Late last season, Oregon head coach George Horton made no bones about the fact that his last couple of teams hadn’t been up to expectation. After going 29-26 in 2016, the 2017 Ducks struggled to a 30-25 record with a 12-18 conference mark that was the worst since 2009, the first year after the program was revived.
As a result, the heat was on him. His contract was set to run out at the end of the 2017 season, and he didn’t shy away from talking about it with reporters as the season wound down, something you don’t often see from coaches in that position.
“People talk about how it hasn’t been renewed yet, but I don’t lie awake at night wondering if I’ll have a job,” Horton told Steve Mims of the Eugene Register-Guard prior to his contract being extended. “If my time at Oregon is up, then I’ll move on and I’m sure somebody else would like me on his staff. I’ve got a lot of games still in me, and hopefully Oregon wants me to continue to run this program.”
In the end, it turns out that that’s exactly what Oregon wanted, as they signed the veteran coach to a two-year extension, with an option for a third season. In a college baseball coaching environment that is looking more and more like college football and college basketball in that programs are more and more eager to move on from their head coach at the first sign of trouble, this was quite the departure.
The struggles of the last two seasons have been disappointing for the program, to be sure, and the team has had a couple of promising postseason runs cut short, which raises angst, but those things just serve to mask all of the good work Horton did to get the program up and running quickly.
Four times, including in the program’s second season since being revived, he has led the Ducks to 40-plus win seasons, and up until the last two seasons, they had been regulars in regional play. Horton has had incredible success throughout his career, and he certainly didn’t forget how to coach overnight.
But the pressure, of course, is never completely off. Horton will have to get the program turned around or he’ll undoubtedly be replaced. It’s just that, in an industry short on patience, it’s refreshing to see him get a chance to do so.