When you build something with your own hands you take a lot of pride in it. Once the construction is finished you look at what you have built to make sure it’s exactly what you want and exactly how you want it. In Corvallis, Oregon, there is something being built that people are finally starting to take notice of on a national level. It’s the women’s basketball program at Oregon State University.
For the longest time, even when I was a young guy going to school there, the women’s program was something that most fans didn’t take notice of. There was not much to notice, to be fair to the people who have gone to school there. Fast forward to 2010 when Oregon State took a chance on a coach from a small Division III school outside of Portland, Oregon.
Scott Rueck, the head coach of Oregon State, came from George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon and knew what it would take to revive the program. He had experienced a great deal of success at George Fox in taking that program to the Final Four in Division III, but he knew that doing same thing at the Division One level would take a ton of effort on his part and the staff he had assembled in Corvallis.
When Coach Rueck came to Oregon State the program was in shambles, attendance was near nothing, the Beavers had not been to the NCAA Tournament in centuries, and there was no excitement surrounding the program. How was he going to resurrect this program? In one word, family.
When building any type of athletic program, whether it’s football, basketball, or gymnastics you have to have a sense of belonging for the athletes. If the players don’t have that sense of togetherness you will have a team that underachieves most of the time. Rueck knew this from his days at George Fox and his nearly 20 years of coaching. He was determined to instill that feeling of “family” at Oregon State.
Coach Rueck likes to share his success with his family. His wife and kids are a constant for him whether it’s at games or simply on the practice floor, and it appears that his players have bought into that feeling since he arrived on campus. It’s tough being a big time Division One coach because with all the time you spend getting your program to a place where people start taking notice you spend much of your time away from the people you care about the most. It can be a tough thing, but Rueck has made it work beautifully.
When he started to construct his program he had to hold open tryouts just to fill the roster out. I have not heard of anything close to that in major Division One college sports at all. From that first season in 2010, during which the current Senior class went through a 10-game losing streak and finished a dismal 10-21, Rueck has guided his team to its first Final Four appearance in school history. For a bit of perspective, the Lady Beavers had not been past the second round of the Tournament ever, so the accomplishment of knocking off number one seed Baylor will be something that the Beavers will cherish for a long time.
However, Coach Rueck, his staff and players know that the work is not done.
“I think this team is really confident. This is a team that is prepared.” Said Coach Rueck before they took on the Baylor Bears.
When Coach Rueck was asked about his team’s chances going into the NCAA Tournament he simply replied with a huge vote of confidence about his team.
“This team has played against everybody and played well against everybody, and they’ve played storied programs in storied venues, and they haven’t even blinked. It’s been part of the learning process. So I believe that this team absolutely has what it takes.” Coach Rueck said.
Coach Rueck believes in his players and the players believe in themselves.
Sydney Wiese, the Beavers’ 5’10” guard, who has been their go to player almost from the day she arrived on campus, shares in her coach’s confidence.
“This is the reason I came to Oregon State. I wanted to take down the big programs and do something special.” Wiese said recently during the Tournament.
The sense of togetherness with this group of players is one of the reasons that the Beavers have been so successful so quickly under Coach Rueck. Sometimes a program just needs to hit rock bottom and then get a little bit of luck with selecting the right coach at the right time to realize what is possible for it. The Beavers are realizing their dreams right now and with the success that they have shown this year and even the past couple of seasons, the run of wins, Tournament bids, and conference titles may not be over.
The Beavers have risen up all season to meet their own high expectations. They have won the Pac-12 Conference, they won the conference tournament, are a number two seed, and are one of the four remaining teams in the Tournament. What’s next?
They have a date with the UConn Huskies and maybe, just maybe, a date with destiny. Go Beavs!