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MEN'S COLLEGE HOOPS: Hitting the 500 club

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - DANA ALTMAN(The Register-Guard) — Dana Altman's list of "thank you's" following win No. 500 ranged from Mitch Richmond to his wife.

Oregon's 78-71 victory over Washington on Wednesday night was the 500th of Altman's 25-year coaching career at the Division I level.

He began his coaching career in 1982 at Southeast (Neb.) Junior College before leaving the next season for a three-year stint at Moberly Junior College in Missouri. During his final two seasons, Moberly went 69-9 and finished in the top six at the national junior-college championships each year, led by Richmond.

Richmond went to Kansas State the next year, and Altman joined him as an assistant coach when Lon Kruger was hired as head coach of the Wildcats. Richmond went on to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft by Golden State and was rookie of the year in 1989 before averaging 21 points per game in a 14-year NBA career.

"I would have never got started if not for a guy named Mitch Richmond," the 55-year old Altman said. "My whole career at 25 got started because I got a really good player. Everything I have been able to do with teams has been because I had good players. It all started with Mitchell, and he was just a special player."

Altman was an assistant for three seasons at Kansas State before becoming the head coach at Marshall for a year when the Thundering Herd went 15-13. When Kruger left for Florida after that season, Altman replaced him and spent four seasons at Kansas State, compiling a 68-54 record.

The Nebraska native returned to his home state to coach Creighton and went 327-176 from 1994-2010 before he was hired by the Ducks. He is 90-45 in his fourth season at Oregon, and his .667 winning percentage is the best of any men's basketball coach who spent more than one season at the school.

"You realize how fortunate you are," Altman said. "Twenty-five years surviving, not a lot of guys do that. I was really fortunate to work at really good places. ... Marshall, Kansas State, Creighton and here for four years. I enjoyed my four years coaching in junior college, I thought that was good for me as a young coach. I have been lucky. People at all the schools I've worked at have been so supportive."

Altman also credited the support of his wife, Reva, and his four children.

"I have got a great wife who put up with me and understands my job," Altman said. "My kids have gone without their dad a lot, but that's true for a lot of professions. My wife did a tremendous job keeping the family together."

Earlier this week, Altman recalled how he got started in coaching after his playing career ended at Eastern New Mexico in 1980.

"I was in college and I wanted to go get an MBA, and I needed some help financially to get that," Altman said. "So I took a GA job in the basketball office at Western State, a Division II school in Colorado, and I liked that for two years. I started in junior college ball and it just kind of went that direction. I can't say I grew up always wanting to be a coach, I just could never get out of the gym at 3 o'clock. I enjoyed it.

"I have said you are fortunate if your hobby is your job and if I wasn't coaching basketball, I'd still be watching ESPN and all the games every night. I have been really fortunate that for me, my hobby is my job."

Altman ranks 56th in NCAA history in wins and is catching up to some coaching legends including Hec Edmundson (508), Nolan Richardson (509), John Chaney (516), and Rick Majerus (517).

Altman's 500th win guaranteed the Ducks (17-8, 5-8) will finish above .500 this year, giving him four straight winning seasons. It is just the fifth time in their history that the Ducks have had four straight winning seasons, and Oregon's 90 wins under Altman are the most for the school in a four-year span since 1938-42.

Senior point guard Johnathan Loyd has played in all 135 games that Altman has coached at Oregon to rank third in games played for the Ducks. Loyd passed former teammate E.J. Singler for the school record with his 90th win on Wednesday.

"I'm going to call (Singler) right after I get out of here," Loyd said following the win over UW. "Shout out to him, he's my brother, I love him. I'm glad I can take it from him. He's been part of (my wins), without him I wouldn't be saying any of this. I'm just happy I could do it. Shout out to my teammates, too."

The Ducks have played in 19 postseason games during the past three seasons, including seven in the Pac-12 tournaments. Oregon played six games en route to winning the College Basketball Invitational in 2011 and then played three games to reach the National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals the following year. Last year, the Ducks reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

"We've played a lot of games the last four years, so our winning percentage is not as high as some others, but that does not take away from the fact that he has been here for four years, practiced every day, and busted his tail every day," Altman said of Loyd. "He has always been about the team, so yeah, I feel good for him. I feel good he stuck it out with us."

When a handful of players transferred from Oregon after Ernie Kent was dismissed as coach, Altman inherited a roster with just six returning scholarship players. Loyd was the first recruit he picked up on the job.

"If you remember, we had about six or seven guys and it was May, we were scrambling," Altman said. "We were fortunate to get Johnny."
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