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No promises from new UP coach

by: JIM CLARK, Eric Reveno, new basketball coach at the University of Portland, can’t wait to “watch the team sell itself.”

He may be 6 feet 8 inches tall, but Eric Reveno doesn't have his head in the clouds.

The Portland Pilots have not won more men's basketball games than they have lost since 1997-98, and the Pilots have not won in the West Coast Conference tournament since 1996.

Why should the new coach get out of his element and be bold and boisterous and make any predictions about how the Pilots will do in his first season?

'I'm not good at BS,' he says. 'For me to speculate on where we're going to be and how we're going to change - it's speculation.'

Reveno learned much when he played and coached at Stanford under coach Mike Montgomery - tempering expectations being one thing.

'I don't know the benefit of doing otherwise … it could be a tough sell,' he says.

'I'm a headache for marketing people. Their job is to sell tickets, and I won't say anything. 'We'll try hard' is not a good marketing slogan.'

Being a head coach at the Division I level, however, he sees the need to change.

'I see the need to come out of my shell and sell the team,' Reveno says. 'I'm anxious for the season and to watch the team sell itself.'

Since being hired last spring, Reveno has been busy recruiting and signing players, meeting with staff and recently putting players through their individual workouts. Again, he doesn't know how good the Pilots can be.

He expects Darren Cooper, the Benson High grad who got an extra year of eligibility, to be the mainstay in the backcourt, with Brian McTear the possible point guard. Five players have been added, the most recent being former Colorado 'Mr. Basketball' Parker Emerson, a 6-6 guard and a member of Wyoming's team last season.

The Pilots return four big men in Jamie Jones, Alex Tiefenthaler, Kevin Field and Ben Sullivan. He will watch to see whether they will play defense and rebound.

'If they're not willing to rebound and defend,' Reveno says, as a blanket statement about UP players, 'they're not going to play.

'Players respond to what you emphasize. You drill it, they get better at it. … But I don't know how quickly (players) can change.'

As a hustling post, Reveno got great joy out of diving for loose balls, saying he 'daydreamed' about it. It says something about his personality: no nonsense, 'respect' the game. 'Straightforward, logical and analytical,' he adds.

'It's a simple game,' he observes. 'So simple. … If we're successful, you'll say we're fundamentally sound. If we're not, you'll say we're simpletons.'

Field and Sullivan, despite each being nearly 7 feet tall, hardly excelled at defense and rebounding under former coach Michael Holton. Sullivan hears Reveno's call for 'unselfishness about defense and rebounding' and accepts it, because he also believes the new coach will not just make him set picks for the guards. Sullivan wants to be involved in the offense.

'If I can make myself a better defender and rebounder, it'll make me a better player,' says Sullivan, who adds that he played hurt on both ankles last season. 'I want to be more of a complete player.'

Reveno, who has a five-year contract, believes the university has a commitment to winning, and he doesn't think a major change is needed in the structure of the program. The recruiting budget is fine. The Chiles Center is in fine condition.

University officials have perspective on what it takes to be successful, he says. 'They have a willingness to admit areas for improvement.'

Reveno's keys to building the program: recruiting, skill development, strength and conditioning for toughness, and scouting.

'We need to keep our focus on progress,' he says.

The Reveno era starts next month with practice.

'It's always a fresh start with a new coach,' Sullivan says. 'He seems like a good guy, intelligent. He's excited to be here and ready.'