The first time that Mike Riley coached at Oregon State, in 1997-98, he used it at a stepping stone and left to coach the San Diego Chargers.
The second time that Riley coached at Oregon State, from 2003 to the present, he has used it as a stepping stone … to retirement. Riley has a contract to coach the Beavers until 2019.
“I feel very fortunate, first of all, to be back here, because not too many people would hire me back,” Riley said. That’s not true, not when Riley has turned down overtures from USC, UCLA and Alabama, his alma mater. But Riley will coach hockey before he will toot his own horn.
“I have a niche here,” he said. “I know this place and I love it and I can recruit to it with a passion. And I really understand what Oregon State’s about. I know who we are. I love it. I didn’t even know how much I loved it when I was younger. So now I’m grateful that I have that opportunity. People ask me about other opportunities I’ve had, and why I didn’t go, and I said, ‘I’ve got a great place for young people to grow. I don’t want to start this over. I like this here and I hope it’s my last job.’”
He is coaching in the town in which he was raised. His son Matthew graduated from Oregon State and is working in the athletic department as a video specialist. His daughter Kate graduates from Oregon State in a couple of weeks.
Building a program with the values he cherishes, Riley said, “takes time. Four or five years is a minimum of getting a program established. That’s why, for me, I keep fighting for the [length] of my contract, because I know what time means. And I know that’s no guarantee but it helps. I have a contract right now through 2019.”
He laughed, almost embarrassedly so.
“My wife [Dee] said, ‘That’s enough!’” Riley said. “…I’ll be 58 this summer. In eight years, that’s the 65, 66 range. I guess that’s why my wife said that will be enough. The thing is, too, I get a year [added] every time we go to a bowl game. I thought of that!”
Did he tell Dee?
“Yeah, she knows,” Riley said. “You never know. There are no guarantees. You have to win in our business. But what it means to me is I understand the importance of time. I really appreciate that for what we do in our profession [and] what that means for our family, our coaches’ families, all that stuff. In our world, you know it better than anybody, that’s pretty hard to find.”