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Kerry Rupp is happy at his latest stop as Oregon State assistant

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Kerry Rupp didn’t become a college basketball coach until the age of 46. But just look what he’s been able to shoehorn into the past 15 years.

Since joining Rick Majerus’ staff at Utah in 2000, Rupp has led a team to a conference tournament championship and NCAA tournament as an interim coach (Utah), been an assistant at one of the hotbeds of college basketball (Indiana), spent a year in Alabama (UAB), worked as a head coach for four years (Louisiana Tech), coached in Greece for a year, lived in paradise for a year (Hawaii) and coached at Montana for a couple of seasons.

This year, Rupp has a new assignment as an assistant to Wayne Tinkle at Oregon State, which is in the midst of a remarkable turnaround with 16 victories already this year after being picked to finish dead last in the Pac-12 Conference.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be with great people at great places,’’ says Rupp, who looks much the same as he did at Utah with his shaved bald head and blond goatee, only now he wears a black tie with a bit of orange in it instead of a red one.

Rupp, a Utah native who was an all-state player for Cyprus High School before going on to play for Utah State and Southern Utah, is enjoying his time in Oregon, where a bunch of other former Utahns joined him last month when Gary Andersen took over the head football coaching job and brought several coaches with Utah ties with him.

“We love the area, the community and the university,’’ Rupp said. “They have a great family feel with all the great staff and people at the university.’’

Rupp coached with Tinkle for two years at Montana, so when Tinkle got the OSU job last spring, he called Rupp and told him to be on a private jet in 10 minutes. Rupp has never looked back.

He says he’s not necessarily surprised by the Beavers’ success this year after the team was picked to finish 12th in the Pac-12 with almost an entirely new team as well as coaching staff.

“When we came in, we didn’t have a good gauge because all the guys left,’’ Rupp said. “We came in not knowing what we had, but what we did like about them was the way they took care of business on and off the court. The guys seemed to really buy into the talk about staying in the moment, minute by minute. At the end of the day, hope your arrow’s pointing up.’’

Not long after graduation from Southern Utah, Rupp began coaching high school basketball, first at Uintah High, then at Murray before settling in at East High School, where he coached for 18 years, including 10 years as the head basketball coach.

He developed a friendship with Rick Majerus and joined the Utah staff in 2000, where he helped the Utes to three NCAA appearances and was the key recruiter of Andrew Bogut in 2003, making several visits to Australia to get the big Aussie.

Rupp tells a funny story about his recruitment of the future NBA first-round draft pick.

“On my last trip coach, Majerus went with me and when we got there, (Bogut’s) mom and dad are hugging me and all the friends and family were greeting me. Coach says, ‘How do you know everybody?’ and I said, ‘Coach I’ve only been over here a dozen times.’ ’’

When Majerus abruptly resigned in January of 2004, Rupp took over and under difficult circumstances, led the Utes to the Mountain West Conference tournament title and a close first-round loss to Boston College in the NCAA tournament.

“It was my first head coaching experience on the college level. It was a wonderful team, the players pulled together, we had a great staff and to be able to win the Mountain West Conference was huge,’’ Rupp said.

After the season, Bogut and other Ute players lobbied for Rupp to get the job as Majerus’ replacement, but the U. looked in another direction and hired Ray Giacoletti from Eastern Washington. Rupp says he’s not bitter about being passed over.

“I have no regrets — I’m appreciative of the opportunity at the University of Utah,’’ Rupp says. “Working for coach Majerus was a great opportunity for me. I look at him as a great mentor for me and got me started on my career track in college. I have great memories of my time there.’’

Rupp went to Indiana as an assistant to Mike Davis for a couple of years and to UAB for a year before getting the head coaching job at Louisiana Tech thanks in part to his close friendship with former Utah Jazz star Karl Malone, who played for Louisiana Tech.

After starting off with six wins, Rupp led the program to 24 wins by his third season but was let go a year later when Louisiana Tech won 12 games. Then it was off to Hawaii to work with Gib Arnold as the director of basketball operations, after which he hooked up with Tinkle at Montana.

“I’ve been around some very great coaches, and he takes a backseat to no one,’’ Rupp said of Tinkle. “He’s a great person, a great coach, a good mentor, he’s got a great feel for the game and how to run a program.’’

Tinkle returned the compliment, saying of Rupp, “I love having Kerry — he’s a warrior and just fountain of knowledge as far as basketball goes. And I tell you what, he’s got more energy that three 20-year-olds. I feel really lucky to have him on our staff.’’

Rupp, who will celebrate his 61st birthday next week, has no plans to retire anytime soon. He enjoys Oregon and sees great things ahead for the basketball program.

“I don’t hunt, I don’t fish, I don’t golf,’’ he said. “I love coaching ball and teaching and working with young players, and this is a great opportunity. I’m working for a great guy and I feel like it’s a special place, a special time and I really love how the university and community has gotten behind us. I’ll worry later about where I’ll go. I’m really enjoying the moment.’’