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Tinkle tinkers with Beavers' roster, preparations for 2014-15

CORVALLIS — Wayne Tinkle was working the phones this week at his OSU Basketball Center office, but it wasn't a recruit or coach on the other line.

It was a real estate agent, and Oregon State's new basketball coach was discussing an offer on a house in west Corvallis.

"We feel good about this place if we can make the numbers crunch," Tinkle said, "but we don't want to be overanxious, in case it falls through."

The former Montana coach had been living at the Hilton Garden Inn since being hired to replace Craig Robinson on May 20, but has moved over to the Comfort Suites, because it accommodate pets.

"My wife (Lisa) brought our pets down from Missoula (Mont.)," Tinkle said. "A puppy Rottweiler and an eight-year-old silver lab."

Soon they'll be joined by their youngest child, 17-year-old Tres, who will spend some time in Corvallis after attending a pair of basketball camps -- the National Basketball Players Association Top 100 camp at Charlottesville, Va., and the Kevin Durant Skills Academy at Union, N.J.

The senior Tinkle, 48, has crammed a mountain of activity into his first month on the job.

The major order of business has been putting together a coaching staff armed with strong credentials. To wit:

• Kerry Rupp, 60, assistant coach, Montana. Rupp spent the past two years as Tinkle's chief assistant with the Grizzlies. He previously had worked as assistant and interim head coach for Rick Majerus at Utah, as associate head coach under Mike Davis at Indiana and as head coach at Louisiana Tech from 2007-11.

Tinkle: "It's a pleasure to have a guy with Kerry's wealth of experience, knowledge and energy. He'll be instrumental in our player development program. I couldn't believe I was able to hire him at Montana."

• Gregg Gottlieb, 42, assistant coach, California. Gottlieb spent the past seven years at Cal, the last six working under Mike Montgomery. Prior to that, Gottlieb -- brother of ESPN broadcaster Doug Gottlieb and son of noted AAU coach Bob Gottlief -- spent eight seasons with Steve Fisher at San Diego State.

Tinkle: "Gregg was part of building the program at San Diego State and again at Cal. He has great recruiting ties throughout the country, especially out West. He has a very good reputation as a fine coach on the floor and developer of talent and is very detail-oriented when it comes to administrative agenda."

• Stevie Thompson, 45, head coach, Cal State-Los Angeles. Thompson was head coach of the Golden Eagles the past nine years, compiling a record of 15-12 last season and 126-120 overall. Thompson was a star under Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and was named as Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 1990. The Compton, Calif., native played 19 games with Orlando and Sacramento during the 1991-92 NBA season.

Tinkle: "Stevie comes with an impeccable reputation. Everybody you talk to in Southern California can't say enough good things about him. He's a very good tactical coach who relates well to the players. He opens up some new avenues in recruiting and brings credibility because he played at such a high level."

Also joining the staff will be Kurt Paulson, a full-time assistant for Tinkle at Montana last season. Paulson will serve as director of basketball operations. Tinkle has two more positions to fill -- player personnel director and video coordinator/graduate assistant -- over the next two weeks.

"The thing that stands out among the coaches is their unbelievable character, integrity and the way they handle themselves," Tinkle said. "I feel like we hit a home run."

After his hiring, Tinkle had about a week to work out (for the NCAA-mandated limit of two hours apiece) the seven returning players from Robinson's 2013-14 team. Not a lot was accomplished there.

"Now we can't do anything with them until summer school starts next week," Tinkle said. "That's been kind of difficult."

For now, Tinkle will have nine players to start next season, including two Robinson recruits -- 6-3 shooting guards Chai Baker of Malone, Fla., and Gary Payton II from Salt Lake (Utah) CC. The coach is still working to re-recruit Cameron Oliver, a 6-8 forward from Sacramento, and Isaiah Manderson, a 6-10 center from Oldsmar, Fla., and feels he has a reasonable chance to land both. Each has a qualifying test to pass, however -- Oliver an SAT and Manderson an ACT.

Without Oliver and Manderson, Oregon State would have four scholarships available. With them, only two would remain. OSU coaches have their feelers out for fifth-year seniors or European players.

"There are a couple of fifth-year seniors out there, but the list has dwindled," Tinkle said. "We have some great relationships in Europe and are involved with one who is playing with his national team.

"We're also involved with a couple of good high school players we may bring out for a visit, but we're not sure yet whether they fit."

Much as OSU women's coach Scott Rueck did four years ago when he was left with a bare table by predecessor LaVonda Wager, Tinkle will almost surely have a tryout session once fall term begins in September in order to add walk-ons to flesh out the roster.

"We've already run into some guys on campus who are interested," he said. "To get a team of 15, we're probably going to have to."

There are no seniors on Oregon State's current 2014-15 roster. If there are no defections after next season, Tinkle would have as few as two and no more than four scholarships available for next year's recruiting class.

"What we have to balance is where we're at with our scholarships and how many do we want to have in 2015, which is shaping up to be a pretty good class for us," Tinkle said. "I'd say there's maybe a 50-50 chance we add one player" for next year's team.

That's because the Beavers have a line on a pair of pretty good prospects -- Tres Tinkle, a 6-7, 220-pound small forward, and Stevie Thompson Jr., a 6-4, 165-pound guard, son of the OSU assistant who will also attend the NBPA and Durant camps. Tinkle is ranked No. 46 and Thompson Jr. No. 56 on ESPN's list of top 100 high school seniors next season.

The senior Tinkle thinks there's a good chance both Tres and Stevie Jr. will choose to play their final high school seasons in Corvallis. And Stevie Jr., has a younger brother, Ethan, who will be a sophomore and is another highly regarded prospect. Stevie and Ethan led Bishop Montgomery High of Torrance, Calif., to the Southern California Division IV state championship last season, Stevie Jr. setting a school single-season scoring record with a 22.0-point average. If the three of them wind up at the same school, it could be hanging an Oregon state championship banner at season's end.

How many times in history has Oregon State landed two national top-60 basketball recruits? The same number of times the Beavers have made it to the NCAA Tournament since 1990 -- zero.

There's no guarantee Tres and Stevie wind up at OSU, but you have to like the chances.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we have some great connections," the senior Tinkle said. "We feel like our first true recruiting class could be a good one."

Tinkle may squeeze in a couple of rounds of golf, but he and his staff will stay busy for the next two months.

"The big thing right now is making sure all of our returning and incoming players are dialed into summer school," the first-year OSU mentor said.

July is a big recruiting month, and OSU coaches can work out the current players two hours a week while they're in summer school through Aug. 15.

"We'll take September to implement what our vision is, the way we do things and to plan our fall recruiting," Tinkle said.

Then it will be on to what will surely be a trying inaugural season for the Tinkle era in 2014-15. But better times would seem to loom ahead.

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