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46 days ‘til opening day: Can a 46-year old coach and new arena turn around Portland State?

Deonta North will be a key in Barret Peery’s first season at PSU.
Portland State Athletics

Nov. 10 couldn’t come soon enough.

As we slide through the final weeks before college basketball returns, we’ll look at one storyline about the upcoming season that lines up with the number of days until opening day. Keep coming back to see if we have the creativity and dedication to pull this off. No promises.

It’s Sept. 25 and we’re just 46 days from opening day.

In the Big Sky’s history, just five programs have won the conference tournament in consecutive years. Two of these are traditional league powers in Weber State and — especially recently — Montana. Two others, Boise State and Nevada, are no longer around.

The fifth? Portland State, which earned the Big Sky’s auto-bid in both 2008 and 2009.

That two-year run would vault Ken Bone to Washington State. The Vikings were respectable under his replacement — assistant Tyler Geving — with three .500 or better finishes in league play from 2009-2017. But an overall 62-80 league record wasn’t enough for the PSU administration, as Geving was let go following last season.

That history lesson is a long way of pointing out that the Vikings do have the potential to be a player in the Big Sky. Since 1999, only three other teams have been to the NCAA Tournament more than once.

Well-traveled, 46-year old Barret Peery gets the next shot to replicate the success Bone had almost ten years ago.

Peery has a reputation as a great recruiter, has deep ties to the community college ranks and comes with successful head coaching experience. He was also a Vikings assistant on coach Heath Schroyer's staff in 2002-03.

Most recently Peery was on Herb Sendek’s staffs at both Arizona State and Santa Clara. He also spent three years at Utah, but what makes him intriguing, especially as a recruiter, is six seasons as a head coach at the JuCo level, including three at powerhouse Indian Hills from 2011-2014.

And he was busy from the jump signing JuCo guards Devyn Wilson and Deante Strickland (a Portland native), as well as JuCo forward Jamie Orme. Here he is talking about Strickland in a release:

"Deante is a really high-level, high-pace, high-speed point guard who can make us play fast," said Peery. "He has an extremely competitive nature that will fit with what we want to do at both ends of the floor. Coming from Casper College, Deante has been taught by Coach Dan Russell who has a fantastic track record and understands what to do to get kids prepared for the next level.”

Strickland could get the first shot at replacing departing senior point guard Calaen Robinson, who led the Vikings with 34.8 minutes per game last season. In PSU’s perfect world, Strickland — or one of the other signees — is a gem that proves that Peery is a recruiting magician. That would be very encouraging, but the best thing PSU has going for it is already concrete. Literally.

The Vikings will move into the $50 million Viking Auditorium — which includes already-finished weight facilities and practice floors — for the 2018-19 season, giving the program more recruiting juice. Will that bring it back to the heights it saw under Bone?

Peery will be a few years older before we know.