Terry Porter officially welcomed to The Bluff
by Malika Andrews |
When the Pilots basketball team finished up a disappointing season last month, the Chiles Center sat half-empty and cheers were hard to come by. But energy and spirit replaced that lingering disappointment on Tuesday, as Wally the mascot and cheerleaders helped welcome a crowd of nearly 1,000 people to the building. Waiting on the seats: purple shirts with “TP2UP” printed on them, welcoming former NBA All-Star Terry Porter as the new Pilots coach.
The crowd rose to its feet for an ovation as soon as Porter, who was wearing a purple tie for the occasion, walked into Chiles. The presence of the Trail Blazers star led students and faculty alike to snap photos, and a long row of local news cameras taped his press conference. Portland’s forgotten basketball program has turned to an unforgettable local basketball legend to bring wind back into their sails.
After being named as the University of Portland’s 21st basketball coach last Friday, Porter was officially introduced to the UP community, staff and students at the Tuesday event.
“Portland is my home,” said Porter, who played for the Blazers from 1985 to 1995. “I love this city. I am very familiar with the West Coast Conference and the challenges as well as the opportunities that the league brings. The WCC is a great basketball specific league. We know Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and BYU have established their programs at a very high level and we want Portland to be in that conversation.”
Porter, whose No. 30 jersey is retired by the Blazers, is a beloved household name and a familiar face in the Portland area. After retiring in 2002, Porter made the transition to NBA coaching and, in recent years, served as a community ambassador for the Blazers. His fame was evident on the faces of students and staff looking up at him, and he said he believes his 17-year NBA career will help him build the Portland program.
“As I talk to my NBA friends who have gone into the college ranks the first thing they mention is recruiting,” Porter said. “And so we all know that a big part of building your program is recruiting. One of the main advantages that I will have is that I will be able to get into some rooms and open some doors because of my name, recognition and my NBA success.”
The Pilots have currently filled all 13 scholarships they have to offer but players who were recruited by former head coach Eric Reveno, who was fired last month, may receive the option of changing their mind. If they do, and the University releases them, those scholarships would become available.
A key advantage for Porter could be the ability to recruit local talent. Porter believes he will be able to “control our borders” and “get the best local talent in Portland and around the Pacific Northwest” because of his status. He added that his son Malcolm, a senior basketball star at Jesuit, is considering attending UP.
Porter also called on the UP community and student body to support the basketball team as he rebuilds the program.
“We want the Chiles Center to become a hostile environment for every opponent that steps through those doors,” Porter said. “We will perform with passion, persistence, and Pilot pride, but we need your support.”
Athletic Director Scott Leykam said that he and Jason Brough, the sports information director, knew Porter was a fit from the moment they met him. Impressed by Porter’s basketball philosophies, attention to the Xs and Os and his moral character, Leykam was sold.
“I went into the search with a targeted shortlist and for the most part stuck to the script and those candidates,” Leykam said. “We had some level of conversation with 8-10 candidates and we were able to narrow that down to three very strong candidates with different coaching backgrounds and experiences. Terry Porter was one of our top candidates from the moment the search started.”
Porter has pledged to bring an expertise that Portland never seen before.
“I want to not only be an important part of the athletic department, but I want my players and my staff to be engaged with the campus faculty, staff and students,” Porter said. “We are a part of something bigger here at UP.”
As if to prove that point, Porter stayed after the press conference to pose for photos, making an effort to engage with students, even those who looked nervous to meet him. It didn’t take long for Porter, who flashed a gleaming smile for the cameras, to make the Portland program his own.
Contact sports editor Malika Andrews at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @malika_andrews.