Seattle Sports Has Four New Head Coaches This Year

How will they all do? Who will succeed and who will fail?

Well, on a long-enough timeline, they all fail, don’t they? Except for the very extreme minority who get to go out on their own terms. But, success can be defined any number of ways, so let’s get into it.

The Seahawks, the Kraken, Husky football, and Husky basketball have all had to replace their head coaches for one reason or another. The Seahawks needed to move on from one of those success stories, probably a year or two beyond when was appropriate. The Kraken took a step backwards in their third season of existence, and have never really looked like they were well-coached. Husky football has tried to recover from the potentially-devastating loss of Kalen DeBoer after making a run at the national championship. And Husky basketball will be trying to recover from an extended run of incompetence (thanks to a contract they could ill-afford to get out from under until now). There are all sorts of different reasons teams move on from a coaching staff, but for the most part, the reason is: we want improvement.

The Seahawks had grown stagnant over the last decade, after making back-to-back Super Bowls; they needed a fresh voice and a total reset.

The Kraken never really seemed to get the most out of their players, particularly on offense. Which is funny to say, because in the 2022-2023 season, the offense was more-or-less fine, and we made the playoffs as a result. But, the step-back in 2023-2024 only solidified the fact that this team wasn’t making any progress. The young players weren’t developing, the scheme on offense never really took shape, they never improved in the areas they’ve always struggled (even in their playoff season, they sucked on power plays and in face-offs). This is a team that was built to succeed from within. Yet, the guys we’ve drafted a the top of the first three drafts haven’t done much of anything. That needs to change in the next couple years, or there will be a much bigger housecleaning coming. Getting the most out of the players we have is paramount; it’s less of a total reset, but still very much a fresh voice needed.

Husky basketball has been in need of a total makeover for a while now, but as I mentioned above, they were financially unwilling to take the hit needed to get rid of Mike Hopkins, until now. This is the biggest rebuilding job of the four, and yet it doesn’t feel as dire. Just because things are SO low for this program; there’s nowhere to go but up. We need a coach who knows how to recruit in this new era of college athletics. We need a coach who can take that successful mid-major mentality and carry it over into the power conference we’re joining. We need someone who’s adept at connecting to this relative hotbed of a basketball community, while at the same time able to bring in players from around the country, both developing them and getting them to gel as a unit. If it leads to a return to the Tourney, great. But, I would settle for baby steps. Just be fun to watch again!

Husky football arguably has the toughest rebuilding job of the bunch, because of all the players we lost – both to the NFL and the transfer portal – and because of the way we were left in the lurch by DeBoer. This is a team that can only go DOWN, at least in the short term. But, our new coach is tasked with trying to rebuild on the fly, to at least bring this team up to a competent level, and hopefully get us back to contending for conference titles and national championships sooner rather than later.

Oddly enough, I have the MOST confidence in Jedd Fisch with the Husky football team. It’s not that I necessarily think he’s the best coach or smartest guy or anything. I just think he’s a guy on the rise, we’re getting him at the absolute perfect time in his career, and he’s STARVING to both do well here and move on as quickly as possible to a better program. He’s the best Used Car Salesman we’ve ever had in Seattle; he’ll be able to extract the money we need to buy the players we need to bounce back in a hurry. I give him two glorious, better-than-expected years. If we don’t win it all in that time, I still think he will have done enough to earn a promotion elsewhere. That second year will really be the good one, I think. At the very least, look for the Husky football team to be in the 2025 Big Ten Championship Game, if not winning it and making it back to the playoffs.

I think I have the least amount of confidence in Danny Sprinkle, but that says nothing about him, and everything about the Husky basketball program. By all accounts, Sprinkle is great, and like Fisch, a guy on the rise who we’re getting at the exact right time. If I were to believe in Fisch as much as I do, I have no reason to doubt Sprinkle, who might not be quite the shyster, but is just as motivated to parlay this into bigger and better things. I just don’t think Husky basketball is ever going to be more than an occasional Tournament participant, and a Sweet 16 team once in a blue moon. It’s cool and all that we were able to sign Great Osobor to the highest free agent contract in college basketball history (or whatever the fuck we’re calling it, under the guise of NIL), but I’ve seen tons of elite-looking basketball recruits sign here. Only to accomplish nothing until they left after one season and turned pro.

Dan Bylsma, the new Kraken head coach – after his promotion from our Coachella Valley affiliate – is the biggest wild card to me, mostly because I know very little about hockey, and what makes a good NHL coach. He has prior NHL coaching experience; seems like a good thing. He also has experience coaching a lot of our younger players at Coachella Valley, which I feel like is a great thing. With the success that team has had, and their ability to score the way they have, it seems like he should be a perfect fit here. Someone to actually get the most out of these players. Someone who will hopefully turn Matty Beniers and Shane Wright into monsters. Someone who can jumpstart this offense while still getting the most out of our defense. I’m a fan of the hire, but obviously we’ll know a lot more once the games start this fall.

Potentially the most interesting hire of the bunch is Mike Macdonald. He seems like the one with the most potential for greatness, and obviously the one most likely to stick around the longest. If he’s as smart as advertised – if he’s the defensive version of Sean McVay – then we’re talking about a guy who can take us all the way.

It feels pretty rare to have so much coaching turnover happen in the same offseason. That makes this a really pivotal time in Seattle sports. Our lives could be changing drastically for the better … or it’ll just be a lot of the same mediocre bullshit.

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.

The Huskies Hired Steve Belichick To Be The Defensive Coordinator

It’s been a tough last few weeks to be a Husky fan. There was the whole unpleasantness with the National Championship Game, the ensuing coaching carousel, and the myriad of player defections. But, it’s starting to feel like things are turning around a bit.

I’m hearing more about players coming IN rather than players leaving. Maybe not enough for the Huskies to be worth a damn in 2024, but hopefully well-equipped for a bounce-back in 2025.

I also got the chance to listen to Jedd Fisch on the radio last week, as he hopped on the Brock & Salk program. I had kind of avoided a lot of the news when he was originally hired, so this was really my first introduction to our new head coach. It’s not that I don’t believe in him; I think it’s as good of a hire as we could’ve gotten, given the circumstances. What he did in turning around the Wildcats so quickly is nothing short of DeBoer-ian. I’m sure he’s a great coach, great recruiter, and he’ll do excellent work for the University of Washington.

But, I mean, he had one foot already out the door before he even signed on the dotted line. Florida is apparently his dream job, and I’m guessing the moment that becomes available, he’ll be gone. Short of that, I’m sure with even moderate success at Washington, he’ll use it to bounce to the SEC and that’ll be that. I give it three years, tops, and only because this first year is looking to be a little down for Washington.

So, I’m not going into this situation with any delusions that Fisch is going to be here long term. College Football is what it is. It’ll be smart for the University of Washington to have people dedicated to tracking more up-and-coming head coaching candidates for when this needs to happen again.

My take-away from the Fisch radio interview is that I’m actually impressed. He does seem really forthright, even if there’s a used car salesman sort of vibe about him. He said that the whole “interview process” consisted of about a 45-minute phone call. Then, a few hours later, he received a formal offer; that was it! Compare that to what the Seahawks went through before landing on Mike Macdonald, and it’s night & day!

Fisch never once talked about Washington being the be-all, end-all. He never made any promises to be here for the duration. His biggest reason for coming here isn’t the locale or the history or even the recent success; he came to Washington because we’re going to the Big Ten next year, and it’s vitally important to be in either the Big Ten or SEC going forward, if you want to compete with the big dogs.

That’s it. His sales tactic to recruits is as follows: we’re in the Big Ten, we’re running a pro style system (so if you want to go to the NFL, best to get your feet wet here), and we’re going to be willing to play Freshmen (because that’s the only way you’re ever going to manage to KEEP your Freshman, since so many would rather enter the transfer portal than red shirt), even if it means we have to endure the growing pains. The main difference between Fisch and DeBoer appears to be Fisch’s insistence that building through high school players is preferable to trying to poach the transfer portal. Of course, at this point, DeBoer won’t have any trouble getting players any way he wants them. There’s no stopping the Alabama train.

Another feather in the Fisch cap is his connections. He has pretty extensive ties in both college and the pro ranks. That experience and network should work wonders. Which brings us to Steve Belichick, our new defensive coordinator.

Belichick has been calling plays for the New England Patriots under his dad for the last however-many years. It’s been a while. The only reason he wasn’t deemed to be the Defensive Coordinator there is because they also had Head Coach In Waiting Jerod Mayo on the defensive staff, and it appears Bill didn’t want to play favorites.

Regardless, Steve Belichick might’ve been a nepo hire originally, but I think he’s proven himself quite well. Say what you will about the Patriots since Tom Brady left, but their defense has been up to the task of at least keeping them in games. I think this is a phenomenal hire! And I can’t wait to see what it does for our recruiting going forward.

I guess you could say I’m coming around on this whole thing. I still don’t know how good the Huskies will be in 2024. There’s really two pieces to this thing: the recruiting part, and the development part. DeBoer was always known as a superior head coach who needed to work on his recruiting prowess (seems like, if you’re a great coach, and you win all the time, what more do you really need to do to sell yourself?). Fisch, on the other hand, has been lauded for his recruiting. But, he only has one 10-win season under his belt so far as a head coach. Will he have what it takes on fall Saturdays to make up for a temporarily-lacking roster? We’ll find out.

Husky Football Death Week: Kalen DeBoer, Jedd Fisch Poached

I think last week was, hands down, the worst week of my life as a Husky football fan. I mean, other than getting the Death Penalty, I don’t know how you can script a worse seven days.

It starts with us losing in the national championship game to Jim Harbaugh and Michigan of all people/teams. Not only that, but we weren’t even really competitive; we dug ourselves a huge early hole, clawed our way back to being within one score, but repeated mistakes and incompetence prevented us from overtaking them, only to fall apart in the fourth quarter and lose by multiple scores.

Then came the wave of seniors leaving (Michael Penix and the like), followed by the wave of predictable stars leaving who still had eligibility (Polk, Odunze, Johnson, and the like), followed by the wave of surprise people declaring for the draft, along with a smattering of new transfers opting to go elsewhere. Pretty standard stuff, all things considered, and nothing I wasn’t prepared for emotionally. The Huskies had spent the fall and winter going after some pretty heavy hitters in the transfer portal, so I figured while a 2024 downturn might be expected, there would also still be some hope that it wouldn’t be a total and complete collapse. With this coaching staff, maybe we find a way to claw to 9 or 10 wins next season. Something respectable, while we reload for another playoff run in a couple years.

It all started to go hopelessly south when Nick Saban announced his retirement. OF COURSE he would have to retire the same year Washington makes a surprise run for the championship, so Alabama would have his readymade replacement right there for the stealing. Name me a hotter college football coach than Kalen DeBoer; you can’t do it. Not even Deion Sanders is up there on his level.

Those days were bad, because as a Husky fan, all I’m doing is PRAYING that we go over the top with a deal that can’t be beat. Or, at the very least, would send Alabama looking elsewhere. But, it was all pointless. The same agent for DeBoer was also the agent for every other highfalutin head coaching candidate, who was able to leverage the Alabama opening to get his guys raises with their current teams. Everyone but Washington’s guy, naturally. Because he wasn’t going to be Washington’s guy anymore. Washington can go fuck themselves.

As soon as DeBoer was announced to be Nick Saban’s successor, the deluge of Huskies entering the transfer portal was as dizzying as it was depressing. Everybody you could think of suddenly wanted out, even guys who’d spent mutliple years here (like Asa Turner, over the past 5 seasons). No shock that the new incoming transfers suddenly decided to change their minds, but it was all so sudden and so relentless. We were a rickety raft made of bundled-together twigs and the college football universe just lobbed a massive cannonball right in the middle.

I don’t even remember what head coaching names were being bandied about, but it doesn’t matter, because none of them are even remotely inspiring. Ultimately, we landed on Jedd Fisch, the head coach from Arizona, who took the Wildcats to a 10-3 record with a win over Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl.

Fisch’s only head coaching experience came in three seasons in Arizona (where he finished with a 16-21 record) and two games as interim head coach of UCLA (where he went 1-1).

The positive spin is that he took over a moribund Arizona program, endured a 1-11 first season with a bunch of terrible holdovers from the previous regime, improved to 5-7 in year two, before finally making the leap in 2023 to be the third-best team in a very good final Pac-12 conference. Making Fisch a head coach on the rise, who we’re getting at the exact perfect time to capitalize on his abilities.

The negative spin is that he lacks extensive head coaching experience. He lacks experience in running a football program, let alone one that has aspirations to be among the national elites. Anyone can luck into a double-digit win season when nobody sees you coming (and you don’t even have to play Oregon), but now you’re joining the team that finished 2023 #2 in the nation. Now you’ve got to stem the tide of suffering we’ve endured over the last week, try to retain as many players as you can, and somehow mold this team into something resembling a winner in our first season in the Big Ten.

If your glass is half full, maybe you see this as a similar outcome to what happened when we hired DeBoer. No one thought much of him coming out of Fresno State (even though, to that point, he had EXTENSIVE head coaching and program-building experience). But, if your glass is half empty (like mine), what are the odds lightning is going to strike twice? What are the odds we hire the best up-and-coming head coach two times in a row?

Also, even if we see the best case scenario come to fruition, that just means we’re going to be in this position again in two more years, when Georgia or Auburn or Florida comes sniffing around our campsite. It’s distressing that Jedd Fisch hadn’t even officially gotten the job and we were already talking about how he’d never stayed anywhere for more than two years, and is clearly always on the hunt for his next opportunity. There’s no WAY he’s sticking here long term, unless he sucks, and then we’re stuck with Mike Hopkins 2.0.

I hate all of this. I’m so disillusioned. Just when you think Washington has turned a corner. Just when you let yourself dream big, that maybe we can be the next Oregon, or Clemson, or Georgia, or Ohio State. If we can find a way to keep everything intact, this could be one of those dynasty programs that plays and recruits on a national level for the next couple decades. My biggest worry before this week was wondering what we were going to do when Ryan Grubb eventually took a job elsewhere, since he – at this point – seems overqualified to be a head coach somewhere.

Instead, Grubb announced that he had his hat in the ring, but Washington turned HIM down to be their next head coach. I’ll be honest, he would’ve been my first choice. It’s SO rare to have a competent – let alone an ELITE – offensive coordinator in college football. If we could’ve, at least, kept our offensive system intact, maybe the hit isn’t quite so hard to this program. Maybe we convince some of the portal guys to return. Maybe he partners with an up-and-coming DC and they take what he learned from DeBoer about running a program and keeps up the winning ways.

But, I understand the risk too. We JUST went through the first-time coach saga with Jimmy Lake, who was as up-and-coming as it got, only on the defensive side of the ball. I dunno, though. Is Fisch really that much of a step up from Grubb? I guess we’ll see.

Now what does this mean? We’re getting a bunch of Arizona transfers? I gotta root for a bunch of former Wildcats? Also, again, what happens in two years when these players move on and it’s time for Fisch to show what he can do on his own? Did he get lucky with his one great season down there? Or does he actually have what it takes to sustain success?

I’m not going into this next period of Husky football with a lot of hope and passion. Maybe things will change once I see how the team is being built. Maybe we’ll get some good-looking players to come in and I’ll get excited again. But, for now, I’m in a period of deep mourning.

Silly me, I had hoped DeBoer might be different. I had hoped he might want to set some roots down up here, rather than chase the easy payday down in the SEC. I had hoped he’d be interested in being the next Nick Saban for Washington, rather than following in his footsteps down there. It would mean so much more to do it for the Huskies. You’d be a legend; hell, you already kind of were! You turned this team around in two short years and led us to the championship game! You could do no wrong after that; except break our hearts.

In Alabama, it’s going to be different. If you don’t immediately take them back to the championship game, you’re going to have heat. You’re going to have boosters and fans so far up your ass, you won’t be able to shit right ever again. Washington was the cool, flashy, fun program in the northwest that everyone could enjoy. Alabama is the fucking Empire, and this is the moment where Anakin becomes Darth Vader. Sad, predictable, and poorly written (just like every disingenuous speech DeBoer has given since being hired away; I don’t believe for one moment he ever gave two shits about Washington).

But, the thing is, Jedd Fisch doesn’t give two shits about Washington either. That’s not what this is about anymore. It’s about getting mine while the getting’s good. As Washington fans, we have to hope we get ours while Fisch is still here in the next year or two. Otherwise, it’s either On To The Next (if he still finds success and jumps to a bigger program), or When Can We Get Rid Of This Fucking Guy (if he’s just mediocre and tainted to the point where any move would be lateral or worse).

Why do we even have contracts anymore? Like, what’s the point of teams requesting an opportunity to interview YOUR head coach to be THEIR head coach? I understand it somewhat if you’re interviewing a coordinator to be a head coach, that’s a promotion. But, did Washington actually have to give permission? If so, why did we do that? Fuck DeBoer, make him stay and finish out his deal! And if we didn’t have to do that, then what’s the point in even asking? What’s with the fake diplomacy or whatever?

It’s all so stupid.