with (Jordan) Bachynski and (Austin) went in there and did a nice job. He’s had a couple really good weeks of practice and it’s translated into some good minutes on the floor for us. I’ve been very pleased with what he’s done in the last two ball games. I think he’s given us as big lift and he had a good practice yesterday, so I hope that will continue.”

Do you think the games where he didn’t play helped him mentally?

“I don’t know about that. He wants to play. Wave wants to play like all players, and I think he saw where he could help the team. He saw that we needed some defense inside, he saw that we needed some rebounding and it became important for him to get back on the floor. He saw what the team needed and he did help us in both those games (ASU and Oregon State). I’m hoping he can help us down the stretch here.”

What have you seen the last two weeks from your team that makes you more comfortable heading into the Pac-12 tournament?

“I’ve never really been uncomfortable with our team. Even during that rough patch, we were competitive. Other than the Cal game, all of our games have gone down the last couple three minutes. We lost Stanford by two, Washington by four, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State have all been two-pointers. We just weren’t able to get over the hump, and that’s always frustrating. Maybe frustration is the better word. The frustration’s built for all of us, to get that close and to not get over the hump. But confidence, I always felt, is one shot away and one ballgame away. You can catch a spark. This time of year, there’s always someone who catches a spark across the country. A team or two that really starts playing well. I think we do have the talent, I think we can score baskets. Our problem has been our interior defense and rebounding. I think we have improved that. The close losses on the road to the Arizona schools and UCLA, three teams that are at the top of our league, give us hope that we’re not too far away.”

You’re one win away from 500 for your career. Does that mean anything to you?

“It does. Over 25 years, you look back and it makes you realize how fortunate you are to coach so many young men that you have and to work at great schools that I’ve been able to work at. It does make you reflect a little bit. It’s been a long 25 years, and I was hoping we’d have gotten to that 500 a month ago but it does make you reflect.”

At what point did you realize you wanted to coach?

“I was in college and I wanted to go get an MBA, and I needed some help financially to get that, so I took that GA job in the basketball office at Western State in Division II, the school of Colorado. I did that for two years and then started junior college ball, I coached junior college ball for four years, and it just kind of went that direction. I can’t say I always grew up wanting to be a coach, I just could never get out of the gym at 3 o’clock. So, I really enjoyed it and I’ve always said you’re really fortunate if your hobby’s your job. If I wasn’t coaching basketball, I’d still be watching ESPN and all the games every night, so it’s really been fortunate for me that my hobby’s my job.”

Have you seen the new foul rules affect shooting numbers this season?

“I think there have been a lot more fouls being called driving balls to the rim, and I think that’s encouraged a lot of guys who would settle for a three to take it to rim a little bit more, knowing that they can get to the line. I don’t know if it’s affected it that much. Some of our games have been called like they were a year ago. Some of our games have been called really close. I think the officials are still trying to figure out exactly how to call games. I think it’s been a change for everybody. Teams, coaches, players and the officials.”