That headline is not meant to be a negative assessment of Oregon State’s men’s basketball coach. Quite the contrary, its recognition of what Wayne Tinkle’s job currently is, at least the portion on the floor that’s visible to the rest of us.
As the Beavers wind their way home after a rough road trip to the mountain schools, both of whom took wins while exacting an emotional toll on Oregon State, it occurs to me that Tinkle is at the moment in largely the same situation as your local high school JV coach.
Many nights, Tinkle can not win, and can not even hope to. And often enough that when the Beavers might be able to win, it still doesn’t matter. Other than in order to provide some encouragement on occasion, wins make no difference to a team already assured of a losing season (by a lot).
His job, much like the local JV coach, who is in fact often as important as anyone in a successful program, is go get his guys ready to play at a higher level at some future point when winning will matter.
It’s different than the high school JV coach in that he is getting players ready to step up when those ahead of them are gone, whereas there is no one in front of anyone at Oregon State.
But Coach Tinkle’s mission each night is to take another step to get his guys ready to play at a high level along side other players not currently on campus.
That other half of Tinkle’s job, the one we can’t see, is to get those other players, in this case a true post and a point guard, along with maybe a difference maker somewhere. We won’t know how that part of the job is going at all until some time next November, or even early December, when we first see if they have arrived.
Right now, what matters is getting Drew Eubanks, whom Tinkle has already developed into a real player, to become the leader of men he will need to be. All indications are this is going well.
Right now, getting Tres Tinkle healthy, but not wasting his season’s eligibility on a season that is already lost, and keeping his mind set sound, is what matters. The elder Tinkle, in both his coach and his dad roles, seems to be the right man for that job.
Right now, what matters is getting Stevie Thompson to be a better distributor, in case he still has to be, and progress from being a 30 good minutes a game player to closer to 40. Consecutive career best nights on the recent trip, even in losses, are an indication that this too is coming along.
Right now, what matters is getting Jaquori McLaughlin to play consistency at the level he sometime rises too. That progress often comes a minute at a time. It looks like it in fact might be coming.
Getting Ben Kone rehabilitated and getting Kendal Manuel to be able to contribute every night would help too.
The best signs that these things are happening are the single digit margins of loss in both Boulder and Salt Lake City, this after being down by double digits. It was the first conference win of the season for the Buffs, but the Utes are a contender for a first day bye in the Pac-12 Tournament, and the Huntsman Center is a notoriously tough place to not fall prey to the home crowd when Utah has it rolling.
As a side note, seeing where Larry Krystkowiak, a former teammate and coaching staff boss of Tinkle, has gotten the Utes to, after they were in as deep a hole as Oregon State currently is, is a reminder that this can be done.
Oregon State is not a good defensive team, and are still something of a turnover machine, but what Tinkle did in his first 2 years, albeit with mostly a different cast of players, suggests that he can do something about these current problems once something is done about the bigger problems facing the Beavers, the holes in the roster, are plugged.
So for now, I’m glad we appear to have a good JV coach, since that’s what’s needed at Oregon State at the moment. The better the job Coach Tinkle does at it, the better chance he will have to succeed once the Beavers are actually involved in games where winning matters again.