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.

A New Era Of Husky Football

This spot is where I would normally have my Seahawks diatribe, but the Huskies had their bowl game, it was Chris Petersen’s final game, and we’ve got even MORE great news that came out yesterday. Why dwell on the Seahawks (when they’re going to lose to the 49ers, then lose to the Eagles or Cowboys in the first round anyway) when we can focus on happier, more hopeful things?

First and foremost, the Huskies throttled the Boise State Broncos, 38-7. We got off to our usual hot start – jumping out to a 24-0 lead early in the second half – and pretty much coasted from there. The defense continued its impressive finish to the season after back-to-back home losses to Oregon and Utah. In our final four games, we gave up a total of 47 points (11.75 per game) and more or less looked like the Husky defenses of the last few years. It was nice to see as we head into 2020 under new leadership.

Jacob Eason had a pretty good game, showing better touch out of a couple of his deep balls than I’d seen since the non-conference slate. He finished with 210 yards and a touchdown on 22/32 passing.

The game got a little frustrating in the second half, as we came out passing WAY more than we probably should have. When you’re up 24-0 (it turned into 24-7 on the very next Broncos drive, but it took them 11 plays and five and a half minutes to do it), you should be pounding the rock and draining as much clock as possible. Instead, I dunno, there were a couple of frustrating drives where the offense couldn’t do anything and it looked like Boise State might make a comeback. But, things settled down towards the end and we were finally able to get back on track and run out the clock.

I really liked what I saw out of Richard Newton, who had a nice 69 yards on the ground, one rushing touchdown, and another passing touchdown on a nifty trick play in the fourth quarter. I also thought Salvon Ahmed had a gutty performance, playing through some injury stuff, scoring twice. I could’ve even used more Kamari Pleasant, who looked explosive on his two carries for 14 yards.

It was a nice final game for Andre Baccellia, who caught 3 for 34 and a touchdown. I think a lot of us expected more out of his Husky career, but it was cool to at least get him a score on his way out. Terrell Bynum really led the way in receiving, catching 5 balls for 67 yards and a TD. Not really much else to get into from the receivers.

Defensively, Elijah Molden led the way in tackles, and REALLY came on late in the season. I hope he returns for his Senior year, because we could really showcase a guy with his talents. There was a good amount of pressure up front, but while it didn’t necessarily translate into a high sack number, we were able to force their quarterbacks into plenty of mistakes. Molden and Myles Bryant each had interceptions on the first two plays Boise State had in Husky territory (cool to see Bryant get one more – giving him 4 picks of his career (I thought he had more for some reason) – as he heads to the NFL next year).

Chris Petersen ends his Husky career with a record of 55-26; his .679 winning percentage is good for seventh all time (if you count Marques Tuiasosopo’s 1-0 record as interim head coach for the one bowl game he coached). If you count only the Huskies who coached 20+ games, Petersen is fourth all time (interestingly enough, just one spot ahead of Rick Neuheisel.

Coach Pete’s teams won two Pac-12 championships in six years, and played in three major bowl games (including one College Football Playoff game). Three straight years in major bowls is nothing to sneeze at; unfortunately we went 0-3 in those games, and only went 2-4 total in bowl games. These were GOOD Husky teams under Coach Pete, but they could never quite get over the hump on a national stage. Close, but of course, no cigar.

That’s unfortunately the legacy for him right now. Things could change, assuming all the talking points are correct: that Coach Pete laid the foundation for greater things to come and all that. If Jimmy Lake can keep it up with his recruiting, if he can develop those players, if he can turn them into wins on the field, championships in the conference, and wins in major bowl games, then I think we can paint Coach Pete’s tenure a little more rosy than we do right now. I won’t say he was a disappointment, but I will say that I kinda hoped for more.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask. It’s bigtime college football, if your goal isn’t conference titles, Rose Bowls, and National Championships, then what’s the point? Why should we continue to settle for less than the SEC and Big-10 and all the other conferences out there who have success? We should hold our revered head coaches to the same standard any other bigtime fanbase would hold theirs. You think Alabama fans are happy to be playing Michigan this year? You think they’re settling for a “good” season? No, they’re probably pissed off and hungrier than ever for next year!

That’s where we need to be, and I’m hopeful that Jimmy Lake is the guy to take us there. He already made me a fan for life by firing Bush Hamdan yesterday. I honestly have no idea why Hamdan was ever hired in the first place, other than he was a “Chris Petersen Guy”. I mean, he was a low-level assistant for Washington early in his tenure, then he was Quarterbacks Coach for the Atlanta Falcons, and that makes him qualified to call plays and design an offense for a major college program?

Washington’s offense was TOTAL SHIT under Hamdan, who was in over his head from Day 1, and I’m fucking glad he’s gone. He’s been the bane of my existence for the last two years, and I’m so happy that Lake’s first change was to rid this program of that bum. This gives Washington the entire rest of the bowl season to look for his replacement – as well as, interestingly enough, Jimmy Lake’s own replacement as the defensive coordinator. Do we make Pete Kwiatkowski the regular, full-time defensive coordinator again? That was his job before Jimmy Lake assumed control as co-coordinator and head defensive playcaller. If you want to talk about continuity within the program, that’s probably the best way to go. Offensively, on the other hand, I think we have to bring in someone from the outside. Preferably a more veteran coordinator who won’t be an immediate head coaching candidate for every other school in the conference.

I’ll admit, though, Saturday’s game was a little emotional. More than anything, I’m happy the Huskies could send Coach Pete off as a winner. There weren’t a ton of people expecting a Husky victory over a previously 12-1 Boise State team, but they hadn’t played anyone all year, and this just felt like the perfect opportunity to show why Chris Petersen made the change in the first place.

He could’ve stayed at Boise State his whole career; hell, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’d still be chugging along for the next decade or longer if he’d just stayed where the conference is small and the expectations are relatively low (a la Mark Few at Gonzaga). Unlike the Zags, however, you REALLY need to be in one of the Big 5 conferences to compete for a championship. Mid-majors in basketball go to the Final Four all the time; unless the NCAA Football side of things expands to an 8-team playoff, I just don’t see a mid-major football program cracking through. Indeed, even if it does go to an 8-team playoff system, and you find the occasional Boise State or TCU or Baylor or whatever in there, 8 teams means 3 games you have to win to win the National Championship; that’s going to weed out pretty much every single mid-major program who’s lucky enough to sneak in there.

Petersen knew that, and that’s why he came to Washington. Unfortunately, with all the good that comes with college football at this level (access to better recruits, better facilities, better stadia, etc.), there’s also tons of bad. All the recruiting games and bullshit, dealing with other schools poaching your players, all the nonsense with Pac-12 scheduling and our inept commissioner, and of course, the NCAA itself and the inherent bias towards programs east of the Rockies. Then, there’s all the media obligations, the ass-kissing of the high-level donors, the non-stop, 24/7/365 nature of the game and the news cycle and social media … I mean, it’s a SHIT-TON of bullshit to wade through, when all you really want to do is coach your players and play the game of football.

I can see why he wanted to at least take a break, if not retire for good. If he gets the itch again, I’m sure there’s a small school he can go to where the limelight won’t be quite so insane.

It was a pleasure having Coach Pete here. There were a lot of highlights in such a brief span of seasons. And, the University of Washington is definitely better having had him here.

Now, it’s time to look ahead to a new and exciting brand of football.

Washington Huskies Fired Lorenzo Romar

It’s kind of a bummer.  I dunno.  There are a lot of mixed feelings right now, it’s hard to put them down in a coherent thought.

He’s been here since 2002!  That’s such a long time.  So much has happened since then.  In many ways, with the NBA leaving, the one constant as far as Seattle basketball is concerned has been Lorenzo Romar.  He’s been sort of the face of the 206’s hoops scene.  With Romar, it’s always felt like we’ve had this awesome basketball community.  So many Huskies playing in the NBA, but they all felt like local guys with Romar here.  Now, he’s gone, and it feels like that community is shattered.

Growing up, the Husky basketball team wasn’t even REMOTELY on my radar.  Not with the Sonics in town, kicking ass and taking names.  I briefly got excited for a couple of those Bob Bender teams when I was in high school and they made that run to the Sweet 16.  But, it wasn’t until Romar took over and Nate Rob & Co. came to Washington when I really become a fan.

Under Romar, the Washington Huskies have had an unprecedented run of success.  Six NCAA Tournament appearances; no other Husky head coach has had more than three. Five top 2 conference finishes, tops in school history since we’ve been in the Pac-8/10/12.  298 wins (including NCAA Tourney games), second most in school history behind Hec Ed.  All of this in a period in college basketball that has changed so much during his tenure.  It’s going to take a HUGE name to fill his shoes.

This stinks.  Not just because we’re almost certainly going to lose out on next year’s incoming Freshman class.  But, you know, that’s part of it.  I think the 2017/2018 Huskies could’ve been really special.  I think we were poised to return to the NCAA Tournament and maybe even barge our way into a Sweet 16 spot.  It could’ve saved Romar’s job, put the Huskies back on the map, and kickstarted a run of great Husky basketball teams.  Now, we have to start over from scratch.

What’s worse, it’s very possible we lose what little holdover talent we’ve got on THIS team.  Granted, there wasn’t much to be excited about – particularly with Fultz going to the NBA – but players like Crisp and Dickerson are poised to take a big step forward as Juniors, and who knows if they’re going to want to stick around?

Next year’s Husky basketball team could be rock bottom.  I mean, legendary, all-time awful.

So, that’s the short term.  Long term, of course, is the big unknown.  Since the University of Washington is willing to throw around $3 million to buy out Romar, it would seem like money is no object when it comes to the next guy.  And, you know, it’s not like this decision was made with a hair trigger.  I think UW has been more than fair, and has given Romar as long a leash as could reasonably be expected.  But, when you’ve been in steady decline like the Huskies have over the last 6 seasons, with some of the NBA talent Romar has had, with rising expectations what they are after you make 6 NCAA Tournament appearances in 8 seasons, it’s only natural to want to go in another direction with your program.  15 seasons is a long time to coach at one place, particularly when you’ve never gone past the Sweet 16.  So, I would hardly think this decision should scare away any prospective head coaching targets.

Now, obviously, the trick is finding someone who wants to come here.  Try to avoid listening to the Husky homers around here and think on a more national level:  the University of Washington is not a powerhouse draw for college basketball.  It’s a step up from the mid-majors, but it’s probably not a big-enough step up for a really successful mid-major head coach.  So, you know, probably best to get Mark Few’s name out of your head.  Or that Wichita State guy.  While it’s entirely possible that UW could over-pay to bring someone in here, I think we have to be reasonable with our expectations on just how much the university is prepared to shell out.  Let’s not forget, Chris Petersen and some of his assistant coaches are looking at big raises and he already made over $3 million last year.  I hardly think the UW basketball program is flush with enough cash to pay football-coach money.

The upside is, regardless of who we bring in, he’s likely to be an all-around better head coach than what Romar has been in recent seasons.  Romar has recruited well, particularly at guard, in getting some of these recent one-and-done guys (including next year’s class that will be transferring in short order), but his coaching has left a lot to be desired.  There’s no real offense to speak of.  He’s all but abandoned his old defensive identity in favor of letting his stars do whatever the fuck they want.  The team has been relatively competitive on athletic ability alone, but that’s meant that we haven’t beaten a quality basketball team in years.  We find ways to lose, or we get run out of the gym, by smarter, more technically-sound teams.  And in 2016/2017, we weren’t even competitive, so what good has all that recruiting ability been?

So, here we are.  The great unknown.  It’ll be an interesting next few weeks to see what the Washington Husky basketball program looks like, but for now I think it’s appropriate to reflect on the end of an era.  Lorenzo Romar has meant so much to the University of Washington and the city of Seattle when it comes to local basketball.  While I understand why it happened, I hate to see it end like this.

Is This The Worst Husky Basketball Team Of All Time?

SLOW GOD DAMN NEWS MONTH ALERT!

The Huskies finished their regular season on a 12-game losing streak to finish with a conference record of 2-16.  For what it’s worth, 2-16 is the worst conference record in school history, so from a pure numbers standpoint, yeah, this would be the worst Husky basketball team of all time.

From a talent perspective, I wouldn’t even know where to start.  I just know that this team has to rank somewhere near the bottom, even if it’s featured the #1 overall pick in the next NBA draft.  Indeed, the last time the Huskies were this bad was in Bob Bender’s first season (1993/1994), when we finished 3-15 in conference and 5-22 overall.

Mercifully, the season ends tonight, in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament.  We get a repeat of our final regular season game, against USC, who just beat us by 16.  Once again, Markelle Fultz is out with a knee injury.  He’s missed 5 of the last 7 games, which I find interesting, because all five of those games were on the road.  And, the two home games were against the Arizona schools, where you figure at least the game against the Wildcats featured a ton of NBA scouts.

Look, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, but I’m not holding it against him.  Why would you risk your professional career for this team that’s going nowhere?  I’m sure if the Huskies were in a legitimate race for an NCAA Tournament spot, he’d be in the lineup tonight.  But, even with him, there’s no way we’re beating USC, let alone the three other, better teams we’d have to beat for a miracle berth in the Tourney.  When you’re as bad as the Huskies have been, you stop travelling, and you show up for the games against the primo opponents.

What’s more, Fultz can say he went out on a high note.  He gets to tell everyone that he played hurt, so it looks like he was dedicated to his team.  And, even though we’re terrible, we played Arizona tough in that game before free throws at the end extended their lead to 8 points.  Nevertheless, Fultz showed up in that one, scoring 26 points, getting to the line 15 times, and racking up 6 assists.  It was a nice capper to probably the best Freshman season in Husky basketball history.

The talk this week, of course, has settled on Romar.  I’ve spent this entire season pretty convinced that he’d be back next year for one more shot at parlaying his Top 5 recruiting class into a Tourney berth, and some reports are floating around that my notion has been confirmed.  The school is obviously denying this – saying no decision has been made – and the local reporters seem to be on board, if only because it’s one thing to have this type of bridge season where you weather a storm and come back strong the next year, but it’s quite another to win only 2 games in conference and close out the season on what will be a 13-game losing streak after tonight.

Ultimately, it comes back to that recruiting class and the $3 million buy-out of Romar’s contract.  I know Husky alums and bigwigs hate to think of some stud recruits holding us hostage, but at the same time it’s not totally unprecedented for a program to have a massive, immediate turnaround in fortune from one year to the next.  Besides, I hardly think that all five of our incoming recruits for next season are going to be One & Done!  There’s a real opportunity for some sustained success here!  I know I sound like an idiot, but I have to believe this stuff, if only because I want to see these talented guys come in here.  I want to see what they can do.  And, not for nothing, but I’d like to see Romar rise from the ashes and prove the haters wrong, if for no other reason than I like the guy and want him to do well in his Husky career.

The bottom line is, you can’t get rid of Romar without bringing in a HUGE head coaching “get”.  I’m talking, like, on the level of Mark Few or some other HUGE name.  Which, for one thing, would mean not only costing the school that $3 million buy-out, but on top of that would cost however many millions of dollars more to bring in the new guy.  That’s money, quite frankly, I don’t think the school has.  Beyond that, there is absolutely NO WAY IN HELL a Mark Few or anyone on his level would ever come to Washington.  Not without making him the highest paid coach in all of college basketball, and even then that might not be enough.  Washington just isn’t a draw for top head coaching talent; I don’t care what any of you homers say.  It’s not Arizona, it’s not Duke, it’s not North Carolina or UCLA or Kansas or Kentucky.  Hell, it’s not even Ohio State or Louisville or Florida or Texas.

So, we’re stuck with where we are right now.  It would be an unthinkable disaster to fire Romar now and lose out on all those recruits, while bringing in an “up and coming” nobody head coach.  Granted, it might still be an unthinkable disaster to keep Romar and watch this team continue to flounder under his leadership, but what’s the harm?  If we keep him, get the recruits and still stink, then fire him next year!  What will you have lost except for a year?  That “up and coming” nobody head coach will still be around next year, I assure you.  We can start the big program rebuild then.  I mean, shit, it’s not like we’re ever going to win a national championship anyway.  The only reason you root for a team like Washington is in hopes they’ll get to the Tournament, and once in a blue moon make a deep run.  But, this school is never going to have the kind of national-level talent to go all the way, so what’s the point?