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.

I’m Having A Hard Time Getting Excited For Football Right Now

This SHOULD be the perfect scenario to get me super pumped for football. We had another down college basketball season; hockey was fun, but in a Just Glad To Be There sort of way when it came to a middling playoff run; and the Mariners are obviously in the midst of yet another in a long line of disappointing seasons (save one) over the last couple decades.

When it’s late-July and baseball is going nowhere, downtrodden Seattle sports fans turn their sights to the impending football season, and all the possibilities therein. But, not me.

I don’t know what it is. Maybe the Mariners play a part in that, in how far below expectations they’ve landed, sucking all of our collective wills to live. There’s a case to be made to have high expectations for both the Seahawks and Huskies. The Seahawks are coming off of an unlikely playoff appearance, they’re coming off of back-to-back potentially-elite draft classes, the dark cloud of the previous era of Seahawks football came to a close with Russell Wilson playing in Denver now. Vibes are high! Now, take the Huskies; they’re coming off of an unlikely bowl game victory, and an even unlikelier double digit-win season. That came on the heels of the team totally falling apart, and the death knell of the Chris Petersen-to-Jimmy Lake Era that had once achieved soaring heights. With most of our important players returning, vibes are even higher on Montlake!

It’s not hard to remember when our expectations were as mammoth; see: the 2023 Mariners.

Now remember that we’re Seattle sports fans, and Seattle is Sports Hell. It’s not Sports Hell because all our teams are miserable all the damn time. It’s so much more than that! We’re in Sports Hell because of this very scenaro. Because our teams do – occasionally – see expectations raised. And THAT’S when our teams choose to fall on their fucking faces.

We have decades upon decades full of experience in this arena. And exactly three championships for our efforts, between the Supersonics, Seahawks, Mariners, and Husky basketball & football teams. In my 42 years of existence – since I’ve been rooting for these respective teams – I’ve only gotten to witness the one (Super Bowl XLVIII), since I wasn’t a Husky fan in the early 90’s. That’s a lotta heartbreak.

I’ve seen a lot of good-not-great teams in my lifetime. The Sonics of the entire 1990’s, the Mariners of the mid 90’s, the turn-of-the-century Mariners (who were a very different beast entirely), the Holmgren Era Seahawks, the Romar Era Huskies, the Legion Of Boom, the Chris Peterson Huskies, the Post-LOB Seahawks, and this current era of Mariners baseball. There’s a lot of great memories sprinkled throughout, but one main throughline: they all fell short of ultimate glory, save one.

I’ve discussed this topic quite a bit on my blog throughout the years. It’s all a matter of perspective. If I was able to just enjoy the journey, take these teams for what they are, and accept the fact that we can’t always win it all, then I’m sure I’d be a lot happier. But, how do you enjoy the 2023 Mariners, when you know this team is underachieving, and we all expected them to be better than they are? This team was supposed to win 90+ games in the regular season and really make a dent in the playoffs; instead, they’re struggling to get to 81 wins, and will almost certainly not reach the post-season. And, as such, now we go into 2024 with more questions than answers. We go into 2024 with more holes than we thought we’d have, and an apparent lack of opportunities and willingness to do what it takes to fill those holes.

I guess the answer to that question is: don’t have expectations going in. If I had zero expectations for the 2023 Mariners, then maybe I could appreciate a .500 team that’s still kinda/sorta in it, and hold out hope that they’ll figure something out in the next two months to eke their way into the playoffs.

But, that’s not how I’m wired. That’s how a fairweather fan thinks, or a complete non-fan. My fiancé could do that, because she isn’t saddled with the burden of following these teams, and has zero interest in them outside of the fact that I have interest, and she enjoys my company enough to care about what I care about.

I can’t go into this football season with no expectations. I see the 2023 Seahawks and I see a team on the rise. I see a lot of talented youths with potential for greatness. I see a division and an NFC that’s up for grabs, and I see us as a potential dark horse.

Then, I see the 2023 Huskies and I see a team that’s there! That’s a legitimate contender for the Pac-12 crown, and if they play their cards right, maybe even a berth in the college football playoffs.

In total, I see two football teams where you don’t necessarily have to squint very hard to see them going pretty far. Just as I saw a certain Mariners team, in the very same light.

So, how could my favorite football teams Mariners things up this season?

Well, the Huskies might just be God-awful on defense, particularly in the secondary and linebacker units. They might need to score a ton on offense every single week, which means they’d have to be damn near perfect on an efficiency standpoint. What if Michael Penix doesn’t even remotely resemble a Heisman Trophy candidate? What if the O-Line doesn’t hold up? What if we get bitten by the injury bug or bad fumble luck? What if we simply lose two fucking conference games and it knocks us out of the conference race entirely? It doesn’t take a whole helluva lot to ruin a college football team with high expectations. Two Pac-12 defeats, that’d do it. We always lose at least one dumb bullshit game against some fucking annoyingly shitty Arizona or Bay Area school with an 8pm start time. Do that, and lose to a legitimately good team, and there you have it: season ruined.

It’s a lot easier to see how the Seahawks could fuck up.

The Seahawks might just be God-awful on defense, particularly in the D-Line and linebacker units. There’s also a decent chance Geno Smith doesn’t survive the entire 17-game season, meaning we’ll have to endure Drew Lock in games that count. But, even if Geno manages to stay healthy, is he really the guy who’s going to lead us to a division title and a deep playoff run? Behind an extremely inexperienced O-Line? The 49ers are still pretty fucking good, even with their injury question marks at quarterback. The Eagles should still make some noise. The rest of the NFC East is nothing to sneeze at, and the Vikings figure to win a lot of games again. Then, you have to factor in how the Seahawks continually get off to slow starts to the regular season under Pete Carroll. It’s a lot to overcome.

I’ll admit, my expectations for the Seahawks aren’t nearly as high as they are for the Huskies. But, I can already feel the homer in me yearning to believe big. He knows that if we can keep this team mostly healthy, they’ll really surprise the rest of the league! Homer Steven is a simpleton like that. He’ll believe anything! So, I’m bound to be disappointed when the Seahawks are just another wild card team losing in the first round again. Or, God forbid, another Seahawks team that failed to make the playoffs entirely (but also wasn’t bad enough to get a Top 10 pick out of the deal).

So, yeah, I figure to have a lot of disappointing moments this fall. And, when I’m not disappointed, I’ll just be dreading the impending disappointment I know is right around the corner. This is the year where my regular football fandom meets my fantasy football fandom.

Speaking of which, I’m coming off of one league championship in my Splinter League, so anything short of a repeat performance is bound to be a letdown. And, in my Dynasty League, so much has gone right for me this offseason, I don’t even know where to begin.

For starters, the Cowboys finally cut Ezekiel Elliott. I have Tony Pollard as the unquestioned lead back. Then, the Vikings cut Dalvin Cook; I have Alexander Mattison. And, the coup de grace, since my Dynasty team has struggled with shabby quarterback play for the last decade, I’m actually not dreading my two guys. Justin Fields – when healthy – gobbles up points with his legs; his experience last year should hopefully propel him into better results through the air. Then, with Rodgers being traded to the Jets, I get to hang onto Jordan Love and see what he’s made of. If they both pan out, I’ve got two QBs locked and loaded for the next half decade. With the way the rest of my team shakes out, I’m not desperate to fill any particular need; I can truly take the Best Player Available in the draft to fill out my bench, and my team should be all the better for it.

Except, of course, we know that’s not how it actually works. My quarterbacks will probably stink and/or get hurt. The rest of my roster will underperform. I’ll play against a lot of fantasy teams going on their best weeks. And, even the weeks I’m victorious, I’ll just dread the following week all the more, because that’s how fantasy football works. It’s a neverending hellscape of frustration.

If I wasn’t getting married and going on a honeymoon this fall, I don’t know WHAT I would be looking forward to! But, it sure as shit isn’t this football season. That I’ll be watching with my hands covering my face, one eye peeking in between a set of fingers, ready for the next nut punch to come my way.

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 Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 1

Ahh yes, we’re in one of those dead periods of the sports calendar (unless your team happens to be in the Super Bowl, or you’re super-jazzed by what they’re doing with the Pro Bowl nowadays); it’s a struggle to find things to write about. So, to kill some time, I thought I’d write about my favorite Seattle athletes, both college and pros.

These aren’t necessarily people who were born and/or raised in the Seattle area (although, they could be). These are people who played their respective sports – either in college or as professionals – in Seattle. We’re talking Seahawks, Mariners, Supersonics, and Huskies. For this exercise, I went through each team and picked my favorite five guys. I’ll write a little bit about each, then we’ll narrow it down to a top ten overall, then we’ll see if we’re able to rank those. I don’t expect this to be easy.

I should point out – for frame of reference – that I didn’t really start getting into sports until 1987 or 1988, with the 90’s being my heyday. I got into the Seahawks first, then the Sonics in the early 90’s, then the Mariners in 1995, and it wasn’t until I started going to UW in the fall of 1999 when I truly became a Husky fan. This isn’t a ranking of the All Time Best Seattle Athletes. These are just MY favorites. If they’re not your favorites, I don’t care. Go start your own blog; they’re not too hard to make.

Mariners

  • Felix Hernandez
  • Randy Johnson
  • Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Ichiro
  • Alex Rodriguez

Spoiler alert: Felix and Randy are making my Top 10, so I’ll write more about them later. It feels corny as hell to have Griffey in my top five favorite Mariners, but I don’t know how you leave him off. He balled out in the outfield, making insane catches and throws, and he was one of the best home run hitters of all time. You couldn’t take your eyes off of him when he was doing whatever it was he was doing, even if it was just chuckling with teammates in the dugout. I would say over time, the bloom came off the rose with Ichiro, but those first few years, he was a force of nature. You couldn’t believe what you were seeing out of this magnetic little guy, with his cannon of an arm, and his ability to beat out seemingly-routine grounders. Eventually, he became a slap-hitting singles guy who never dove for balls and whose arm stopped being challenged by baserunners. But, for a while there, he was all we had. A common theme going forward is going to be how tough I had it trying to pick a fifth favorite. Edgar was just boringly amazing. Buhner was certainly a terrific personality. And there were plenty of quietly-excellent guys around the turn of the century. But, A-Rod was a guy who could do it all, at least as long as he wore a Mariners uniform. Power, speed, defense (at the most premium defensive spot on the team), great eye, great average. We somehow brought in a guy who could legitimately push Griffey as the best player on the team. Say what you will about his exit from Seattle, but even then, it was fun to root against him on other teams.

Seahawks

  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Kam Chancellor
  • Steve Largent
  • Russell Wilson
  • Richard Sherman

Spoiler alert: Lynch, Kam, and Largent are all making my Top 10. The Seahawks were tough in a different way, because I could’ve gone 20 deep in this preliminary list; it was difficult to limit it to just five. Cortez Kennedy, Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck, Joey Galloway, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Ricky Watters, Brian Blades, Bobby Wagner, Michael Sinclair, Jacob Green, Lofa Tatupu, Walter Jones, Doug Baldwin. You could go on and on and on. But, in spite of recent schadenfreude, Russell Wilson was still a super fun quarterback to watch and root for on a weekly basis. In his prime, he would regularly pull our asses out of the fire late in games, and even late in plays as he’d avoid the pass rush in order to make some insane throw down field. Sherm ended up landing my fifth spot simply because of his personality. You could always tell what kind of shit he was talking even if he wasn’t mic’ed up on the field. If teams had the misfortune of trying to challenge him, they’d often find that plan thwarted real quick. Even later in his career – after quarterbacks by and large stopped throwing his way – it was always comforting knowing half the field was closed for business.

Supersonics

  • Shawn Kemp
  • Gary Payton
  • Detlef Schrempf
  • Sam Perkins
  • Nate McMillan

Spoiler alert: Kemp and Payton are in my Top 10. You’ll notice the top four listed here were the top four in minutes played in that amazing 1995/1996 season (and that all five were on that team in major roles). The fifth guy came down to Mac-10, Ray Allen, Dale Ellis, Hersey Hawkins, and Rashard Lewis, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Mr. Sonic. For a lot of reasons, but I’ll never forget how banged up he was in those Finals against the Bulls. Yet, he came back and played a critical role in our winning games four and five. I’ll always believe that a healthy Nate would’ve propelled us to the upset to end all upsets against those juggernaut Bulls. Detlef was a consummate pro and a perfect complement to Gary and Shawn’s theatrics. And Big Smooth – for that nickname alone – very nearly made my Top 10. Just a stud of a big man who drained threes like nobody’s business (at a time in league history where that was an extreme rarity, unlike today where it’s the norm).

Husky Basketball

  • Isaiah Thomas
  • Jon Brockman
  • Nate Robinson
  • Brandon Roy
  • Matisse Thybulle

Spoiler alert: only IT makes my Top 10 from here. If I had to pick a second, I’d go with Brockman, who was a great all-around forward under Romar. He got better every year in a complementary role, and as a senior really picked up and led this team in ways we wouldn’t have expected from him as a freshman. Nate Rob was super flashy and fun to watch. Roy probably had the best game of all of them, but was one of those boringly-excellent players (who, unfortunately, could never stay healthy as a pro). And Thybulle really got unlocked under Mike Hopkins, in probably the only good thing he’s done as a coach of the Huskies. Honorable mention goes to Terrell Brown, for being super fun to watch game-in and game-out last year.

Husky Football

  • Marques Tuiasosopo
  • Reggie Williams
  • John Ross
  • Budda Baker
  • Michael Penix

Spoiler alert: Tui and Reggie both made my Top 10. If there was a Top 11, John Ross would be in it. Nothing more fun than my friends and I screaming JOHN ROSS at the tops of our lungs whenever he corralled a 40+ yard bomb for a touchdown. My love for Budda Baker started when he flipped from the Ducks to the Huskies. Then, he proceeded to ball out for us for three of the best teams we’ve ever had, before becoming one of the pros I most wanted the Seahawks to draft. We let him go to the Cardinals and part of me has never forgiven them for it. Consider this the kiss of death for Penix’s 2023 season, as I’ve surely jinxed him. But, he might be the best and most pro-ready quarterback I’ve ever seen in a Husky uniform. As someone who stepped in right away this past season and led us to double-digit wins – including a bowl victory over the Longhorns – it’s a remarkable feat, even if he is a transfer. Penix obviously gets extra credit for choosing to return for a second season – when he easily could’ve gone pro and been at least a Day 2 draft pick, if not a sneaky first rounder – and of course for all the Big Penix Energy jokes my friends and I get to rattle off. If he parlays this into a conference title in 2023, I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s able to sneak into my Top 10 by this time next year.

Tomorrow: my top 10.

Husky Basketball Is Bumming Me Out Again

I was legitimately surprised I haven’t written about the Husky basketball team so far this season. I would’ve figured at some point I would’ve snuck a blog post in there about the early part of the season, but for whatever reason, life got in the way.

I haven’t totally ignored the Huskies – like I can do when they’re as mediocre as they are – but I also haven’t had a chance to follow along as religiously as I did last year. Moving into a new house and not paying for cable TV will do that to you. But, even if I did have all the sports channels necessary, I don’t know if I’d go out of my way very often. Last year’s Husky basketball team wasn’t great, but it was fun! Terrell Brown was Must See TV; he was easily my favorite Husky in YEARS. The fact that he was only a one and done (for us, as a late-career transfer) was a travesty, to be sure, but you can’t play college basketball forever.

We don’t have a Terrell Brown this year. I guess the closest we’ve got is Keion Brooks (another late-career transfer), but he doesn’t play the same. He doesn’t have that adeptness at the dribble-drive. He struggles to create his own shot in the paint. This Husky team more closely resembles earlier Mike Hopkins teams (from 2017-2020), minus some very key ingredients from those two seasons where we were contending for NCAA berths.

I kinda feel beaten down, as a fan. It’s pretty clear the majority of hardcore Husky fans jumped off the Mike Hopkins bandwagon with that 2020/2021 season. For good reason; we were God-awful at 5-21 that year! I don’t know if it’s smart to EVER give a head coach another season after a performance like that. But, a lot of those same Husky haters were down on him from the season prior, which was just one year removed from our most recent NCAA berth (the only one of the Hopkins era), which I didn’t understand at all. Hopkins won back-to-back Pac-12 coach of the year awards in 2018 and 2019. He follows that up with a 15-17 campaign – following lots of graduations of key players – and you’re right at his throat? It made no sense.

Sure, NOW you can look back and say, “See, I was right! We should’ve dumped his ass then and there!” But, then don’t you just get stuck in this cycle of churning through coaches every two years? Is that smart? Odds are good that you could call for the head of any coach at any point and most of the time you could look back and say you were right. I guess, if it’s not working, it’s not working. But, it seems like if you’re high on a guy enough to hire him away from a nationally-prominent program like Syracuse, and you’re high enough on a guy to give him a raise after back-to-back coach of the year awards, you should have enough trust in him to see if he can actually build a program.

I like to think I’m more restrained in my Husky fandom. I’m a realist. I see this thing for what it is. The Huskies are – at best – a mid-tier program. They shouldn’t be terrible forever; they should contend for (and reach) the NCAA Tournament every few years or so. But, they also aren’t among the elites, and shouldn’t be trying to recruit like one.

We can also do that thing that I hate, which is look back at the players Hopkins had for his 2018 and 2019 runs – seeing all the Lorenzo Romar recruits – and confirm that he wasn’t seeing his biggest success with his own guys, but rather the previous regime’s talent. Which automatically makes you wonder: should we have just stuck with Romar?

I say no, as much as I loved Romar and called for him to stay around probably a year or two longer than he should’ve. It was time to move on. I think Hopkins did more with Romar’s final classes than Romar ever would’ve done. But, that leads me to my next point.

If you’re going to be a mid-tier college basketball program, you need a hook. You need a gimmick. You need a scheme or something that helps you stand out. That tips the scales a little bit. In college football, you’d point to the Air Raid as a prime example. You can do more with lesser talent in the Air Raid system, which will help you compete with the bigger schools. Doesn’t mean you’ll always win. But, Wazzu under Mike Leach was always much more competitive than they would’ve been under any other coach, running a more conventional offense.

I hoped that a zone-heavy defense might be that gimmick for the Huskies. Not a lot of schools run a zone like we do. And, for a couple years, it looked pretty formidable! We were holding down high-scoring teams and winning lots of games. But, as it turns out, you need really special players to succeed in that system. You need a Matisse Thybulle. Failing that, you’ve seen what’s happened the last couple years; the Huskies have largely gone away from the zone defense. What’s our hook now? Mediocrity across the board.

It also doesn’t help that the transfer portal – and the nature of the game in general – makes it nearly impossible to keep that type of defensive scheme alive. It works best when you can practice it over and over, and when you’ve got quality players willing to stick around for mutiple seasons. But, if you’re only going to be here for one year anyway, and your best shot at getting noticed – so you can play professionally one day – is by being great on offense, what’s your incentive to actually try on defense?

And that’s the rub, because the Huskies have been consistently underperforming on offense throughout Hop’s run here. He has the right idea; the game of basketball in today’s day and age is all about spreading the offense and shooting three pointers. But, all of his shooters have been FUCKING MISERABLE. It’s just unbelievable how bad they’ve been. If you’re a basketball player and you’re good enough to be recruited by multiple Power 5 schools, why is it that you come to Washington and become the world’s most brick-heavy shooters? It shouldn’t be this difficult! Make a fucking basket, you’ve been shooting for well over a decade at this point in your lives!

Without a Terrell Brown type, it feels more like a fluke when the Huskies are actually competitive. A fluke in that they have a rare good shooting night (like they did for much of last night’s game at #5 Arizona, before ultimately losing 70-67), or a fluke in that the other team has an uncharacteristically poor shooting night. As such, we’re 9-7, but a downright atrocious 1-4 in conference play.

What do you do at this point? I don’t know if there’s anything you can do. We have zero quality wins and plenty of embarrassing defeats. Kiss goodbye any notion of an At Large bid or a conference title. You can wish for a Pac-12 Tournament title in one hand and shit in the other, and I’ll tell you which will fill up first. And it’s pointless to speculate on next year, because we have no clue what this roster will look like. Between the COVID year, it seems like the mediocre players (Jamal Bey) are sticking around for-fucking-ever, while guys with any semblance of talent blow this fucking popsicle stand as soon as humanly possible (along with the guys with absolutely no talent, making you wonder why they were invited to be Huskies in the first place). Every year, it’s a mostly all-new roster, with a smattering of crappy holdovers we couldn’t shake if our lives depended on it (Cole Bajema).

What’s even more infuriating is the fact that Hop isn’t even free to “look to the future” with actual high school recruits we’re able to convince to come here, because he’s constantly on the hot seat thanks to transfers who aren’t talented enough to get the job done. Combined with a scheme that isn’t able to take advantage of whatever offensive skills they’ve got.

So, yeah, it’s probably time to say goodbye to Mike Hopkins. He’s under contract through 2024/2025, which is two more seasons. That’s a total of $6.3 million though, so you can see why we might balk at such a bitter resolution. Paying him over $3 million per year to NOT coach for us, combined with whatever we’d have to pay his replacement, all for a program that’s not likely to contend for a conference title anyway.

I’m without hope on this whole deal. Ever since that 5-win nadir season, all I’ve been looking for out of the Huskies is to be entertaining. And last year, they very much were. This year? Not so much.

It’s not likely that this program ever makes the turn to greatness. For that to happen, I still believe you have to “build it the right way” and not rely on cast-aways from other schools in the transfer portal. The transfer portal should be a means to supplement an already-solid roster with an influx at a very specific area of need; it shouldn’t be your entire fucking plan for trying to fill out a majority of your roster. You shouldn’t have to go into every single year with an all-new squad, trying to teach them the rudimentary elements of your scheme. It’d be nice to start over fresh. New coach, new scheme, and all new crop of players. No hold-overs who over-achieve and give you a false sense of success.

But, even that doesn’t seem like it’s bound to happen anytime soon.

The Husky Basketball Team Fucking Sucked This Year!

The Washington Husky men’s basketball season mercifully came to a close last night, with a loss to the Utes in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, 98-95. I didn’t watch a single second of the action.

In fact, I couldn’t tell you how much of this team I did manage to watch this season, but it was WELL under a game’s worth of action. This team went 5-21, including 4-16 in conference play. They were TERRIBLE!

As it turns out, there was no salvaging this team. I thought maybe without two supernova stars in the lineup, guys would spread the scoring burden around, and maybe we’d see a team that improved as the season went along. But, those glimpses of competency were few and far between.

Quade Green was easily the best player on the team (further testament to how much we needed him last year, as the Huskies went in the tank once he was academically ineligible), averaging 15.4 points per game. He and Hameir Wright were our only seniors of note, and what a fucking BUST Wright turned out to be in his Husky career! Given his height and wingspan, as well as his middling ability to shoot from outside, he should have been something special by 2021. But, his shooting never got better, and he rarely made an impact on either end of the court. One block and one steal per game? Ooo! What a boost!

Marcus Tsohonis was the second-leading scorer on the Huskies this season, but he was weirdly used sparingly (probably because his defense sucks), and even then his shot was always erratic. Some nights he’d be on fire, some nights he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.

Jamal Bey finally started to take a step forward in his game, as a junior, but I don’t know what that’s going to mean for next year. Will he even want to stick around after a season like this? Is there any hope whatsoever for the Huskies to get back to the NCAA Tournament? Hell, is there any hope for even an NIT berth?!

Erik Stevenson is the last guy I’ll mention. He’s one of the transfer guys we brought here, who ended up averaging 9.3 points per game. I dunno, he was fine I guess, but I don’t remember hearing about too many times where he really flashed.

Everyone else on the Huskies was straight up trash. I just can’t believe how – on a team this fucking atrocious – that no one but Quade Green stepped up and took the reins. It’s a failure for the players, it’s a failure for the coaching staff, and it’s a HUGE failure on the state of our recruiting.

There are no silver linings. You thought Romar’s last year was the nadir of Husky basketball in the 21st century? Don’t sleep on how pathetic we were this past season. When you factor in the second half of the 2019-2020 season – when we went 5-15 in our final 20 games – Husky basketball is on a run of 10-36 over the last season and a half. Do you know how bad that is? Do you know how bad the Pac-12 is in general, and to suck THAT hard in a conference THIS mediocre is something truly unheard of.

Seattle has basketball talent! That’s what’s so infuriating. Of course, we can’t convince that talent to stay and play for the hometown school, which is obviously even more infuriating.

Let’s all just pretend the last year and a half never happened. Agreed? Okay then.