Disney+ has eyes for the University of Portland

The Magic Kingdom wants Tony Broadous to be the next men’s basketball coach at UP
By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports.com
Tony Broadous has led the PCC program for the past nine years.
Photo by Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

When you look at the University of Portland and its men’s basketball program, you definitely have to have some imagination of what might become of the program in the years to come because that’s where its success has been for the past decade - in everyone’s imagination.

In nearly five seasons, the program won just five games against West Coast Conference teams and is winless again this season in WCC action.

As the school looks for a successor to Terry Porter after having released him from his contract in his fifth season earlier this month, it only takes a little imagination to see the perfect candidate for the job is just a couple miles away - Tony Broadous, the head coach at Portland Community College for the past nine years (and Grant High for a decade before that).

There is not a better choice for the Portland Pilots than Broadous, and he needs to be on the radar for the school because when I’ve talked with sports folks in the area about him at the University of Portland the main response has been “now that would be exciting.”

Exciting is not a word usually attached to the UP program. 

Broadous moved from Grant, which won the state title in 2008 under his guidance, to PCC in 2012 with the idea that move might lead to a four-year school in the future. The Panthers had just come off a winless season in which they lost games by an average of 37 points. 

The PCC program had never been to the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges playoffs in spite of the fact half the eight teams in its division qualified for the 16-team tournament each year by finishing fourth or higher. In spite of sitting directly across the street from Jefferson High, the program had basically no pulse. That changed quickly.

In year one under Broadous, Portland missed the playoffs by just one win, and in year two ... it won the NWAACC title. Two years removed from a winless season, PCC had a league title (2014) in its first-ever trip to the league tournament. Even the most vivid imagination would not have seen that outcome, but it happened.

In the following six seasons, in spite of being the only full-time coach and having no budget for anything but Facetime chats, Portland went to the playoffs again four times, and reached the NWAACC tournament semifinals in 2018. The Panthers were headed to the tournament again last season before it was canceled. This season got totally wiped out due to Covid-19.

You’d definitely need some imagination to even get Broadous on the list of candidates, especially after his most recent season was totally wiped out. But, that’s what imagination is for ... developing a story, something that might happen under the right circumstances ... and be turned into a movie. Broadous’s story would be one that would immediately attract the attention of movie studios across the country, including Disney and its streaming service Disney+.

Moving from a former NBA coach and local basketball legend to a community college coach would be quite a gamble for UP, but that’s exactly the kind of thing Disney+ was made for - and the Pilots desperately need that kind of attention. Broadous, 52, is worthy of that opportunity starting with his connections in Portland. People know him, and that he’s a class individual. And, his connections around the region - high school coaches know him. And, his work on the court - PCC is a regular winner and has all-league players each season.

Given the opportunity to recruit to a four-year program, with numerous full-time assistants, it’s exciting to think what might happen in the Chiles Center starting with his hiring, which would be just weeks away.

Broadous isn’t going to be an expensive hire - maybe the program could use some of that savings on an additional recruiting coordinator - and he’s probably going to be extremely loyal if some success brings other schools calling. A hot, younger assistant or Div. II head coach is more than likely going to head to a bigger school and paycheck as soon as a bit of success happens. Broadous is more likely to remain here and work toward building a program such as Mark Few - another Oregonian - has built at Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., and remained despite constant calls to leave.

Few has been vocal about WCC members needing to spend more on their programs so as to get more teams to the NCAA Tournament - and the riches that conference members share in - mostly from his program. But, money doesn’t always buy success in any sport, and neither do big names as the school has found out with Porter. 

Coaches sell dreams that need to turn into reality, and Broadous has enough of that on his resume to be able to recruit on Day One, in spite of that resume being only at the high school and community college level. And he’s going to need to jump right in on Day One with all the imagination he can muster because of not having any ability to recruit at the Div. I level during this season.

But, imagination overcomes those issues. A great story overcomes those issues, and this is the best story of any hire that’s going to happen across the Div. I ranks in the coming weeks. Disney might even send a couple of its Imagineers - what they call the people who dream up the attractions at its theme parks - to Portland to create a recruiting video (perhaps for a handshake agreement to the movie rights).

UP is still feeling the glow of its women’s basketball team performing a Disney+ miracle by playing its way into the NCAA Tournament under a first-year coach last season after having been picked for last by conference head coaches. That coach, Michael Meek, was a former high school coach at Southridge in Beaverton, who moved to NCAA Div. III’s George Fox in 2011. This season the Pilots are a solid sixth place in WCC games.

When the names start to go on the big chalkboard for the next men’s coach, hopefully the school’s athletic director, Scott Leykam, and his associates will take more than a few minutes to dream about what the Chiles Center might look like with maybe the nation’s biggest underdog on the sideline at one of the nation’s biggest underdogs as a program. That’s a story made for the Magic Kingdom.