Brian Jackson Returns to the Men's Basketball Team

Oregon State University junior forward Brian Jackson has returned to the men's basketball program, it was announced Friday at a Gill Coliseum press conference by Beaver head coach Ritchie McKay. Jackson announced Wednesday that he was leaving the program and was seeking a transfer.

The two-year letterman returns to the program as its second-leading scorer (11.7) and rebounder (3.9). He also ranks among the Pac-10 Conference leaders for field goal percentage (.551) and free throw percentage (.802).

'The entire program is excited to have Jackson back,' McKay said. 'There has been a lot that has transpired the last couple of days, but the coaching staff and his teammates are elated to have him back and have our family restored.'

Jackson has started 70 of 76 career games he has appeared in at Oregon State. He has missed three games this season due to an abdominal strain injury, and did not play Thursday's game vs. Washington after announcing his intentions to leave.

Jackson arrived on the OSU campus in the fall of 1999 from Knappa High School in Knappa, Ore., and played his freshman season for then head coach Eddie Payne. He came to OSU after leading the Loggers to a pair of state 2A titles. Jackson was a three-time all-state selection and the 2A Player of the Year twice. He left Knappa as the state's second all-time leading scorer with 2,515 points.

'Coach McKay and I met last night and we have come to a mutual understanding,' Jackson said. 'Our relationship has grown immensely just in the last 12 hours. I'm grateful to be back on the team.'

Oregon State plays its final home game of the season, Sat., Feb. 23 at 5:07 p.m. vs. the Washington State Cougars. The game will air live on Fox Net Television.>


COACH MCKAY:'Thank you all for being here. This press conference is to announce the reinstatement of Brian Jackson in our program. We are very excited to have Jax with us again. A lot of things have transpired the last couple of days that Brian and I have talked about, worked over and worked through. He and his teammates and I are elated that our family is restored, so to speak. I'm sure you'll have questions about the process, and before I answer, I'm going to let Brian have the mike for a minute.'

BRIAN JACKSON:'I'm sure there are a lot of questions right now about what happened. Coach McKay and I have been able to talk about things and try and get a new understanding. Our relationship has grown, just in the last 12 hours. I'm glad to be back with the team.'

COACH MCKAY:'Questions?'

WHAT PROMPTED THESE DISCUSSIONS?(Coach McKay chuckles) 'That's too long of a story. Brian's got class soon, so we'd better keep it short. A bunch of people did. Craig Cokley (Beaver junior guard Mike Cokley's father) mentioned some things to me and to Brian, and I had a conversation with Brian's mother last night that I felt helped me understand Brian a little bit better and help me understand where I erred in our communication.'

WHERE DID YOU ERR IN YOUR COMMUNICATION?(McKay): 'I think I responded to the news I had heard in regards to Jimmy and Brian's imminent transfer, and I responded very quickly. I reacted, actually, instead of responded. Jimmy's decision was made and I treated Brian the same way I did Jimmy (Haywood). I probably could have handled it better by telling Brian 'yeah, we're all emotional right now because we're in a losing streak and in a tough time.' I probably should have told him 'let's just finish this season and then revisit it at the end of the season'. Brian took that to mean, 'either he tells me now, or he wasn't going to have a chance in our program.'

'I learned from my mistakes and apologized to Jax. The obvious consequence of all this is that we lost to Washington last night without one of our best players and may have had a chance to beat them. So our fans and our supporters are a little disappointed, but I'm excited because of the restoration. Honestly, we had a great conversation last night - neither of us have had a lot of sleep.

'I learned he's fun to hang out with. He said more words last night than I think he's said in about 365 days. But I think it was good. The future of our program - because of the adversity we have faced - I think is very bright.'

BRIAN, WHERE WERE YOU DURING THE GAME LAST NIGHT, DID YOU LISTEN?(Jackson): 'I was listening on the radio. It was one of the hardest things I've had to do. I felt bad, but then when Coach McKay called me, I was kind of curious, you know, 'why are you calling me?' I went over, and we talked, and the rest is old news.

HOW LATE DID THIS TALK RUN?(Jackson): '11:30 or so.'

BRIAN, WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THIS WHOLE THING?(Jackson): 'Sometimes you've just got to stick with things even when the future doesn't look to bright. But my relationship with my team and my coach has been taken to a whole new level.'

IS IT SAFE TO ASSUME, RITCHIE, THAT THE SITUATION WITH JIMMY (HAYWOOD) IS A DIFFERENT ONE, AND WE WON'T HAVE ANOTHER PRESS CONFERENCE IN A FEW DAYS?(McKay): 'I haven't spoken with Jimmy yet. Jimmy's decision has been made. He made his decision before we talked. Not to be negative toward Jimmy, but I think his decision had been made. I think with Brian - again, for those of you who were here last night (after the Washington game), somebody asked the question, 'could the relationship be restored?' I think you could tell by my response that I was hoping to. I haven't stopped caring about Jax, or Jimmy for that matter, but I didn't think there was closure to Brian's situation, just because of how I felt in my heart.

'A lot of us can learn from this that sometimes if your pride is too great, you're going to end up compounding a mistake that you've already made. Both Brian and I realized that we had erred in our communication. I think again, the beauty of it is that we've humbled ourselves and are moving forward together.

'If you could have been in our (team) meeting in the team room this morning and seen the reaction of his teammates, and their comments, you'd see the step that Oregon State basketball took.'

WHAT IS HIS STATUS FOR TOMORROW'S GAME? IS HE GOING TO PLAY?(McKay): 'Well, he'd better play. We haven't made a decision - I'm assuming he'll start and have his position restored. His teammates accepted him back unconditionally. He's a starter in our program as long as he continues to earn that role. I'm still going to be the same coach. I believe in discipline, accountability and all that, but I better understand the player that I have in Brian Jackson, and am fortunate to have him as part of our program.'

BRIAN, WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT RITCHIE LAST NIGHT?(Jackson): 'Coach McKay? He's not going to quit on you. He'll keep fighting for you.

BRIAN, IN YOUR WORDS, WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO LEAVE THE PROGAM LAST WEEK, AND THEN WHAT WAS IT THAT BROUGHT YOU BACK?(Jackson): 'I think I've talked to almost everybody about that already, but what brought me back was that something was missing, and I wanted to be back and be a part of it.

'I don't have any regrets. When I look back, that was probably the best thing that ever happened.'

WHY DID YOU LEAVE EARLIER IN THE WEEK?(Jackson): 'There were just a lot of things, a lot of frustration, some miscommunication between Coach McKay and I that I think we resolved last night. It was just a lot of things - unhappiness with the way things were going. On my part, I was probably wrong for taking that approach, but I'm here, so...'


WHAT CHANGES HAVE BEEN MADE OR WILL BE MADE TO KEEP THE FRUSTRATION FROM HAPPENING AGAIN?(Jackson): 'I just think Coach McKay and I have a better understanding and have improved our relationship, so that we can talk one-on-one.'

COACH, A COUPLE NIGHTS AGO, SOME PEOPLE THOUGHT THE BOTTOM WAS DROPPING OUT. TELL US HOW SIGNIFICANT THIS IS?(McKay): 'I think it's a significant step in life, just because the family has been restored. I've been through my own personal tragedies and lost a loved one, and Brian's a loved one, so I was unsettled about it. I think our team was confused.

'But never has my passion for Oregon State basketball and our program wavered or lessened, and I think Brian's recommitment to our program is two steps forward. He's potentially a great player. He's a good player now, but potentially a great player.

'I'm telling you, nothing greater has happened in our program's recent memory than the meeting in our locker room this morning. It was heartfelt, it was sincere, and I can go down the list - Payton, Masten, all of them - they are phenomenal. Their character is unbelievable. And again, I really am privileged to have the chance to coach them.'

HOW VALUABLE HAS THIS EXPERIENCE BEEN TO YOU IN LEARNING HOW TO DEAL WITH YOUNG GUYS AND THE TEAM? HOW VALUABLE HAS IT BEEN TO YOU AS A YOUNG HEAD COACH?(McKay): 'I've been fortunate to have quick success, so needless to say, these last two years have aged me. But I think that once I think I've got all the answers, I should probably get out of this. I learned from the circumstance, without question, that I've got to communicate with our players and also to not make hasty decisions that aren't well-thought of and I that I haven't put myself in the shoes of the guys that are going through it for longer than I need to. I need to continue to grow in that area.'

NOT THAT THIS EVER A GOOD THING TO HAPPEN, BUT IT IS GOOD THAT THIS HAPPENED NOW AND HAS BEEN RESOLVED WITHOUT ANY FURTHER BUILDUP AND MAYBE EVEN A WIDER SCALE?(McKay): 'Oh, absolutely. The people close to the program and that are for it are hurting just like we were. I think by you being here today, your presence, and how this will be reported - and that's not my agenda, I want to make that clear.

'Mrs. Jackson, Brian's mom, asked me last night, 'Did you want Brian back during the game? Is that when you felt like you wanted him back?' I told her no, I didn't even think about Brian during the game, because I'm too competitive. I wanted Brian back from the second he left my office for the second time on that Wednesday.

'This isn't a media ploy. This isn't for you guys to think I'm a nice guys or anything like that. We just felt like, publicly, we would take it head on. I believe in that.'


CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHERE IT WENT FROM THERE? DID YOU ASK HIM IF HE'D HEARD THE GAME AND HIS THOUGHTS? DID HE MISS IT?(McKay): 'I called Brian and left a message. I called Mike Cokley, left a message with him and said if he got a hold of Brian, let me know. And then Coach Tyrus - Brian was out with his friends, at a party - no, I'm just kidding. Brian was out with his friends and Coach Tyrus got a hold of his cousin's friend and she said that they were on their way home. Brian called Coach Tyrus back and he said 'What's up?' He said 'Coach wants to meet with you', and Brian said (McKay impersonates Jackson's low voice) 'What for?'

'I took Coach Tyrus' cell phone and said 'Jax, can you come meet with me?' He said, 'can it wait till the morning?' I said, 'I'd like to meet with you now, if it's possible,' and then he came to my office and we met.

'When he walked through that door, I just wanted closure to it. I didn't think he was going to come back, and I'm not putting words in your mouth, but you didn't think you were coming back, did you?'

(Jackson): 'No.'

(McKay): 'Fortunately, we were able to work some things out.'

BRIAN, WERE YOU SURPRISED TO HEAR FROM HIM?(Jackson): 'I was kind of surprised that he would have called me up. I was like, 'What's going on?' when he wanted to talk to me. I guess I was just curious and didn't know why he wanted to talk to me now. Then I went and talked to him and it was the best thing I ever did.'

BRIAN, HAD YOU HEARD FROM OTHER SCHOOLS ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF TRANSFERRING?(Jackson): 'I really didn't want to talk to anybody right now. I told (Assistant Sports Information Director/basketball contact) Steve (Fenk) that I really didn't want to talk to the media or anyone. I really just wanted some space for a little bit. I really wasn't getting involved - I didn't know what I was going to do.'

WITH THIS RESULT BRIAN, WAS IT SAFE TO SAY THAT YOU WERE REGRETTING YOUR DECISION A LITTLE BIT AND THAT YOUR HEART WASN'T QUITE IN YOUR DECISION TO LEAVE IN THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS?(Brian): 'I'm not going to lie to you. Listening to the game last night on the radio was terrible. I could just hear what was going on, and I knew exactly - I understood everything. It was tough, but I'm glad it all worked out.'

(McKay): 'We're understanding, again, of the repercussions, and I told Jax the fans on the road are going to get on him, especially in Eugene. I'm sure there were some hecklers last night, as were reported by some, that weren't real happy with me either, but that's part of this level. Again, we're not defined by what others think of us.

'I think the great thing in this, is what's happened and how it's resolved, and how we've grown from it. It's sincere, it's heartfelt, and I truly believe that we're a better team, a better program, and certainly better people for what transpired.

'The true character of a man is how you deal with adversity, and Brian Jackson's character should never be questioned, because he is strong.'

IN CLOSING(Jackson): 'One thing I'd like to say, and this is off the subject, but I know you people could get word out, but it's our seniors' last game tomorrow night. I know the fans really haven't been coming out, and it's our fault obviously, but I think if they would give us another chance tomorrow night, we could make them happy.'

(McKay): 'I think things have been said, and I have so much respect for Brian and his teammates after the last 70-some hours. When you go through some adverse times like this, you kind of know who your friends are and what peoples' agendas are. I can't tell you how many calls or emails of support that I got. I don't read the paper a lot or the internet, so I'm sure there was some negative stuff, but a lot of people rallied to support us.

'I think that's the beauty of my job. Oregon State University and Corvallis, Oregon - there's incredible loyalty here.

'I want to echo Jax's remarks (about) the fans coming out and sending Brandon and Adam off. I told Brandon and Adam that I'm going to leave their pictures up in the locker room because they're a part of a group that 180'd the program. They're staying up all next year because of what they've meant to us.'

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