A Beaver ball
At 6-foot-5, St. Mary's senior basketball player Michael Crennen is usually the biggest guy in the building.
That's unless Oregon State men's basketball coach Wayne Tinkle shows up to the party, which is precisely what happened on Thursday.
Crennen, who will attend Oregon State University next year, was one of about 100 fans who visited RoxyAnn Winery to meet and listen to the 6-foot-10 Tinkle, along with OSU women's basketball coach Scott Rueck and OSU Athletic Director and Vice President Todd Stansbury.
"He's easy to pick out," Crennen quipped.
The Beaver Road Show event included social time with the stars, a dinner and speeches. Medford was the last stop after the group of 10 OSU staff members visited Bend, Salem and Eugene during a whirlwind three days.
For Tinkle, the former Montana coach who led OSU to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1990, the meet-and-greets in Oregon cities are appealing.
"It's great to get out and just say thanks for all the support," he said. "We love getting involved, but also getting out there and letting (fans) get to know us a little more."
The visit was also special for Crennen, who has a few connections with the Tinkle family. Crennen, a 2016 Class 3A state hoops champion, lived in Billings, Mont., for one year during his sophomore season. Crennen's father, Mike, is in the construction business and landed a gig in Big Sky Country. Crennen was on the Billings West squad that edged Missoula Hellgate, 82-79, in a double-overtime thriller early in the 2013 season. Tres Tinkle, Wayne’s son who plays for the Beavers, had 26 points for Hellgate.
Mike Crennen and the family returned to Oregon for Michael’s junior year in 2014-15 — the same season Tinkle accepted the job in Corvallis.
Michael Crennen and Wayne Tinkle met just once in Montana but have recently re-connected, Crennen said.
And so there the two giants were on Thursday. Crennen approached an OSU staffer and asked if he could introduce himself to Tinkle once again, and the two hit it off, Crennen said. There's a chance the prep standout could walk on, Crennen said, and he is thrilled about that.
Medford residents Judy and Dale Lininger, both OSU graduates, were also at the winery, excited at the chance to interact with the coaches. The Liningers met in college — Judy from Coos Bay, Dale from Ashland. The two have plenty of OSU sports memories, from the Oregon State Giant Killers football team to the 2015-16 basketball season to highlight their memory bank.
While the OSU men finished 19-13 overall, the women's program made even bigger headlines after advancing to the NCAA Final Four. The Pac-12 champion Beavers, led by lifetime Oregonian Rueck, finished 32-4 after falling to powerhouse Connecticut.
"It is what dreams are made of," Rueck said. "You have these dreams before the recruiting process even starts and they're that, they're dreams and they’re hopes. To see that group come together and see them start to believe that something special could be possible, something that's never been done ... was remarkable."
The team's regional trophy was on display in front of the winery. Rueck never gets tired of seeing it.
"It's better on the desk where it was," he joked. "I miss it already."
Rueck grew up in Hillsboro, and graduated from OSU in 1991. His rise to Corvallis included an impressive 14-year career at George Fox University in Newberg, where the program went 288-88 with an undefeated season in 2009. He's since led OSU to the NCAA tournament the last three winters.
"I wouldn't be here without that," Rueck said of his time at George Fox.
In Tinkle's first year in Corvallis, the squad went 17-14.
"I know we're excited to have that whole group of freshmen (including his son) back," Tinkle said. "They were a great group to coach and obviously injected a lot of new, youthful enthusiasm into our program. It was really neat to see the group we inherited kind of develop and gel with the younger group to get us as far as we went. We're excited to continue to build."
Stansbury enjoyed the buzz these Beavers made.
"What an incredible run it's been," he said. "In fact, I felt like I was travelling with two rock bands."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt.