Porter's hiring excites students, fans, players at UP
Fans of Terry Porters hire as University of Portland mens basketball coach run the gamut and span generations.
When Porter arrived Tuesday for a noon press conference introducing him to the Pilots community, the crowd of several hundred that applauded him included Al Corrado, Class of 1955, and Alec Wintering, Class of 2017.
Wintering is the Pilots returning point guard. He plays the position Porter played during his Trail Blazers Hall of Fame career at Memorial Coliseum, a few miles from campus.
Im excited, Wintering said, of having Porter as his new coach. Hes so respected. He knows the game really well. For me, this will help a lot. The minute I heard he was getting the job, I wanted to start working with him.
Porter met with the returning Pilot players on Monday and shared his vision for the program, which has labored for years to climb into the upper echelon of the West Coast Conference.
Fans are buying into that vision already.
Our phones have been blowing up, said Jason Brough, associate athletic director for public relations.
When word came last Friday April 1 that Porter was coming aboard, a Facebook post by the university quickly got 1,400 likes, and various people called alumni director Craig Swinyard to double-check on April Fools Day and ask, Hey, is this for real?
The selection of Porter was more than enough to bring Corrado and his wife, Sue, who married while they were in college in the early 1950s, to Chiles Center for Tuesdays celebration.
A great hire, said Al Corrado, a former chairman of the UP board of regents. This is a special day.
The Corrados, who attend all the Pilots games, had season tickets to the Blazers when Porter helped lead the team to two NBA finals and years of success and sellouts.
Hes so well-thought of, Sue Corrado said. Because of his name, well draw more people from the community, instead of just the UP people. Glad to have a hometown boy here, too.
The Corrados and others had nothing but nice things to say about Porters predecessor, Eric Reveno, who gave the Pilot basketball program 10 years.
I like him. Really good guy, Al Corrado said.
He was exceptional, Sue Corrado said. It was very tough to see Eric go. We just needed a change.
Porter acknowledged Reveno, too, in his remarks to the crowd. Coach Eric Rev and his staff laid a foundation, Porter said.
Porter has plans to turn that foundation into a more consistent winner, both in the standings and at the UP box office.
Its critically important that the students, alumni, faculty and fans come out and support us, he said. We want the Chiles Center to become a hostile environment for every opponent that steps through the doors.
Former Pilots and alums are likely to get even more involved. One of the first to come talk to the new coach will be ex-point guard Pooh Jeter, who is due on campus Thursday for a short visit. Jeter, 32, is still playing professionally, continuing a long career in other countries with a stint in China. Wintering would like to follow in those kind of footsteps, if not reach for even more.
I want to play at the highest level, Wintering said. Im hoping he (Porter) can help me.
Porter said he wants to Wintering and the Pilots to play an up-tempo game. Porter intends to give his players the freedom to run fast-breaks and execute creatively in the half-court and not be a robot.
He said he was going to go off what the team has, and he wants us to get after it defensively, play man-to-man, Wintering said. Hopefully we can do really good some things next year before I leave, and then after that hell be able to bring in good players for the program.
Porters positivity should pay dividends at the gate.
Things are very, very positive here on campus and with the alumni, Swinyard said. Everyone in Portland knows what a good man Terry Porter is. Theres a real buzz around here. The alumni response has been tremendous. His impact could be huge.
Attendance for mens basketball home games typically is 1,500 to 1,700, with more for big-name opponents or rivals such as Gonzaga. The school has about 1,000 season-ticket holders and a building that has a capacity of 4,852.
By Tuesday, the Pilots already were pushing, and selling, more tickets. The complete schedule wont be out till mid-summer, but the nonleague visiting teams for 2016-17 will include Colorado and Portland State.
Students are really excited, especially students who have an interest in basketball, said Malika Andrews, sports editor of The Beacon, the school newspaper. Theres a high demographic here of Oregon kids, and they grew up on the outstanding backcourt of Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter.
Theyre also excited about the attention the program is finally getting. Theyre hoping it brings more school spirit.