OSU gets busy with coaching search

Fair Game

The search for Oregon State's new basketball coach begins in earnest this week as Athletic Director Bob De Carolis starts to interview candidates to replace Jay John.

'It will heat up toward the end of the week and go over into the following week,' De Carolis says.

De Carolis says he hopes to interview between eight and 10 prospective coaches, and isn't sure if he will narrow the list to a small group of finalists.

'It depends,' he says. 'I think you play it by ear and see how it goes. If there is somebody you clearly like, you'd want him to come back a second time. It's kind of like a first date. If you're impressed, you want a second look.'

De Carolis would like to make a hire 'sooner rather than later,' the concern being competition from other schools looking to make coaching hires.

'It would be good to have someone in place before the Final Four (April 5 through April 7),' he says.

The OSU selection committee includes De Carolis, school President Ed Ray, executive senior associate AD Todd Stansbury and ex-players A.C. Green and Lamar Hurd.

Among those expected to be interviewed: Jim Christian of Kent State, Ken Bone of Portland State, Randy Bennett of St. Mary's, Bill Grier of San Diego and Greg Graham of Boise State. De Carolis also has indicated he will interview former OSU star Lester Conner, an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers.

• I don't quite understand the opinion expressed recently that Oregon State must improve its practice facilities, support programs, recruiting budget, assistant coaches' salaries and infrastructure in order to have a winning basketball program.

The recently upgraded locker-room facilities are top-drawer. The new Gill Coliseum annex will house a state-of-the-art workout/weight facility. The recruiting budget is good enough to send coaches to the Netherlands to sign Roeland Schaftenaar, to North Carolina to land Sean Carter and to Chicago to get the already-departed Michael Stovall. Assistant coaches' pay will go up with the hiring of the new coach. A $4 million renovation of the outside of Gill is on the docket.

Gill isn't the Taj Mahal, or even Cameron Indoor Stadium. But it's good enough, for now, to allow a new coach to come in and win games.

Shaquille O'Neal is impressed with the Trail Blazers' potential next season, with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge a year older and with the addition of Greg Oden - but not so much that he's predicting a playoff run.

'They'll be pretty good,' Phoenix's veteran center said during his visit to Portland last week, 'but they still have to get that experience that gets you through the ups and downs. It depends on how the Western Conference is next year. If it's like it is this year, teams that are 20 games above .500 have the chance of not making the playoffs.

'Then you have to take into consideration how good Oden will be after knee surgery. Some guys come back OK; some guys don't. Amare (Stoudemire) had the same (microfracture surgery) and he's come back great, but you never know.'

Marques Johnson is only 52, but the FSN broadcaster makes himself sound a lot older when he describes a hustling player as 'running the 220-yard dash' around the court during a recent Pac-10 tournament game. Earth to Marques: U.S. track and field made the conversion to metric in the late '70s.

• Speaking of broadcasters, what a joke it is that Bob Knight - through his career as rude as rude can be to most members of the media, which indirectly is a slap in the face to the fans as well - now is being paid by ESPN as a college basketball studio analyst.

What do you expect, though, from a network that has employed Dick Vitale for the last 29 years?

• After watching the recent state high school tournament, let me reiterate these suggestions for rule changes on prep games:

- a shot clock (30 seconds sounds about right) is long overdue.

- an increase from 32 to 40 minutes of game time is warranted.

- the rule that assesses a technical foul for dunking in warmups is about as outdated as references to the 220-yard dash.

• Can we please stop the ridiculous tradition of teammates in the rebound lanes slapping hands with a shooter after he has just missed a free throw. 'Hey, nice job, way to go!' Right?

• Oregon State's appeal of the NCAA suspension of offensive tackle Tavita Thompson for illegal substance use is ongoing, and the senior will be on hand for spring ball (which starts Monday), during training camp and through next season. But as it stands now, Thompson can't play until the Beavers' eighth game next fall - Nov. 1 against Arizona State.