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Oregonian Article On Hiring Of Portland Head Coach Eric Reveno

4/11/2006
RYAN WHITE
The Oregonian

Eric Reveno was confident enough to go to Nordstrom last weekend and buy a purple tie before flying Sunday to Portland. He was excited enough about needing that tie Monday to perhaps not calling his wife as soon as he should have.

"She called and said, 'The phone's ringing off the hook; were you going to let me know something?' " Reveno said.

Yeah, actually. He was the University of Portland's new basketball coach.

After nine seasons at Stanford, where he also played, graduated from in 1989, and still is 10th on the school's all-time list for blocked shots, Reveno was introduced as the 20th coach in UP history at a Monday afternoon news conference.

Reveno carried the title of associate head coach the past two seasons and has gotten credit for developing a line of inside players at Stanford that includes Jason Collins, Mark Madsen, Rob Little and Matt Haryasz.

Reveno replaces Michael Holton, who was fired March 24 after five seasons and a 50-93 record. Reveno and UP athletic director Larry Williams declined to give any of the contract details.

"This is a fresh start," Reveno said Monday afternoon.

Perhaps evidence of a new attitude as well.

Holton had three years remaining on his contract, which meant a buyout of around $400,000 over the next three years. That's not the kind of money the university has just lying around and not the kind of move UP has traditionally made. It was a significant move that said winning very much matters. The fact that historically there's been little of it didn't matter.

"There's certainly no reason why the University of Portland can't be successful," school President Rev. E. William Beauchamp said.

Beauchamp said Williams kept him informed during the process, but this was Williams' hire, and he was a search committee of one, one that did a lot of digging.

"Larry's got a career in the FBI if his job as athletic director doesn't work out," Reveno, 40, said, at once joking about surviving the background check and marveling at the number of people with whom Williams talked.

What Williams found was a coach with experience in turning around a program. As a player, Stanford was 11-17 Reveno's freshman year. The Cardinal finished 26-7 his senior year and the school went to its first NCAA Tournament in 47 years.

"He's a hard worker," said Golden State Warriors coach Mike Montgomery, who coached Reveno and later hired him at Stanford. "He's a bright guy. I would say that as a player he was an over-achiever. . . . He's a tough guy. He's an intense guy."

A story: Reveno had back surgery that forced him to redshirt the 1987-88 season. He spent little time sitting out, however, and in his first practice back was diving around after loose balls. Montgomery said he stopped practice, looked at the team and asked why the only guy diving around was a guy who had just had back surgery.

"I used to sit in class in high school and dream about diving after loose balls," Reveno said.

"That's just the kind of guy he is," Montgomery said. "He hated to lose."

Also important to Williams was that coming from Stanford, Reveno understands the challenges of recruiting players to an institution that doesn't necessarily compromise on its academics just because an athlete is involved.

"The first step is to stop seeing them as challenges," Reveno said.

The real first step was meeting with his players. And then heading back to his native Bay Area to wrap up some loose ends. And then to begin recruiting (though he'd already made a couple of phone calls, he said). And then put together a coaching staff (he had some leads there, too). The list seemed to grow the longer Reveno stood and answered questions.

"Sounds like a really enthusiastic guy," senior guard Darren Cooper said after the news conference. Pooh Jeter, about to graduate and begin preparing for NBA workouts, said he was excited for the future of the program.

Williams said he was "excited as heck." Everyone was excited. But everyone has been excited around the Chiles Center before. And the defense and teamwork preached by Reveno were the same things Holton talked about regularly.

It's a challenging job, and Gonzaga's success in the West Coast Conference is only forcing everyone else to get a little better, too. It's not just UP that wants to win.

Williams has said that in the past the program hasn't always had the resources it needed but that isn't the case anymore. Reveno said there was a difference between fluff and substance when it came to resources and from what he'd seen, UP is pretty well equipped to win. He said that if he needs something, he's sure he'll be able to get it.

"I read Coop say in an article, 'I hope the new coach is ready to win,' " Reveno said. "And I am. It's just a matter of being willing to work for it."