Wayne Tinkle was primed to deliver what he thought was one of his more clever Cinderella speeches before Sunday's NCAA Tournament win over Oklahoma State.
"I was saving this one and I forgot to use it. I said, Hey, we may be on Eastern Time but the clock has yet to strike midnight back in Corvallis. But I forgot to throw that one at the guys," Tinkle said.
Tinkle's Beavers are a No. 12 seed playing like a top seed -- the magic of this college basketball dance. Oregon State just won the Pac-12 Conference tournament for the first time ever and has since bounced No. 5 Tennessee and No. 4 Oklahoma State, adding to March Madness.
In their 80-70 win over the Cowboys, Tinkle's guys opened an 18-point lead only to hold on for dear life against Cade Cunningham -- projected by many as the top pick in this year's NBA Draft -- and company.
"We squandered it away, we panicked a couple times, but boy, we never backed down," Tinkle said afterward.
No, they did not. And that's been their story through the entirety of a season that didn't start well. The Beavers were picked last in their league, and it looked justified with early home losses to Wyoming and Portland. But the former Montana Grizzlies head coach refused -- against long odds -- to let his guys roll over.
"There's been moments where we've had to peel a little paint in the locker room to get them going and back on the page," he said.
And players bought in.
"It was in us, this success, we pictured it from the beginning," said senior guard Ethan Thompson.
"Honestly, I'll take the tough losses early because it taught us a lot of lessons on how to close out games, and we're closing out games at the right time," Thompson continued. "We believe we're capable of doing great things, whether that be getting a much-needed stop on defense, breaking the press, taking care of the ball. Just take it step by step, and if we take all the right steps we're going to lead to wins."
"It's a credit to them," Tinkle said, "... a credit to their character and it's no surprise they stepped up when we needed them most."
Tinkle has been to college basketball's Sweet 16 but he's never coached in it -- until now when he gets his shot Saturday against another Cinderella of sorts, eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago of the Midwest Region in a 12:40 p.m. tip on MTN stations. Yet leading into Saturday's showdown, he admits feeling a strange calm.
"My wife said, 'Gosh, are you taking medication?' It's not the case," Tinkle laughed, "... but we're at peace. It's an incredible deal to share with my family. It's how we've built our programs, obviously the success we've had at Montana. Yeah, we've had some pitfalls, but we've done incredible things at Oregon State."