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Back in the flock.

Byline: UO WOMEN'S BASKETBALL By Rob Moseley The Register-Guard

The first challenge, Dan Muscatell said, will be not barging into the office of his new associate on the UO women's basketball staff, Keila Whittington.

See, Whittington occupies the same office Muscatell had while on the UO staff from 1999-2003. And upon returning to the Ducks on Monday, Muscatell was handed keys to the office just next door.

"There's tremendous excitement," said Muscatell, whose hiring completes the staff of UO coach Paul Westhead. "I'd almost describe it as awkwardly familiar. There are people here I've worked with in the past, great people, and all kinds of new people and new things."

Muscatell's previous tenure at Oregon, under head coaches Jody Runge and Bev Smith, included two NCAA Tournament appearances and a WNIT championship. He spent the last six seasons as head coach at Sacramento State.

Westhead turned to Muscatell after Westhead's former player and assistant coach, Corey Gaines, pulled out of the running for a position with the Ducks; Muscatell's name kept coming up, Westhead said, among coaches recalling Oregon's success in the recent past. Westhead and Muscatell first met face to face about 10 days ago, and the hiring process got moving over the course of last week.

"We hit it off," Westhead said. "My instinct was that, here was a good person and a good coach. I liked what people had said about him, and I liked what I'd found."

Muscatell joins Whittington and Kai Felton on Westhead's staff. Muscatell will make a base salary of $145,000 plus incentives, Whittington has a base of $120,000 and Felton will earn at least $90,000, all on one-year contracts; Smith's two most veteran assistants, Phil Brown and Willette White, earned a minimum of about $95,000.

Whittington is Oregon's recruiting coordinator and will coach posts, and Felton will assist with the guards. Muscatell's duties haven't been so clearly defined, though he participated in his first session of individual workouts with the Ducks on Monday afternoon.

"I think we have a nice mixture of talent and personality," Westhead said. "I'm pleased with that. We're in good shape."

Muscatell was on the Oregon bench for NCAA appearances under Runge in 2000 and 2001, and survived the tumultuous transition to Smith. He coached or recruited several luminaries in the history of the program, including Cathrine Kraayeveld, Shaquala Williams and Jenny Mowe.

The Ducks went 74-49 during Muscatell's four seasons on staff. In the final six years under Smith, they went 89-92.

"Each of those coaches that I've worked for previously left their own little legacy," Muscatell said. "Coach Runge and the championships that we won, and Bev Smith a legacy of the type of human being she is. People can judge her as a coach how they want, but she was a great person.

"Now with (Westhead), I haven't gotten to spend too much time with him, but I have a sense that's one good man."

Sacramento State won 36 games in Muscatell's tenure, but the Hornets were moribund before his arrival, and his program was recognized a number of times for academic achievements.

"The AD there used to describe it that our responsibility is to stack the wood pile a little higher," Muscatell said. "Using that analogy, I felt very good about where we left the program. ... Now it's up to somebody else to come in and take that wood pile that we built and stack it a little higher."

Muscatell said he hadn't envisioned himself returning to Oregon, saying "this whole thing came out of the blue."

But now that he's back with the Ducks, Muscatell will begin familiarizing himself with new co-workers, new players and, yes, a new office. There's also Westhead's uptempo playing style to digest.

"Everybody would like to say they went to play the game quickly; this is quickly times two," Muscatell said. "It is going to be a change. ... I'm just fascinated about how the whole thing's going to go together."

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Title Annotation:Basketball Oregon Women; After six seasons at Sacramento State, Dan Muscatell returns to Oregon as an assistant coach under Paul Westhead
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 21, 2009
Words:678
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