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After rift, McKay, Vanderhoff thrive

OSU coach, ex-Panther were at PSU

Ritchie McKay is being hailed as a savior summoned to Corvallis to return Oregon State basketball to the promised land.

McKay, 34, a former Portland State and Colorado State coach, is known as a dynamic recruiter who coaches his players with boundless energy and enthusiasm. His appointment has been received positively by many OSU fans waiting for Beaver basketball to take an upswing after a decade of struggles following the retirement of former coach Ralph Miller.

However, a former South Medford High player, Mike Vanderhoff, had a strained relationship with McKay when the two were together at Portland State.

In the fall of 1996, McKay took over at PSU and was the second-youngest major college coach in the nation. Vanderhoff was a freshman guard who would emerge as the team's second leading scorer.

But their union ended early the following season.

Citing differences with McKay over the way he was treated, Vanderhoff quit the Vikings in the fall of 1997 following a verbal exchange between the two.

The two went different directions, and each flourished.

McKay won 37 games the past two years at Colorado State and became one of the country's promising young coaches.

Vanderhoff transferred to Western Oregon, where he has been one of the top small-college players in the Northwest the past two seasons. He and Western Oregon are awaiting word on an NCAA appeal that would give him another year of eligibility. If it's turned down, his college career will be over.

McKay, who arrived at OSU after two years at Colorado State, was asked this week about his disagreement with Vanderhoff.

Mike usually played hard, but one day at practice, I told him he needed to play harder or go home, says McKay. The next day, he came in and said he was tired of basketball and he was quitting.

I told Mike that if it (quitting) had to do with the comment I made the day before in practice, I would apologize. I told him I was trying to motivate him to get better. I like him a lot and I still do.

Vanderhoff admits he took McKay's comment as blatant criticism, not constructive in nature.

Two weeks later, I was talking to McKay about coming back, says Vanderhoff. He wanted me back, and I thought I wanted to play. But I couldn't do it.

I wasn't having any fun in the program. I don't have any problem with him personally, but I wasn't enjoying playing for him. There was a lot of yelling in practice. Nobody on the team was having fun.

McKay says he hopes to use OSU's long history of success in basketball to revive a program that hasn't been the same since Miller retired in 1989.

OSU athletic director Mitch Barnhart told Beaver Believers at a press conference this week that McKay is the coach and recruiter it will take to guide OSU back to prominence.

Vanderhoff won't dispute that notion.

There's nothing personal between Ritchie and I, says Vanderhoff. But I'm happy with what I did (transfer). I'm sure he's a good coach. But I wasn't enjoying playing for him.

McKay doesn't have hard feelings about the matter. To this day, he praises Vanderhoff.

He could play for us at Oregon State right now, says McKay. I'd take him, if he had any eligibility. He's a player and a great kid.

McKay's problem with Vanderhoff represents a mere bump in the road for his career at this point. The Oregon State coach says he's moving ahead with recruiting for the Beavers with high expectations of making them instant contenders for the Pac-10 Conference title and postseason play.

He hit the recruiting trail Tuesday and is now in Indianapolis attending the NCAA Final Four.

The Beavers have four scholarships to offer, and he has six players in mind for them.

If we sign four of the six, I would be very excited, says McKay. If we don't, we may not use all the scholarships this year. We might save one or two.

We're looking for a couple post players, a shooter, and maybe another guard.

His top two returning players are guard Deaundra Tanner and 6-foot-8 sophomore power forward-post Brian Jackson.

He's a pro player, McKay says of Jackson. He's going to play in the NBA one day. To have him and a quality point guard (Tanner) is a nice start.

I think (former OSU coach) Eddie Payne did a good job of recruiting and coaching.