The Rueck Effect: How a simple life lesson turned the tides for the OSU women’s basketball program

Head coach Scott Rueck addresses media at the postgame press conference following OSU’s second-round loss to South Carolina.

Kalib LaChapelle, Multimedia Contributor

In seven short years, Scott Rueck has turned high-character players into champions


It seems Scott Rueck was destined to be a basketball coach, just like his hero growing up–his father.

He grew up watching his father play, coach, and teach. And after he realized he “wasn’t going to be like Jordan,” he started followed in his father’s footsteps.

“I just wanted to be like him,” Rueck said. Then after a pause he added “And. that’s why I’m here.”

And a few years later, as he prepares his team for their fourth trip to the NCAA tournament as No. 2 seed, he not only achieved his goal, but exceeded even his wildest dreams.

“I’m a Division-III coach”

Rueck got his first coaching job during his time as a student at Oregon State with Santiam Christian High School as an assistant; and his first college coaching job followed soon after he graduated from Oregon State as an assistant George Fox University’s women’s basketball team.

Three years later he took over the reigns of the program leading them to seven tournament appearances and a national title in his thirteen years as head coach.

Then came his white whale. The opportunity to coach at his alma mater.

And when asked about if he ever thought while he was coaching high school ball that he would eventually be coaching at Oregon State during his career his answer was almost immediate.

“No,” he said with a chuckle. “No I didn’t even think I would be here in this office eight years ago (during his last season at George Fox) no chance. I thought ‘I’m a Division-III coach, I’m really honored to be that,’ to me that was my dream job are you kidding. Getting to coach college basketball after not playing–that was a dream.”

Rueck also said his father instilled a key lesson on him, whether it was borrowing a tool, or borrowing a car. “Always leave a place better than you found it.

“That’s my hope with anything I do. When I took the George Fox job that was my goal; that’s my same goal here, can I leave it better than I found it?”

“Great teammate, no ego, selfless”


Rueck grew up in Hillsboro Oregon, a fan and alum of the school he now coaches for. He credits his family for his character, the same character he now looks for in potential players.

“I was blessed with a great family. My grandparents lived one set in Portland one set in Hillsboro on a farm and so I had a lot of really good role models around me growing up,” Rueck said.

Rueck has created a championship culture in Corvallis, and it is in large part due to the kinds of players he recruits. In a place like Corvallis, especially when Rueck took over the basketball program in deep decline, it was difficult to recruit the best high school players in the country. So Rueck adapted a new system: he began bringing in players that had great character off the court and turning them into champions on it.

“He is one of the best in the business at developing players. Maybe not getting all the top players all the time, they’re few and far between and everyone is trying to get them,” said assistant athletic director Eric Ely, who has been on Rueck’s staff for six years. “But Scott’s philosophy is get great kids and take them and help them with their skill level. He’s always looked at what the players are like as people.”

When recruiting players Rueck’s plan is very simple:

“Great teammate, no ego, selfless. And If you have a gym full of that, it’s a really fun team to be a part of because it’s not about any one person,” Rueck said. “I look for any little thing that might disqualify someone from that when I watch them play. The second I determine that she can play in the pac-12, the next second is her character.”

And players like Wiese or freshmen guard Mikayla Pivec, highly touted recruits when they come into the program who bought into what Rueck was trying to create, say they have become better players and people under Rueck’s guidance.

“Personally he has developed me into a better person, a better basketball player, a better leader and a champion,” Wiese said. “I came to Oregon State not ever winning a significant championship and he made it easy for me.”

“He’s been a great mentor for everyone including myself,” Pivec said. “I think him telling me to believe in myself and believe in my abilities to help this team has really helped me.”

“One or two steps ahead”

It would be a tall task to get to the top of Pac-12 conference and become a perennial tournament pick with coachable recruits and on practice alone.

He’s also a wizard with the whiteboard.

Senior guard Sydney Wiese says that on the court Rueck is “always one or two steps ahead of the opposing coach.” She also said that on multiple occasions this season Rueck has drawn up a play on the whiteboard during timeouts that no one had ever seen or practiced before.

“He knows the game so well, specifically what the other team is trying to take away and he will put us in positions to go against that and be successful.”

“I wouldn’t want to play for anyone else”


Rueck’s players and staff all have very high praise for the man who turned around a program that hadn’t made a tournament appearance for 14 years before he took it over, and believe that there is nowhere to go but up for his program.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to play for anyone else,” said Wiese. “I know we are going to continue to have a relationship after our coaching and playing days are over. He’s one of a kind and I’m so thankful for his presence and I’m happy he still has a lot of basketball left to coach.”

At the age of 47 Rueck is already being considered as one of the great coaches in Oregon State history with the likes of Ralph Miller and Aki Hill.

“I’ll be honest (what Rueck has accomplished) has been amazing. I can’t say for sure, but my thoughts are that he will go down in history as one of the best coaches Oregon State has ever had,” said Ely. “He’s done incredible things already and it’s only been seven years. If he stays another seven, who knows?””

As Pac-12 championships and tournament appearances mount, Rueck has not lost sight of what he wants for his program.

When asked about what he wants his legacy to be once it’s all said and done, Rueck replied after a long pause:

“That we just did everything right,” Rueck said. “That our team was just awesome to watch win or lose. That it was bigger than basketball. That we impacted everyone that we could–everyone that we became associated with–and that we made everybody’s lives better through the way we went about the things we did.”

On Twitter: @KalibLaChapelle

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