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What’s on the other side of adversity? Magic.

Coach, alum Scott Rueck inspires CPHHS graduates to dig deep

OSU Women’s Basketball Head Coach and CPHHS two-time alum Scott Rueck is pictured with mentor Barb Cusimano, whom he honored at the 2019 CPHHS Hooding Ceremony.
OSU Women’s Basketball Head Coach and CPHHS two-time alum Scott Rueck with mentor Barb Cusimano, whom he honored at the 2019 CPHHS Hooding Ceremony.

CPHHS alum Scott Rueck, ’91, ’92, shared the circuitous journey to his dream job — head coach of OSU women’s basketball — with faculty, master’s and PhD students and their guests at the college’s 2019 hooding ceremony on June 14.

He began by sharing his own experiences as a student, when every game at Gill, lit up by basketball great Gary Payton, was called “The Show.”

He described “living” — and avoiding work — at Dixon Recreation Center, as well as his fond memories of Langton Hall and the Women’s Building, the latter of which he says also terrified him. Rather, it was the thought of visiting Barb Cusimano, former associate professor and head of the Physical Education Teacher Education program whose office was located in the Women’s Building, that terrified him.

“She held my future in her hands. I needed her approval to pursue my goals of being a teacher and coach,” he said. “She seemed magical.”

He cites his perceived shortcomings for his fear. “I was an underperforming, unfocused, undisciplined student weak in organizational skills, which led to guilt and a massive amount of insecurity,” he said. “Barb saved me. She saw something in me I didn’t know I had, and I knew she cared. She made me better. She made me a pro.”

Mentors, he told graduates, are vital and humbling. “They teach you the way when you think you already know.”

He credits Barb, who had a front-row seat during his address, with his professional success.

“When I graduated, I felt I could do anything.” Most importantly, he learned he could expect more from himself. “That was the magic.”

“Look where I’m standing,” he said with a laugh. “This is funny, actually. I’m here all because someone invested in me and believed in me. You’re listening to a 5’4″ male who’s a Pac-12 women’s basketball coach. I don’t see limits.”

Scott stands out as much for his success as he does his height. In 2010, he was named the fifth head coach in OSU women’s basketball history and is credited with the program’s accelerated turnaround. In addition to numerous other successes, he led the Beavers to the NCAA Tournament for six straight seasons, a first in the program’s history.

His achievements, his ability to bring out the best in others and his personal grit are a credit to mentors like Barb and to Oregon State.

“We are a relationship-based university,” he said. “People know there’s something different here. We put people first.”

He left graduates with these important lessons:

  • Adversity is coming. It’s inevitable; welcome it. It’s a gift if viewed correctly.
  • Love where you are.
  • Character and competence matter.
  • Do what you say you will, and be the person others can count on. We’re all looking for that person.
  • Winning is shallow if you don’t have somebody beside you.