Elite advice: How a stranger's wisdom helped Oregon State's historic NCAA run

Pete Thamel
·3-min read

INDIANAPOLIS — With No. 12 seed Oregon State on the cusp of the Final Four, coach Wayne Tinkle pointed to an unusual source of inspiration before his team upset No. 8 Loyola Chicago on Saturday.

Tinkle has taken a walk through the Indiana Convention Center every morning since arriving almost two weeks ago. He’s navigated the labyrinth of hallways and corridors that’s the connective tissue of downtown Indianapolis. On Saturday morning, one of the workers Tinkle said he’s gotten to know on his walks passed on an idea.

“He said, ‘Coach, do you know what the enemy of great is?' And I said, ‘No.’ He says, 'It's not bad. It's good enough.’ He said, ‘Good enough is the enemy of great. And challenge your guys not to be good enough, to continue to be great.’”

Coaches get all kinds of ideas from all kinds of places. And this came from Tim Allen, a former associate commissioner in the Big 12 who is what the NCAA is calling a “lead ambassador” with the Final Four.

Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle hugs Ethan Thompson after defeating Loyola Chicago on March 27. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle hugs Ethan Thompson after defeating Loyola Chicago on March 27. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Allen and Tinkle didn’t know each other prior to Oregon State arriving here two weeks ago, according to a school spokesman. But the notion resonated with Tinkle, who’d been annoyed hearing this week that Oregon State should be satisfied with reaching the Sweet 16 after it wasn't even expected to make the NCAA tournament.

“We used that,” Tinkle said of the advice he acquired on his walk. “We used it at shootaround this morning. We used it before the game. We talked about, dare to be great. It's our time, dare to be great. So really good stuff. And I wanted to give him a little shoutout on that.”

Oregon State took the dare to be great. A mix of zone defenses stymied No. 8 Loyola, holding them to 33% shooting and 5-for-23 from 3-point range in a 65-58 victory that the Beavers controlled for virtually the entire second half.

While much of the world has been seeking things that have changed in strategy and personnel, Tinkle has been consistent about a change in mentality that’s been key for Oregon State’s turnaround. The Beavers have won six consecutive win-or-go-home games, which came after closing the regular season by winning four of six games.

The Oregon State news conference sounded more like a reading of the sayings off a Lululemon bag than the normal assemblage of postgame clichés. Star Ethan Thompson mentioned that “positive energy leads to positive outcomes” and Tinkle doubled down.

“We talked about keeping a free mind, playing hard, playing together,” Tinkle said. “There's so much trust in that locker room that it allows guys … their minds are clear. They're playing hard. They have each other's back.”

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