The Seattle Sports 5-Year Trends

If you scroll down the right side of my home page (if you are viewing this on a laptop or PC; otherwise it’s at the very bottom of the home page on a mobile device), you’ll see a list of all the Seattle-based teams I follow, and their most recent five seasons’ worth of records. I started doing that a LONG time ago, intending to refer to that information every so often, to take a global view of the Seattle sports landscape. Which teams are on the rise? Which teams are sinking like a stone? And which teams are helplessly treading water?

It’s funny, when I devised of this concept – and then absolutely failed to follow through, until today – I thought five years in sports terms was an adequate amount of time to figure out where a team is going. But, in reality, it’s both an eternity, and no time at all. Sports teams can turn around their fortunes so fast, you might get whiplash with all the wildly disparate outcomes. One year, you might be on top of the world, then you might be among the worst teams in the game, then you’re able to snap right back into being relevant again, coming from out of nowhere.

I would put the Husky football team in this category. Through 2019, you could argue this was a team on the rise. Then, we had the COVID season, followed by a total bottoming out in 2021, with a housecleaning to follow. From there, they snapped right back into being one of the best teams in college football in 2022, only to make it to the National Championship Game in 2023. We have since been confronted with a different sort of housecleaning, unfortunately, and now this looks like a team that’s going to fall. How could it not? We reached a height we haven’t seen since the early 90’s, and we didn’t replace all that we lost with comparable talent; it’s only natural to see a drop-off.

You can also look at the Kraken and even though we don’t have five seasons’ worth of data, we have almost three. They started off bad, then they made the playoffs in year two, only to hover around .500 in year three. Young players haven’t developed into the superstars we hoped for, and everyone on the roster feels like role players. There’s probably going to be a new head coach to come, and we’ll see where we go from here.

On the flipside, you can look at the Husky basketball team and see a team that’s largely been around .500. Five straight years of stagnation, and counting. Part of that has to do with the coaching staff – which has been replaced this offseason – and part of that is the nature of college basketball nowadays. Unless you’re recruiting the best of the best high school players – who can step in and compete right away – you’re not able to develop younger guys like you used to. You just have to hope you’re poaching enough quality in the transfer portal to find the special mixture that will gel immediately.

The NFL is arguably the most volatile sport of the bunch, with teams going from worst to first all the time! And yet, the Seahawks appear to be on a steady decline. Or, at the very least, a decline followed by a flatline. They were 12-game winners (including playoffs) in 2019 and 2020. Then, we had Russell Wilson’s injury-plagued and inconsistent final year here, followed by two years of Geno Smith and some apathetic .500 ball. I can conceive of a future where this is a team on the rise again, but I think we’re going to have to endure another 9-ish win season in the interim.

The only team you could make an argument that’s a team “on the rise” is the Mariners. But, that entirely hinges on what happens in 2024. It’s a franchise with a clear plan, who underwent an obvious rebuild, and who managed to cobble together a pretty good-looking young core. 2019 was terrible. The COVID-shortened 2020 season was better than expected. The 2021 season was better still. In 2022, we finally broke the playoff drought. And, 2023 could conceivably be excused for missing the playoffs, because teams don’t always follow one straight trajectory from year to year. If we make it back to the playoffs in 2024, I think 2023 can be forgiven. At that point, some of the younger prospects still developing in the minors might be ready to take the next step. The Mariners still feel like they’re a few pieces away, and if we have to get them internally, so be it.

So, the last 5 years have been kind of a mixed bag. That’s Seattle sports for ya. Never too high, rarely too low, with lots of unexpected gut punches in between (that only become expected the longer you root for these teams).

The Husky Basketball Team Fired Mike Hopkins, Hired Danny Sprinkle

After a fifth consecutive season landing outside of the NCAA Tournament, and after a losing conference record in four out of the last five years, it was a foregone conclusion that Mike Hopkins would be fired prior to finishing out the last year of his contract. We were at a point in his tenure where the turnover was pretty massive from year to year, there hasn’t been a viable high school recruit since the Romar era, and there was a complete and utter lack of improvement among those who did end up returning. On top of everything else, Hopkins couldn’t even run his signature zone defense anymore, because of that lack of continuity.

It’s been pretty miserable to be a Husky fan, ever since the last remnants of the Romar era won Hopkins his second consecutive Pac-12 Coach of the Year award, in our last season in the NCAA Tournament in 2019. There’s been equal parts hopelessness and delusion, into thinking that whatever scrubs we were able to bring in via the transfer portal would somehow shake out into a winning basketball club. Ultimately, it’s been a consistent lack of consistency, other than the fact that we couldn’t win any big games against quality opponents, and frequently flubbed things up against lower-quadrant teams.

In the end, we had to very nearly run out the string, thanks to the other big coaching blunder we had to pay out, in the form of Jimmy Lake.

Now that the unpleasantness is behind us, let’s welcome Danny Sprinkle! That name sounding like a My Little Pony notwithstanding, it seems like we did good with this hire. He has a 109-50 record in five seasons, across two teams. He turned around a moribund program in Montana State (after two so-so seasons, he took them to the NCAA Tournament as a 14-seed in back-to-back years), then he flipped a Utah State team that returned zero points from its previous season’s roster into an 8-seed this year that beat TCU in the first round, before succumbing to the juggernaut that is 1-seed Purdue.

That’s three NCAA Tournament appearances in a row, for those keeping track at home. We haven’t had three consecutive Tourney appearances since the 2009-2011 seasons!

This, of course, feels like a Kalen DeBoer situation (or a Jedd Fisch situation, for that matter), where Sprinkle is a head coach on the rise, who will look to jump ship at the first opportunity. But, as is our lot in life, you kind of have to hope that’s the endgame, because it means we’ll actually see some NCAA success in the near future. It won’t be a lot of success, of course. But, just getting there feels like half 99% of the battle.

I don’t know where Sprinkle lands on the list of Best New Hires in men’s basketball this year, but it feels like he’s the best of OUR particular options. The former Coug head coach jumped ship to Stanford of all teams, which seems odd considering it sounded like he could’ve had his pick of any number of open jobs (after taking that team into the Round of 32 this year, when nothing was expected of them heading into this season). It’s even more remarkable that the Huskies were able to hire anyone, considering our Athletic Director left us last week to go to Nebraska of all schools (yes, the same AD who has been here for all of 6 months).

While I agree that the next AD needs to be someone with bona fide Husky ties (and not some dick in the yard from Tulane), I’m not buying that noise about Sprinkle potentially being a long-term fit because his dad played here, and because he was born in Pullman. That’s a tenuous fucking grip AT BEST on the reality of the situation. Washington is a Stepping Stone program (unfortunately for Hopkins, it was a stepping stone into a dark fucking abyss). We haven’t found the next Mark Few, so you can get that out of your heads right now.

I’m excited that we got a young and promising head coach who has had a lot of recent success, but my excitement is most certainly tempered. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m not interested in him doing everything he can to retain the players we have currently on our roster, or our assistant head coaches for that matter. I dunno, maybe I should be; maybe all these players need is just some semblance of competence among its head coach to bring in a winning scheme that works. But, this program has been a stone cold loser for half a decade, and I have no loyalty to ANY of these chumps. Sprinkle should do what’s best for Sprinkle, and if that means totally cleaning house, so be it. I’ll take his opinion over anyone else’s. If it were up to me, the assistants on this staff would be updating their resumes; maybe they can see if Seattle U is hiring.

No, In Fact, The Husky Men’s Basketball Team Is Not Good

I can’t remember the last time I was THIS unexcited about a Husky basketball team. Even in 2020, when we finished 5-21; even in Romar’s last year, when we went 2-16 in conference play, I at least watched a handful of games. I at least followed along, reading box scores and whatnot. All I’ve done this season is – once or twice a week – gone on this website and updated the information for our next game. That’s it! I looked at most of the scores, but I couldn’t even be bothered to click for more information.

When I wrote my previous Husky basketball post, we had just defeated Gonzaga. There was at least some semblance of legitimacy to the question poised in the title of that post. We’ve seen so so-looking teams come around towards the tail-end of the non-conference schedule, to go on a tear in conference play. Sometimes it takes a few weeks to truly gel. Sometimes a big win over a ranked opponent can propel you to new heights.

Or, sometimes, Gonzaga just has a down year – or a down game – and throws everyone off the scent for a little while. But, it’s confirmed. With a sub-.500 record in conference play, and an around-.500 record overall through the regular season, the Huskies are just bad.

You might be able to argue they’re bad, but also fun to watch. I couldn’t argue that, because I haven’t watched more than a few minutes this season; but YOU could, if you want. All I know is that they’re not even interesting-enough for me to make the effort to remember when their games are on. It costs me almost nothing to watch! And yet, nope.

And we all know why. It’s the program dragging Mike Hopkins’ withered carcass across a third straight lame duck year of his inflated contract. By all rights, he should’ve been fired after that 2021 season, yet here we are. We’re technically on the hook for another $3.2 million for the 2024/2025 season, but by all accounts the University of Washington should be fiscally sound-enough to fire him and hire someone else.

That being said, it’ll be interesting to see where we go from here. On the one hand, we’re heading to the Big Ten and it would be nice to make a good first impression. On the other hand, college basketball is so supremely fucked, and the Huskies are in about the worst spot you can imagine. Totally irrelevant, with no holdover from year to year, and I can only imagine fan apathy is at an all-time high. How do you juice up interest? How do you get good players to want to come here? How much do we have left in the coffers after the football program eats its share of the finances?

I don’t know how you fix it, without a total revamp of college football and basketball. Until, quite frankly, the schools get some semblance of control over their situation. I know it’s college and there’s a finite amount of eligibility. But, you can’t have players switching teams every fucking year! That’s no way to drum up interest and keep fans engaged.

And most fans like me aren’t that involved in the recruiting part of the equation. I don’t know these names being thrown around. I don’t know enough of the mid-tier players from other colleges who enter the transfer portal either. It’s all insanity.

The longer it goes like this, the less inclined I’m going to be to stick around and watch anything outside of March Madness. Maybe that’s just the Mike Hopkins-ness of it all talking. Maybe when he goes – and we bring in some fresh blood – it will rejuvenate my interest. We’ll see.

Is The Husky Men’s Basketball Team Good?

I’m legitimately asking. I’ve seen very little of this team so far this year.

It’s been kind of hard to be a Husky basketball fan the last four seasons. We last made the NCAA Tournament in 2019; prior to that it was 2011. That’s one legitimate post-season berth in the last twelve seasons. The Mike Hopkins era started off with a bang, with him winning back-to-back coach of the year awards. Since then? Since Romar’s players moved on and he was left on his own? Diddly.

This has also coincided with a massive shift in how college athletics operates, with players getting NIL money, with the transfer portal making it open season on all players, regardless of whether or not they’re formally committed to or even attending another university. It’s been nothing but a complete shuffling of rosters every year. I don’t know how you build a program that way. I don’t know how you incorporate guys into your scheme or develop chemistry. There has to be a way, other schools seem to manage.

The Huskies have hovered around .500 in three of the last four seasons (with the other one being a total bottom-out job). There have been interesting players who’ve come through, but by and large, it’s a lot of inconsistency. We do okay against the bad teams – for the most part – but can’t buy a victory against a ranked opponent to save our lives.

But, that streak ended this past weekend, when the Huskies hosted 7th-ranked Gonzaga, and beat them 78-73. The Zags were favored by 3.5 points, and indeed had an 11-point lead in the second half. But, the Huskies chipped away and prevailed, shocking the college basketball world.

Gonzaga only fell to #10 in the rankings, which goes to show the respect that everyone has for them. This is interesting to me because it’s the first REALLY great win we’ve had in I don’t know how long. It’s one of those kinds of wins you can point to at the end of the season that actually helps our case for making the Tourney.

Of course, we’ll have to see where Gonzaga goes from here. Maybe they’ll have just an okay year. Their only other defeat so far is to Purdue, who is currently 3rd in the nation, and they still have bigtime matchups against UConn and Kentucky, so there’s plenty of opportunity for them to be in their usual spot near the top of whatever bracket they find themselves in.

As for the Huskies, we’re 6-3, with losses to Nevada, San Diego State (both unranked, but in the Others Receiving Votes pile), and Colorado State (currently 17th in the nation). Before beating the Zags, our best win was over Xavier, who is 5-5 and probably not going anywhere. So, to say we needed this win is a huge understatement.

But, will it make a difference? That’s for the rest of the season to decide. Our non-conference schedule ends next week; we have two games left (against Seattle U and Eastern). The only ranked team in the Pac-12 at the moment is #1 Arizona (who we play only once this year, in February on the road). Colorado is currently the 26th-ranked team, with Utah also receiving some votes. For what it’s worth, Washington just got a couple of votes after beating Gonzaga, so I guess people think we’re the 4th-best team in the conference so far.

Are we, though? Keion Brooks returned this year for (presumably) his final year of eligibility. He’s averaging 19.9 points and 7.9 rebounds to lead the team. Sahvir Wheeler, a transfer from Kentucky, is averaging a career-best 16.1 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.6 boards in spite of shooting well below his Kentucky 3-point percentage (25%, down from 36.6% last year). Moses Wood, a transfer from Portland, is averaging 10.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in spite of also being considerably worse from 3-point range (30.6% compared to 40.3% last year). Paul Mulcahy, a transfer from Rutgers, is chipping in 8.5 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.6 boards in 31 minutes per game to round out the regulars.

As for holdovers, Koren Johnson is averaging 9.9 points in 22 minutes. Franck Kepnang returned from missing most of last year due to injury; he’s averaging 7.9 points in just over 18 minutes per game. Braxton Meah has seen his role decrease, but he’s putting up 4.7 points in just under 10 minutes per game. Looks like we’re rolling with a 9-man rotation through non-conference play, more or less. Wilhelm Breidenbach and Anthony Holland round out the group averaging 10 minutes or more per game. I wonder if those last two guys will see their time diminish over the coming weeks and months. Can’t play everyone.

It’s hard to say what we do exceedingly well. We average 82.2 and give up 72.7, but that’s non-conference play, with a lot of cupcakes sprinkled in. We’re 52nd in assists and 78th in rebounds. We’re shooting 47.4, but only 32.5 from three. It’s my understanding that we’ve largely gone away from the zone defense that was Hop’s trademark coming in, which everyone agrees was for the best. I had written this team off before the season as just another .500 nothing, but at least we know they have this in them. You can’t dismiss beating a team like Gonzaga. For that reason alone, I’ll try to give them some attention, at least for a while.

More Pointless Husky Basketball News

While I refuse to get too “up” for any of these moves I hear about, I certainly believe there’s no limit to how “down” you can be on the Husky basketball program at the moment.

A while back, it was announced that Moses Wood is transferring here from Portland, who is 6’8 and apparently a good 3-point shooter. He’s averaged in the middle teens the last couple years, which is encouraging. But, again, it’s Portland, not exactly a hotbed of high-level basketball play.

This feels like exactly the kind of level of player the Huskies can get at this point, in the transfer portal anyway. I’m assuming he only has one year of eligibility left (which makes sense), and has decided to make the leap to a Power 5 school. The fact that the Huskies are one of the WORST Power 5 schools right now notwithstanding, at least he’s going to a place that desperately needs his game.

We’ll see if he’s any better than these other so-called “good shooters” we’ve brought in. Wood is being touted as a Cole Bajema replacement; couldn’t be worse, right? But, not necessarily the savior we’ve been looking for, to take the program to another level.

Then, it was announced Anthony Holland is coming here; he’s a grad transfer from Fresno State. He’s also supposed to be adept at the long ball, but I’m not holding my breath. He hasn’t even averaged double digits, so what are we supposed to expect from him when he comes to Washington, where we have no offensive gameplan to speak of?

While I was on vacation, it was reported Noah Williams has entered the transfer portal, a year after transferring here from the Cougs. He was hurt most of the season and therefore did jack shit. Since we were counting on him to be one of our main scoring threats and ballhandlers, it was a devastating loss to an already-mediocre squad. Nevertheless, even when he was out there, I never felt much of a positive impact, so I’m not counting this as any sort of big loss.

You’d think Williams would want to stick around, to play a fully healthy season in a place that would be all too happy to feature his talents. But, like I’ve been saying with all the other defectors, how can you blame him for wanting to leave? Either he wants a chance to play for a winner, or he wants to be around a less dysfunctional group/coaching staff.

Hearing about Williams leaving made it all the more surprising when it was announced that Keion Brooks would be coming back. What?! Why?!

Brooks was clearly the best Husky last season. He might not have flashed the potential of a Menifield, but he was a steady scoring leader game-in and game-out. Which, again, makes you wonder why he decided to stick around to play for a lame duck coach who has one viable guard on the team. He’s gotta be getting at least a little money out of the deal, right? Which makes me question why there’s money for Brooks, but not money to fire Hopkins’ ass.

Husky Basketball Is Falling Apart

Now, in all fairness, just because the rats are evacuating this sinking ship that is Husky Men’s Basketball doesn’t mean it’s bad that they’re gone.

Jamal Bey, for instance, is out of eligibility (thank Christ). He was a colossal disappointment for the duration of his Husky career. Langston Wilson has opted to transfer, but he was often foul-prone and never really developed a consistent offensive game. Jackson Grant is also leaving, but he couldn’t crack a weak front court. Tyler Linhardt is apparently a guy who was here, but I know nothing about him since he hardly ever played.

Then, Cole Bajema announced he was leaving, but that feels like addition by subtraction. He’s another supposedly-good three-point shooter who was streaky as all get-out. His good games were SEVERELY outnumbered by the ones where he was anonymous to outright atrocious (you shouldn’t have as many games as he has when he went 0 for 6 or 1 for 7, when you’re supposedly an elite outside shooter). It sounds like P.J. Fuller is also leaving, but with an expanded role, he did exactly zero with the opportunity (after having a solid 2021-2022 season).

And then you’ve got Keion Brooks and Noah Williams, who it sounds like are on the fence. Brooks was easily the best player on last year’s .500 team, but that’s not saying a whole lot. He has one year of eligibility left, and I don’t know why this is even a question. Why on God’s green Earth would he stay at Washington? Why wouldn’t he go somewhere where he actually has a chance to play some Tournament ball? I can sort of see why Williams might stick around; he’s a local kid who spent most of this past season injured. I don’t know if he has any value on the open market right now, unless he wants to go to a smaller school just to play a lot of minutes and fill out his stats. The thing is, if he’s healthy, he’ll have every opportunity to do that here, so why not just stay?

What kills me now, though, is hearing that Keyon Menifield has announced he’s leaving, after recently announcing he was coming back. He was far and away the most promising and exciting player on last year’s squad, and it’s truly devastating that he won’t be back. But, again, I get it. I loved watching him; he was fun as hell on the court. But, he’s never going to win here. He’s not from here. There are no ties whatsoever keeping him a Husky. It’s brutal, but that’s what you get when you refuse to fire a lame duck in Mike Hopkins.

Who does that leave us with? Two okay big men in Braxton Meah and Franck Kepnang (the latter coming off of a serious injury) and Koren Johnson (the other freshman guard who wasn’t quite as good as Menifield, but still looked promising last year). We have a couple of incoming freshman I’m assuming won’t reneg on their committment. And, I guess, we’ll have a whole new slate of underwhelming incoming transfer players no one else in college basketball wanted.

This just sucks. It’s not like I was even remotely excited about Husky basketball next year, but I dunno, at least we would’ve had Menifield. I can only imagine how big of an impact he’ll have in his second full season at the college level. I hope he kills it on his new team. I can totally see him being a star in the Big Dance next year.

Mike Hopkins Will Not Be Fired At This Time

As expected, the Huskies lost in the opener of the Pac-12 tournament. It was the very first game of the set, and I immediately stopped paying attention beyond that moment. *Checks notes ESPN.com* it looks like Arizona defeated UCLA to take the conference crown in a slight upset. Those are easily the best two teams in the Pac though, so don’t be surprised if they go relatively far. I was surprised to see USC as a 10-seed, after their pitiful showing in the conference tourney; I was less surprised to see ASU as an 11-seed play-in team. They’re not great, but they have a great win here and there.

This isn’t about the rest of the conference, though. This is about YOUR 16-16 Washington Huskies. It was announced over the weekend that Mike Hopkins would be returning. Normally, you don’t need to release a statement confirming someone still has his job when he’s got multiple years left on his contract. But, given the discourse of late – and the disappointing results we’ve seen since last making the NCAA Tournament in 2019 – it really felt like the Huskies were set to make a change.

As has been discussed, though, Washington still owes him a combined $6.3 million over the next two seasons. That by itself isn’t enough to dictate inaction, but when you throw in Jimmy Lake’s figure (over $6 million for the next two years), all his fired football assistants (and Hop’s basketball assistants), the cost of a new basketball coaching staff, and all the raises Kalen DeBoer and his staff have received after just one season (not to mention all the NIL money being raised to start paying these players, on the football team especially), there’s only so much a school like Washington can reasonably hope to do.

I wouldn’t call Washington a “mid-major”, but I would say we are a tier between mid-majors and true power five schools. We don’t have the reach of these national programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and the like. We don’t have the fans attending these games, nor do we have the television numbers to even remotely compete. But, we’re not chopped liver either. What we’ve come to terms with is that Washington is a football school. That’s not a knock; it’s not a bad thing. But, we’re NOT a basketball school. We’re not trying to be all things to all sports. We’re (smartly, rightly) putting all of our chips into the football basket. That’s where the bulk of our boosters live, that’s where the bulk of the money in college athletics lives, and that’s where we’ve traditionally made the biggest sporting impact (all apologies to the rowers and whatnot, in the lesser sports who win championships to zero acclaim).

So, the money is going to football. We’re shooting our shot – so to speak – on the football team making a serious run at the playoffs in 2023. And, somewhat as a consequence, we’re letting the basketball program stagnate under Mike Hopkins, either until his contract runs out, or until he becomes cheap enough to be fired without having to eat an unreasonable sum.

I thought the Hopkins debacle was all summed up perfectly over at UW Dawg Pound. I was happy to learn that Jamal Bey is, indeed, done with college basketball. I was a little dismayed to learn that even though he was celebrated on Senior Day, Cole Bajema is planning to return. Also, I find it incredibly interesting to discover we’re looking to convince Keion Brooks to come back.

Langston Wilson entered the transfer portal – to no one’s shock – and there might be others looking to leave. But I really wonder what this team might look like if most-everyone came back. Not that I think we’d be world beaters, or even contenders for the conference title, but it’s been exceedingly rare for a Mike Hopkins team to have any semblance of continuity. He had it in 2019 – again, with mostly holdovers from Romar’s regime – and we actually did something of value for once. Not that I think lightning would strike twice, but you never know.

I want to have strong feelings about the Huskies keeping Mike Hopkins, because I like Husky basketball. I like it when we’re good, when Hec Ed is rocking and rolling, and when we’re making our presence felt on a national stage. Winning that game in the NCAA Tournament in 2019 was a truly magical experience, and I want more of that!

But, I’m just so God damned beaten down. The atrocious Mike Hopkins “offense”. The zone defense that couldn’t catch a cold. His impotent sideline antics. Our piddling assistant coaching staff. Our non-existent local recruiting abilities.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been spoiled as a Husky basketball fan. I jumped on the bandwagon at peak Romar era. Even his most mediocre teams were somewhat interesting. He always had at least one or two interesting guys. And while his offense wasn’t any sort of great shakes, at least he had players with real offensive abilities. Guys who could drive the lane, create for themselves, or kick out to a bevy of three-point shooters.

There’s nothing interesting about the guys Hopkins has brought in, other than Terrell Brown. There’s truly nothing interesting about the transfer portal, now that we know what it really is. It’s just one more way to lose your very best players, while replacing them with lesser rejects who couldn’t hack it on relevant teams.

So, you know, I’ll go through the motions of paying attention to the Huskies when they’re on TV. But, I’m not getting my hopes up. We’ll continue to underwhelm in 2023/2024, and if Hop is still here on a final lame-duck season, that’ll be a disaster of all disasters. This is going to hurt his ability to recruit, his ability to keep our “committed” guys, and probably any chance of putting out a non-embarrassing product on the court. This could get REALLY ugly.

The last thing we wanted after Hopkins won those back-to-back Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards was for him to get poached to a bigger program. Who knew it would’ve been the best possible outcome for all involved? Certainly for us, but also for Hopkins. Ironically, the Syracuse head coaching gig just opened up for next season (for the first time in nearly 50 years). Maybe Hop can one day get hired on to be an assistant again.

This Stupid Husky Basketball Season Is Finally Almost Over

The regular season limped to a close last night, with the Huskies falling 93-84 to the Cougars en route to getting swept in this season’s Apple Cup series. We are 16-15 (8-12 in conference) and it’s now our fourth straight campaign without a post-season berth. We’re currently slotted in as the 8th seed in the Pac-12 Tournament next week, which means at best we could advance to the second round, where we’ll get destroyed by top seeded UCLA. But, I’m expecting we’ll lose in that first round, saving everyone the embarrassment of another double-digit defeat at the hands of the Bruins.

It’s been a VERY discouraging last week or so, as we also had the barn doors blown off of us against Stanford over the weekend. They’re one of the worst teams in the conference, and it’s sad that we couldn’t even put up a fight. There’s no good reason why we should be so mediocre; I find it difficult to pinpoint the reason, that’s for sure. Is it lack of talent? Is it poor coaching/development? Either way, that falls at the feet of Mike Hopkins, in the hottest of seats as he closes out his sixth season. He has two more years left on his deal, earning him $6.3 million.

For those who say, “Easy, fire him and buy him out of his contract,” it’s not exactly so simple. We also just got done paying Jimmy Lake $3.2 million to sit on his ass in 2022. Lake will also earn a combined $6.7 million over the next two years (we’ll see if we get to recoup that in any way, shape, or form as he finds work elsewhere), and that’s not even getting into whatever money we owe his assistants, not to mention the current football coaching staff (who have already gotten raises after one season), nor mentioning the NEW basketball staff that we’ll have to bring in to replace Hopkins.

I understand we’re talking about a university bringing in billions of dollars, and I’m not saying the Huskies should keep Hopkins. But, I would understand if we don’t want to keep compounding bad money decisions.

Here’s the thing, though: Mike Hopkins hasn’t shown he’s capable of doing anything other than win with Romar’s players his first two years here. He hasn’t recruited successfully from the high school ranks (nor does he really seem all that interested in it). He’s largely flopped with the transfer portal, other than lucking into Terrell Brown’s final year of eligibility. He CLEARLY has no idea how to craft a competent offense, other than “let guys shoot jumpers with defenders in their faces” (and, again, he’s failed in actually finding quality shooters to employ this asinine strategy). And his forte – defense, specifically a tricky zone defense – has also largely stunk, other than the two years he had Thybulle running the show (again, a Romar recruit). Here’s a thought: if your zone defense is so difficult to master, that you need multiple seasons of continuity to perfect it, then maybe you shouldn’t get stuck in a swirling toilet bowl of trying to reload the roster via the transfer portal every year.

I’ll say this: the transfer portal is a total disaster. Anyone who’s even remotely worth a damn isn’t IN the transfer portal in the first place. He’s locked himself down on a quality team. These are REJECTS, who couldn’t hack it elsewhere. So, what makes Hopkins think he has the special sauce to gather them all together here and win at a rate necessary to make the NCAA Tournament? We had our best roster in ages in 2021-2022 – with the aforementioned Terrell Brown leading the way – and we still couldn’t win more than 17 games.

The truth of the matter is, on this year’s squad, there was never anyone even close to Brown’s abilities in creating his own shot, leadership, ball handling, or determination to take this team where it needed to go. So, there was no way in hell we were ever going to IMPROVE over last year’s total. It’s, therefore, no surprise we’re at 16 wins and probably done.

Keion Brooks gave it a hell of an effort – averaging a team-high 17.8 points, to go along with 6.9 rebounds, while shooting 43% from the floor – but clearly we needed more around him. Freshman Keyon Menifield was a breath of fresh air, though predictably inconsistent – as you’d expect. Nevertheless, he finished averaging 10 points, 3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Koren Johnson was another promising freshman guard, whose playing time increased as the season went on.

But, this team was also beset with injuries. With the margin for error razor thin, this was the worst-case scenario for the Huskies. Big man Franck Kepnang only appeared in 8 games. Prized transfer Noah Williams has only appeared in 14 games. And apparently P.J. Fuller has been dinged up lately (he’s also been wildly disappointing when he’s been out there, which makes me wonder if he’s been dealing with these injury issues all season).

The bad news is that Brooks has no more eligibility left. The good news is, neither does Cole Bajema or Langston Wilson (who have NOT been worth a damn at all). The worst news I could possibly imagine, though, is that somehow Jamal Bey still has (at least) a year of eligibility left. Will he finally get the hint and transfer? God I hope so. Giving him 26+ minutes a game is the dictionary definition of a Waste Of Time.

Considering college basketball is what it is, I refuse to try to project how the Huskies move forward. I’m guessing we’ll bite the bullet and get Hopkins out of here. The tide has turned among Husky fans to the point that there’s really no salvaging things. Not that I believe it’ll matter. We have 1 NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 12 seasons (and counting). This is not a prime destination for coaches or player prospects.

I’m just glad it’s all almost over. Soon enough, we’ll turn our focus to the Mariners, and everything will be right with the world (is a sentence I never thought I’d write in my adult life).

My Least-Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 2: My Top (or Bottom) 10

We got Part 1 in yesterday; now it’s time for the thrilling conclusion.

I don’t know how you’re supposed to do a ranking of your least-favorite things. I guess it makes the most sense to say that #1 is my VERY LEAST favorite athlete and go from there. So, here it is:

  1. Richie Sexson
  2. Chone Figgins
  3. Kendall Gill
  4. Jim McIlvaine
  5. Jesus Montero
  6. Jerramy Stevens
  7. Carlos Silva
  8. Kelly Jennings
  9. Justin Smoak
  10. Spencer Hawes

In the 2006/2007 season, I didn’t have a lot of experience following college basketball. My first brush with Husky basketball came in 1998, when Bob Bender’s squad had a heartbreaking loss to UConn in the Sweet Sixteen. If I remember correctly, one of our teachers brought a TV into the classroom and we got to see the end of the game live. Anyway, I didn’t really keep in touch with the Dawgs until the Lorenzo Romar era. So, my expectations were a little warped. Romar led the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament three years in a row by the time the 2006/2007 season came around. I thought that’s just how it goes! The Huskies are great at basketball now and will be for the rest of my life! Sure, we lost Brandon Roy, Bobby Jones, and Jamaal Williams, but we were coming off of back-to-back Sweet Sixteen appearances, and we’d just brought in a 5-star center in Spencer Hawes. Of course the good times would continue to roll! Him and Brockman and Q-Pon, let’s go! Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Hawes was a considerable disappointment, averaging only 15 points per game, and not even leading the team in rebounds. We finished a mediocre 19-13, with no post-season basketball to be played, and then he left for the NBA. In 2007/2008, we went on to finish with a losing record before picking back up again in 2008/2009. Anyway, I’ve never cared much for One & Done players since that point. They’ve never worked out for the Huskies, anyway. Hawes was my first experience with that, and in many ways the least impressive of the bunch.

Justin Smoak was just a boil on my ass, man. We had something great. For one brief, shining half-season, we had the incomparable Cliff Lee in a Mariners uniform. Of all the guys who played for a Seattle organization for just over two months (he, unfortunately, missed most of his April in 2010 to an injury), Cliff Lee is my favorite. I still look back fondly at those 13 starts. Those 13 glorious starts where it was Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee, in their primes, in the same rotation. It was a perfect situation: we traded for Lee heading into 2010. It was the final year of his deal. Either he’d help push us into playoff contention, or – what actually happened – he’d play well and we’d get to flip him to a pitching-needy team at the deadline for franchise-altering prospects. It was made all the more perfect because the guys we gave up to get him were total duds, so this was an opportunity for a true, can’t-miss fleecing of some poor, hapless MLB team. That team ended up being the Texas Rangers, and the biggest prize coming back in return was Justin Smoak. We no longer call it “Warning Track Power” anymore ’round these parts; instead, we call it Justin Smoak Power. The only thing he brought to the table was a decent eye at the plate. But, we got none of the power we were expecting, none of the batting average we were expecting, and maybe some okay first base defense, but you can literally throw anyone in at first base and get by, so whatever. Of course, to add insult to injury, Smoak went to Toronto and briefly played like an All Star, hitting 38 homers one year.

Kelly Jennings was a first round draft pick in 2006, the year after our first Super Bowl run. I don’t know what the front office saw in him, but I consider that the beginning of the end of that particular era of Seahawks football (if not that, then the Hutch Poison Pill debacle, but I believe both happened in the same offseason). Jennings fucking sucked, man. I also don’t know what the coaching staff saw in him, but he kept starting for us year after year, and year after year he continuously got burned. What’s worse is that he was remarkably healthy, when everyone around him would go down from time to time. Unlucky! Two career interceptions in 91 games. Five miserable seasons in a Seahawks uniform, followed by one in Cincinnati, and then he was rightfully out of the league. I don’t know how Pete Carroll let him play for us that first year here, but in retrospect we were able to get Clinton McDonald for him in trade, so at least there was a silver lining.

The whole Carlos Silva thing I put more on the front office. Why would you EVER give that guy a 4-year $48 million deal? Even by today’s standards, that’s a bad contract. But, it was downright unforgivable in 2008. Nevertheless, we were coming off of a surprisingly-competent 2007 season, and say what you want about Silva, but he was an innings eater and a groundball specialist in his career to that point. Pair him with Safeco Field and it should’ve been at least passable. But, it was a fucking nightmare from the jump. He ate more shit in that 2008 season than I’ve ever seen. Thankfully, his 2009 season was mostly lost to injury, and then we managed to trade him for someone else’s problem (in this case, Milton Bradley from the Cubs, who was just as much of a cancer in the Mariners’ uniform as he was for them). Silva never figured out how to pitch, struggling through 2010 before his career ended. What’s worse, we still had to pay him a combined $9 million over those final two seasons, even though he wasn’t playing for us. Just a disaster.

I don’t remember much about Jerramy Stevens’ tenure with the Huskies, other than it was frought with criminal activity. Maybe some drunken driving? Didn’t he plow his car into a building or something? I dunno, maybe those are all allegations. Anyway, my lasting memory of him in a Seahawks uniform is essentially guaranteeing a victory in Super Bowl XL, followed by having one of the shittiest games I’ve ever seen. I literally jumped for joy at one point when I thought he’d made a big catch downfield – to the point where I accidentially punched a hole in the ceiling of our rental – only to slump in my chair in defeat when I saw that he dropped it. That’s what you got with Stevens. You thought you were getting greatness, but he’d figure out a way to let you down. It didn’t help that we also blew a first round pick on him; I wasn’t sad when we let him walk.

Remember when I said that you can throw literally anyone in there at first base and get by defensively? Someone go and tell Jesus Montero that, because he was so inept physically that he couldn’t even manage that simple task. We all suspected – when we traded away our second ace in Michael Pineda to bolster our offense – that Montero probably wouldn’t stick at catcher. But, God damn, we had no idea how useless he actually was! This was one of the highest-rated prospects in all of Major League Baseball at one point! He was a can’t-miss offensive threat, with power to all fields … except when he came to Seattle and fell on his fucking face. The low point was when a coach or a scout – monitoring him in a minor league stint – sent him an ice cream sandwich (a crack about his lack of physical fitness, no doubt) IN the actual dugout, only for Montero to find him in the stands and presumably start brawling with him (I don’t remember all the details, nor do I care to look it up). His career ended after 38 Major League games in 2015; no other team bothered to elevate him above the AAA level after that.

I’ve already talked about Jim McIlvaine ad nauseam, but he was the beginning of the end for the great Supersonics run of the early-to-mid 90’s. We signed him to a fat 7-year contract even though he did nothing but be tall. He gave us nothing that we couldn’t have gotten from some 7-foot scrub off the streets. Fans hated him from the jump – clearly seeing what the organization could not – and Shawn Kemp resented the fact that this loser was making more money. As a result, Kemp forced his way out of Seattle, and we were all worse off as a result. We literally could’ve just brought back all the guys from 1996 and been better off in 1997; instead, we had to tinker, and it bit us in the ass. The Sonics would go on making dumb fucking decisions for the rest of their time in existence, including selling to the Starbucks guy, followed by selling to a group of Oklahomans who were openly looking to move the franchise before the ink was dry on the deal.

Of course, Jim McIlvaine wasn’t the start of the Sonics making boneheaded moves. They brought Kendall Gill in prior to the 1993 season. His claim to fame is being on two VERY underachieving Supersonics teams that each lost in the first round, including the first number 1 seed to ever lose to an 8 seed. He didn’t come close to being the offensive weapon he was the previous two years in Charlotte, and as a result, we never quite had our proper fourth option offensively when we needed him most (not until Hersey Hawkins joined up and filled that void. Oh, don’t get me wrong, Gill THOUGHT he was a stud offensively, but he shot like shit, .317 from 3-point range his first year, and only improved to .368 the second year. Also, if I recall correctly, he never got along with Gary Payton either, which is an OBVIOUS red flag. Fuck him.

Chone Figgins came over in the same offseason when we traded for Cliff Lee. I was riding high praising this organization for their shrewd moves. Who knew they’d all fucking backfire?! I never wrote a formal blog post on his signing – I was still in my infancy as far as regular sports blogging was concerned – but I remember distinctly being thrilled. He seemed like the perfect guy to play in Seattle. He was a jack of all trades for the Angels in his career, playing all over the field. He always hit for a high average, so even though power was hard to come by in this part of the country, that didn’t matter because that wasn’t his game. His game was to be an on-base machine behind Ichiro in the lineup, setting the tables for the rest of our hitters to have a field day with all the RBIs they’d be generating. AND, he was coming off of his very best season as a pro, so he should’ve been smack dab in the prime of his life. At the very least, his skills should’ve sustained, so even as he declined, it should’ve been a long, slow decline. Instead, he fell off a cliff as soon as he started here. It makes no sense! He couldn’t do fucking anything except cash his checks. While I unfortunately don’t have a blog post about his signing here, I do have a pretty funny one right after he was released that you can check out. It pretty much sums up my feelings about a guy who was also a clubhouse cancer.

“Richie Sexson Sucks.” I used to have a LiveJournal, and for a while there in 2007, the start of every title was “Richie Sexson Sucks” followed by whatever it is I wanted to write about that day. Sometimes it was about him, sometimes it had nothing to do with him. But, he DID suck that year, and I felt the need to let everyone know about it as much as humanly possible. We had to suffer over half of a whole fucking year with his .205 average and his severe drop-off in power. Then, he came back in 2008 and was even worse, to the point where we released him that July. He was brought in the same time as Adrian Beltre, as part of our mid-2000’s spending spree under Bill Bavasi; that did NOT bear any fruit. The lowlight of his career was throwing a helmet or a bat or something at a pitcher who didn’t even hit him. If he wasn’t already a joke, he was after that. He wasn’t the first hometown guy I hated, but he was the guy I hated the most for a period of time. I couldn’t get over the fact that we kept running him out there every day! Granted, I didn’t fully grasp how money works in baseball, other than knowing fully-guaranteed contracts were fucking dumb. If you suck, teams should be able to cut you, especially if we’re a ways into your contract. No one epitomizes the sports contract albatross quite like Richie Sexson. Big Sexy my ass!

My Least-Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 1

I’ve been writing about my favorite athletes this week, which naturally led me down a path of thinking about my least-favorite athletes. It’s not as simple of an exercise, though!

For starters, I’m ostensibly a fan of these teams, so I’m not predisposed to hate these players. With my favorites, I had a deep pool of reserves with which to select five guys from each team; but I couldn’t even get to five with Husky football, for instance (and the four I’ve got I’m lukewarm on at best). It also feels weird to say you hate a college athlete. Maybe not as weird anymore, since they’re effectively semi-pro players with salaries and no contracts, who can transfer on the slightest whim. But, more broadly, most of the players I hate – or are otherwise my “least-favorite” – are on other teams. John Stockton, John Elway, Paul O’Neill, Mike Trout, literally anyone who’s ever donned an Oregon Ducks uniform.

I’ll be honest, people in general who wear green and yellow kinda piss me off.

To limit this list to people who’ve played for Seattle sports teams usually means one of two things: either they were high draft picks who faltered spectacularly, or they were high-priced free agents we brought in from an outside organization … who faltered spectacularly. But, here’s where I struggle with this. Because, as I just said, I’m not predisposed to hate these guys, usually my deepest ire is focused on those in power who brought these players here. The GM’s, the college coaches; I dislike Tyrone Willingham more than I dislike any individual college player.

But, I did my best to replicate what I did before. Let’s see if we can wrap it up in two days’ worth of posts.

Husky Football

  • Dylan Morris
  • Jacob Eason
  • Ronnie Fouch
  • Casey (don’t call me Corey) Paus

I’m getting this out of the way, because I’m telling you right now, none of these guys come close to cracking my Top 10. Paus and Fouch were from the dark days of Husky football and they just flat-out stunk. Eason was a hired gun returning home from Georgia and was supposed to lead our last great Husky team under Coach Pete to the playoffs; instead, he had zero touch on his deep ball and led us to a mediocre finish (while Jacob Haener who – by all accounts – actually outplayed him in training camp, was left to transfer to Fresno State, where he was awesome). And Dylan Morris was a recent whipping boy under Jimmy Lake who really had no business starting.

Husky Basketball

  • Jamal Bey
  • Markelle Fultz
  • Abdul Gaddy
  • Ryan Appleby
  • Spencer Hawes

Bey just never developed like he was supposed to. That might be Mike Hopkins’ fault more than anyone. But, he’s also been here for-fucking-ever and seemingly will never leave, which is my nightmare in this era of college athletics where guys transfer to new schools all the time. Why couldn’t we shake this kid? Fultz was a five-star phenom who never lived up to the hype. Gaddy never developed a consistent offensive game, for someone who was the number 2 point guard in the country. Appleby never saw a wild jacked-up three he didn’t automatically shoot (and brick). And Hawes was another one-and-done whose one year was pretty pathetic.

Supersonics

  • Kendall Gill
  • Jim McIlvaine
  • Sarunas Marciulionis
  • Vin Baker
  • Calvin Booth

We’ll get more into Gill and McIlvaine tomorrow. Marciulionis was a shooting guard we brought in for the ill-fated 1994-1995 season. I don’t know if he’s actually as bad as I remember, but I sure didn’t like him at the time. He catches a good portion of the blame for our first round exit that year (with Gill infamously getting the lion’s share). The thing was, he was supposed to be this veteran hot-shot to get us over the hump (after the disaster that was being the first #1 seed to lose in the first round the previous season). Instead, we finished even worse and still lost in the first round. Vin Baker’s a tough case because when we first traded for him, he was awesome. Then, we signed him to a big-money extension, and he went in the tank. We would go on to find out he was an alcoholic with depression issues, so now it feels bad to shit on him. But, those were dark days for us all. Booth was just another in a long line of shitty centers we VASTLY overpaid; you could put nine guys in this spot and I’d loathe them all the same.

Seahawks

  • Jerramy Stevens
  • Kelly Jennings
  • Rick Mirer
  • Germain Ifedi
  • Jimmy Graham

We’ll save Stevens and Jennings for tomorrow. I’ve gone to great lengths to bemoan our fate for being saddled with Mirer, when just one pick earlier we could’ve gotten Drew Bledsoe. But, having the second quarterback in a draft – at the number 2 pick, to boot – should come with a reasonable amount of success! Maybe in another time, we could’ve crafted an offense to properly utilize his running ability. But, the damn guy just couldn’t throw the football, and he set us back for years to come. Ifedi was a mediocre guard we tried to shoehorn into the right tackle spot, to predictably terrible results. And, again, I hate the idea of trading for Jimmy Graham – giving away our elite center in the process – more than I hate the actual player. Of course, his “blocking” style left a lot to be desired, and by the time he got here, he wasn’t the same athlete that he was in New Orleans. Consider it the opening salvo of catering to Russell Wilson’s desires, which torpedoed this franchise for the duration of his tenure here.

Mariners

  • Richie Sexson
  • Chone Figgins
  • Jesus Montero
  • Carlos Silva
  • Justin Smoak

You wanna know where the vast majority of my discontent resides? Look no further! Spoiler alert, we’re going to talk about my Top 10 least-favorite Seattle-based athletes tomorrow, and all five of these Mariners are on the list! This doesn’t even get into Hector Noesi (who might be the worst pitcher of all time), Bobby Ayala (crushed us on the regular out of the bullpen in the mid-to-late 90’s), Eric Byrnes (absolutely worthless), Jarrod Washburn (an overpaid dud), Erik Bedard (we traded a king’s ransom for a Five-And-Diver), Jeff Weaver (got crushed in 2007), Dustin Ackley (“best hitter in the draft” who couldn’t actually hit Major League pitching), Heathcliff Slocumb (cost us two great baseball players and didn’t even improve our bullpen one iota), or the countless other pieces of garbage who we’ve been saddled with over the years for this underachieving organization. It’s taking a lot out of me to not make the entire Top 10 exclusively Seattle Mariners.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a deeper look at those guys and rank them accordingly.