Following a disappointing loss to cap a second consecutive underachieving season that ended in the NIT, Dana Altman could no longer contain his frustration.
With himself. With Oregon’s players. Or with the lack of support from a fan base that showed up less than at any point during his 13 seasons in Eugene, with Tuesday night’s crowd of 3,384, albeit energized, for an NIT quarterfinal loss to Wisconsin sending Altman over the edge.
“You see the commitment that Wisconsin makes, they got their cheerleaders, their band (at a road NIT game),” Altman said. “And we make a commitment — don’t get me wrong here. You can just see how important it is. It was important to them. It was important to me. We should’ve had more people here tonight, alright? These guys play hard, 3,300 people is not good enough. If it’s me, then get rid of me. If you need somebody else to be a promoter, do something, but 3,300 people is embarrassing. It really is.”
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Oregon’s attendance was poor all season and the crowds for the three NIT games were all among the four lowest in 214 men’s basketball games played at Matthew Knight Arena since it opened on Jan. 13, 2011, topping only the 2,327 for the NIT game against Rider on March 13, 2018. The Dec. 14 game against UC Riverside had a crowd of 4,738, second-lowest for a regular-season men’s game — ahead of only the Dec. 22, 2011, game against Stephen F. Austin (3,401).
With Tuesday’s crowd Oregon drew a total of 124,682 fans to 21 home games this season for an average crowd of 5,937 or 48% of the 12,364 capacity. That’s down from 6,970 last season and the previous season-low at MKA of 6,209 (50%) from 2014-15 — the only other season with multiple crowd of less than 5,000.
Even the average attendance of 7,086 for 10 Pac-12 home games was lowest for the program, with only the UCLA game drawing more than 10,000 fans. The last time Oregon had a sellout crowd for a men’s basketball game was Feb. 24, 2018, against Arizona.
“If it’s me, then make the change,” Altman said. “Make the change. Somebody will hire me — I’ll go coach junior college ball again. I love junior college ball; those guys are dogs. They want to be in the gym all the time. I love coaching. But 3,300 people? For Wisconsin? I was disappointed. I appreciate the people who came — the 3,300 people who did come, great. I sure appreciate it. The people who have stuck with us.”
Oregon has won 20 games in each of Altman’s 13 seasons, gone to the postseason in 12 of those years and won the Pac-12 regular-season title in 2019-20, when the postseason was canceled due to the pandemic. Altman had coached UO for seven of its 17 NCAA Tournament appearances, five of its eight Sweet 16 appearances, two of seven Elite Eight appearances and its first Final Four (2017) since the 1939 national championship.
Altman is under contract through April 25, 2028, and he’s owed over $20.45 million after this season, with a $4 million buyout should he leave to go elsewhere before April 25, which drops to $3 million for the following year.
He said he wants to be at UO but wants fans to support the team, admitting he understands a second consecutive NIT appearance is not what anyone has come to expect of the program.
“I’m not a promoter,” he said. “I’m not out in public. I don’t have Twitter and all the stuff. My job is to coach. My job is to get the team and coach them. I’m not out there — I’m so bad at promoting and doing those things, but we have won 20 games for a long time and we have been in postseason 13 years in a row. And I know, hey, this is the NIT, it’s not the NCAA, I understand that. I understand that. But our guys work hard and just a little disappointed. But they’re disappointed in us; we didn’t win and so it works both ways. We didn’t win enough games, so I understand fans’ disappointment.
“But again, I want guys that want to be here and staff that wants to be here. I want to be here. But I want our fans to want to be here, too. I watched Wisconsin play the other day against Liberty and I think they had 10,000 people there. We had recruits here tonight. We had recruits watching on TV. Are we sending the right message? We got to get better. Our team’s got to get better. We got to do a better job. Our program’s got to be better.”