The University of Portland decided to go with local talent to lead its men’s basketball program. The university announced this month that Portland resident and former Trail Blazer Terry Porter has been named head coach.
At the announcement ceremony, Athletics Director Scott Leykam said Porter impressed him in two ways.
“One, his basketball philosophy and Xs and Os. Two, and why most of you are here today, his personality and moral character is a perfect fit for this community and the University of Portland campus community.”
After Porter stopped playing professionally, he coached five NBA teams. But this is his first college coaching job. He says there are differences between the professional and college game, but basketball is basketball.
Q&A with Terry Porter
Terry Porter: And last time I checked you have to put it in the basket. So, it’s just a matter of getting the right players, getting the right players to execute, getting them to be disciplined, getting them to buy into it’s about everybody in the group as opposed to individuals.
Geoff Norcross: Yeah, but these are players at a different stage in their development. Surely you have to relate to them in a different way than the pros.
TP: Oh, there’s no doubt. But that being said, pros are getting younger and younger. There are pros in the league that’s (sic) 18 and 19 years old. So you’re going to see some similarities in regards to the ages. And the skill development in a lot ways is the same.
At the collegiate level, when you talk here at the University of Portland, we’re about developing young men’s talents and skill development. Obviously, we are going to have to make sure that their skill development is being improved every year, and getting them to the point where they can be productive on the court.
GN: How do they play differently that you played when you were in college?
TP: Well that’s a long time ago, a lot different back then. We didn’t have a shot clock or a three point clock, so a little bit different. From a style of play standpoint, my school wasn’t even a Division I school. It was an NAIA school, so it was like a Linfield or Lewis and Clark.
GN: The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
TP: Yeah, so the talent pool was a little bit different that what UP has. So from that standpoint, it’s going to be a lot different. Back then, what we did, our coach Dick Bennett, who went on to coach Green Bay in Wisconsin and Washington State … a lot of stuff we did … motion offense, strongly defensive-minded. So from that standpoint we won’t do those types of things. Some of the defensive concepts we will use, but offense will be totally different.
GN: UP has had better days. It has had one winning season in the last five. It’s not been to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 20 years. How are you going to turn things around?
TP: Well, that’s the challenge we have in front of us. This conference, the West Coast Conference, has been able to establish their programs for a while now. They have great tradition. And we have to gradually work to crack that ceiling, so to speak, and make sure that we get to the point where we’re consistently being mentioned in those names, and then have an opportunity to see if we can get up there and be able to get to some postseason tournaments and have some success at the end of regular season.
GN: How long do you give yourself to do that?
TP: It’s hard to put a timetable on something. A lot of that is going to be how we feel that our personnel is going, in regards to getting the student athletes we need to fit our culture. And more importantly, how we get them to transfer and play the style we want them to play on the basketball court.
GN: How do you convince a young man to come play for you at UP?
TP: First and foremost, the thing is do you want a part of something new, help build a program? We don’t have a great run of postseason play so they have to be wiling to be a part of something from a newness to it, and want to start something and help build something. That’s the challenge that I have in trying to get the right pieces to make that happen.
GN: You’re an icon here. You’re a beloved member of the community. Does that add any pressure to you? Does that add any pressure to make you perform?
TP: I don’t know if it adds pressure. I’ve been blessed to play sports, and whenever I’ve played I always liked to win. So the pressure is to try to win. We have some challenges to try to get to that level, but I don’t know if there’s additional pressure. Obviously I live here and I want to have success. But it’s no different than anybody who happens to work in this community and wants to have success with their company or whatever they have. For me, it’s not additional pressure. It’s just about going out and trying to do it the right way.
GN: Coach Porter, thanks so much and best of luck.
TP: Alright, thanks, Geoff.