CORVALLIS – Olaf Schaftenaar remembers being 15 years old the first time he met Doug Stewart.

It was during a time of transition in 2008, not long after Craig Robinson took over an Oregon State men’s basketball program that went winless in Pac-10 play the previous season. Amid the changeover was Schaftenaar’s older brother, Roeland, who arrived came to Corvallis to play for Jay John but elected to stay with Robinson, Stewart and the new staff.

Six years later, Olaf Schaftenaar was a 22-year-old rising junior who needed to make a choice of his own after Robinson was shown the door. In a brief role as interim head coach, Stewart provided guidance and served as a sounding board for his soon-to-be former player.

“I didn’t know who was going to be hired and I’m not from here,” Schaftenaar said. “He helped me through that process and I’m happy I stayed.”

Contact between the two is now sporadic. But Saturday’s 1 p.m. game against Nevada at Gill Coliseum will provide a brief chance for Schaftenaar and the remaining upperclassmen holdovers on the roster to reconnect with Stewart, now in his first season as an assistant with the Wolf Pack.

The former assistant, who spent the final four years of his six-year term at Oregon State as associate head coach, will return to Corvallis for the first time since he moved last year after Wayne Tinkle took over the men’s basketball program.

The tenure began with promise but fell short of the ultimate goal: getting Oregon State to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1990.

Stewart watched from afar the following season as the remaining scholarship players he and the previous staff recruited greatly exceeded expectations in a new system. The Beavers finished seventh in the conference after being picked last in the Pac-12 preseason poll.

“People didn’t give (returning players) enough credit going into last year,” Stewart said by phone Friday. “They didn’t play as much (before), but they proved last year they were good players in their own right.”

The season after leaving Oregon State was Stewart’s first away from college basketball for the first time in 13 years.

After departing Corvallis, he started work with the Philadelphia 76ers. Stewart said he first evaluated talent leading into the NBA Draft and then took over as an assistant with the Delaware 87ers, the team’s Development League affiliate.

His most recent opportunity arose after Nevada hired Eric Musselman as head coach in March. The two crossed paths when Musselman was an assistant at Arizona State from 2012-2014 and Stewart said he learned from a fellow 76ers employee that new Wolf Pack coach had inquired about bringing him on staff.

The new position meant a move back west over 2,000 miles from his hometown in New Jersey. Stewart said the cross-country move was relatively easy for his wife, Lindsay, because she had seen the city and campus when Oregon State played the second game of the Robinson era against the Wolf Pack in 2008.

In the eight months since arriving in Reno, the new staff worked aggressively to turn around a team that won only nine games the previous season.

Among the first new players Stewart brought in was former Oregon State target Cameron Oliver, who signed his National Letter of Intent with the school before Robinson’s firing but ultimately elected not to enroll. Oliver, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound Sacramento native, is now a freshman at Nevada after not attending college last year. He is averaging 9.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

“I just want the kid to find the right place and be happy,” said Stewart, who was out of college basketball when Oliver elected not to attend Oregon State. “At the end of the day it turned out to be a good fit for him and his family and our program.”

While on his first trip back, Stewart said he might stop in the OSU Basketball Center, the 34,500-square-foot, $15 million practice facility for which he and Robinson helped raise funds.

It was one of the points of pride Stewart highlighted from his six-year tenure, along with bringing in two players who have since made NBA rosters: Jared Cunningham and Eric Moreland.

While the Beavers fell short of reaching their first NCAA Tournament during his time in Corvallis, Stewart said he was free of regrets.

“I think we made a real impact in the place, taking over a program that was 0-18 when we showed up in the Pac-(10),” Stewart said. “The first year of being able to win that CBI Tournament and move this program forward where the expectations are to make the NCAA Tournament and do well.

“It’s a great chapter in my life.”

— Danny Moran


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