Wayne Tinkle brings tough love to the Oregon State basketball team

Josh Worden, Senior Beat Reporter

Forcefulness andrespect go hand in hand when Wayne Tinkle is concerned 

By Josh Worden

Senior Beat Reporter

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Early in Oregon State’s win over California on Jan. 9, Olaf Schaftenaar earned a single-admission ticket to witness Wayne Tinkle’s frustration.

The senior forward had gotten mixed up in a defensive possession, leading to a Cal layup and then an extended vocal berating from Tinkle.

It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for Tinkle, who has no qualms about voicing displeasure when his players make mistakes. Despite this — or maybe partially because of it — Tinkle has cultivated the reputation of a player’s coach.

There’s a fine line between being aggressive and being abusive. It’s the same between being likable and soft. If Tinkle didn’t manage to achieve the former traits in both cases, he’d lose his locker room quickly. But, Tinkle’s almost-combative coaching style has done the opposite.

“Coach is very intense in games. We respect that about him,” Schaftenaar said. “We just take what he says and don’t take it personally. He’s trying to help us through the games and he’s trying to win games just like we do. So that doesn’t bother us at all.”

The biggest thing Tinkle tries to emphasize, he says, is consistency. A head coach can’t be two-faced; even the most vigorous speeches must come across as being productive and meaningful, rather than falling into a Jekyll-and-Hyde situation.

“If you’re inconsistent in the way you love them up or jump them and criticize them, that’s there you’re going to lose them,” Tinkle said. “But our guys know this for sure: we care about them. We care about them more as individuals than just basketball players. That allows us to push them as hard as we do and get the results that we hope to.”

Tinkle’s commitment to caring about his athletes as people off the court is not hollow. Earlier this year, for example, Tinkle received administrative approval to return to Corvallis in between road games against Colorado and Utah. Normally the team would stay on the road, but Tinkle didn’t want his players missing too much class between the Wednesday and Sunday games.

Dylan Livesay, a walk-on last season, realized how much the OSU coaching staff valued their players as more than just athletes. When he was unable to schedule his engineering classes outside of practice times, coaches allowed him to miss practice or weightlifting sessions to attend class.

“He cares about his players first and winning second,” Livesay said. “He’s really like a father figure.”

And yet, for a coach who apparently puts winning behind his players’ success, Tinkle has been remarkably triumphant on the court.

Picked to finish last in the Pac-12 a year ago in the preseason media poll, OSU ended seventh while going 17-14 overall with a school record 15 home wins. Tinkle was a semifinalist for the 2015 Naismith National Coach of the Year and joined an elite group of OSU coaches who notched winning seasons in their first year; the only others to do so: Amory “Slats” Gill, Paul Valenti and Jim Anderson.

“The first thing is the players respect him because he’s about winning and he gets them to come play at a high level,” said assistant coach Stephen Thompson, Sr. “Really, when you’re an athlete, that’s what you want. You want somebody who’s going to push you to be your best, and he does a great job of getting the most out of his players.”

Daine Muller is one more sample of Tinkle’s circle of influence. The junior guard has to sit out this season after transferring from Montana, where he played under coach Tinkle. When he decided he needed some new scenery after sustaining an injury in Montana, Muller transferred to OSU “for the most part” completely because of Tinkle.

“I really admire the toughness he wants out of his players,” Muller said. “He’s pretty up front and he’s a character, too, so that makes it more fun.”

One potential hitch in the rapport Tinkle has with his players comes in the form of his son and freshman forward Tres. Every coach-son combination has the potential for preferential treatment, but there are no accusations of nepotism from other players and coaches.

“If you were to walk in unknowingly that they were father and son, you wouldn’t be able to tell,” said freshman forward Drew Eubanks. “Coach Tinkle’s done a really good job of not favoring Tres. You wouldn’t be able to tell just by the way he coaches. I think that’s pretty cool.”

Tinkle has also gained a similar reputation for giving equal attention to starters like senior guard Gary Payton II as well as the last player off the bench.

“Everybody’s treated the same,” said Thompson, Sr., whose son Stephen Thompson, Jr. is a freshman guard for OSU. “There’s no different treatment between Gary and whoever else is out on the court. He demands perfection and the best out of everybody. So you know you’re going to get that everyday no matter who you are, top to bottom.”

And as for Schaftenaar: he seems to respond as well as anyone to Tinkle’s coaching. Barely a minute after Tinkle upbraided the senior for his defensive mistake against Cal, Schaftenaar knocked down a big 3-pointer and OSU went on to win, 77-71.

“We have great kids and they give us all that they have,” Tinkle said. “I think there’s some great chemistry there.

On Twitter @BrightTies

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