I was a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Washington the first time I met Lorenzo Romar. It was the evening before Valentine’s Day, 2004, and the Husky Men’s Basketball team was getting ready to square off against the hated Oregon Ducks.
In an attempt to encourage students to arrive a) early and b) en masse, the athletic department’s marketing staff held a pregame meet-and-greet with the head coach that also included … wait for it … FREE FOOD. A Qdoba taco bar was set up in an auxiliary gym and, not surprisingly, a good number of students showed up to sample the fare.
My buddy, Charlie, and I had been attending games the entire season, but up to this point crowds had been slow to follow us to Hec Edmundson Pavilion. A string of pivotal conference wins had sparked a renewed interest in the team, however, and the athletic department was looking for every opportunity to capitalize on the sudden success.
What Has Happened to Husky Basketball? The Three Biggest Issues Facing This Team and Where The Dawgs Go From Here
The Washington’s men’s basketball team isn’t very good right now. Five games into a new season and they’ve already lost three times. They more closely resemble the Seattle Mariners than any other local ballclub these days and fans are pulling their collective hair out watching this squad play.
What the hell happened? This team used to be great. Head coach Lorenzo Romar used to pull in top-10 recruiting classes, used to guide his team to the NCAA Tournament on a regular basis, used to sit atop the conference as a perennial power each season. And then suddenly, it all changed.
Back-to-back down years have the Huskies in a precarious position. A third season of less-than-stellar performance seems to be on the horizon. Fans are questioning the direction of the program and answers — How? Why? — seem to be at an all-time low.
There’s hope for this team, certainly, but there are a number of obstacles blocking the path to achievement. The three biggest issues for the Huskies? We’ve compiled them right here.
Issue No. 1: Recruiting
Editor’s note: Every now and then we like to feature guest writers here at Seattle Sportsnet. Today, we bring you a piece from Matt Holt (@TheMattHolt on Twitter), one of my good friends who also happens to be an unabashed Husky homer. You may have noticed lately that I (among others) have spent a good deal of time ripping on Abdul Gaddy. While Gaddy may have earned some of the criticism coming his way, Matt writes up a defense, of sorts, in favor of Washington’s senior point guard. Take a look and decide for yourself: Will Abdul Gaddy’s legacy at Washington be that of a failure, or one of success?
By Matt Holt
I get it. It is really easy to make fun of Abdul Gaddy. I mean, really easy. He came in as the No. 2 point guard in his class, he encountered lofty expectations, and we were told he was going to lead us to the Sweet 16 and beyond. Those predictions never came true and Abdul’s career failed to unfold as we wanted.
To many people, Abdul is the core of our Husky problems. The program fails because he has failed. While there may be some truth to the statements people are making about Gaddy, there may still be a way the Huskies can salvage this season and, in turn, Abdul’s career. And all it takes is a few key wins starting now.
Everyone has their line. One can only withstand so much anger, so much vitriol towards another human being before it becomes too much. Even if that venom is not directed towards you, even if it’s directed elsewhere, just witnessing the hate-fest from the sidelines can be taxing; it’s emotionally draining, to say the least. And while a part of every one of us may agree that harsh criticism can certainly be warranted, there is similarly a more humane part of each of us that aches when the subject of such criticism is repeatedly torn to shreds.
Thus we have Exhibit 1A in the form of Abdul Gaddy, Washington’s senior point guard who has come to personify the failures of a Husky Basketball season slowly spiraling down the drain.
Gaddy is a mercurial subject in that his personality would seemingly prevent him from becoming the target of pure loathing. He appears to be an intelligent, reserved, humble young man who utters nary a word of angst about his struggles. That alone makes him worthy of respect, no matter how much we may not like the guy. Anyone who can face adversity and bite their lip — especially with all the access to social media outlets that we enjoy today — is stronger than most of us will ever be.
Fighting with people on Twitter is about as pointless as it gets. In general, you both come off looking like douchebags, and no matter how heated your discourse becomes, there is no governing body to determine who wins and who loses. You can’t really out-debate one another in 140-character blurbs, and about all you’ll end up doing is pissing off the people who mutually follow you and your sparring partner, victims of timelines filled with petty drivel. You can punch and kick and scream and get worked up over words on a screen and you’ll be no better for it when the day is done.
You gotta be kidding me with this shit. Every single game this season has been a waste of time. The UW men’s basketball team has been atrocious. Simply atrocious. They lack talent, they lack ability, they lack excitement, and worst of all, they lack effort. How can you so blatantly lack effort when you suck? If you suck, and the results prove you suck, you better be willing to work your ass off to overcome obvious shortcomings. So far, the Huskies haven’t shown much desire to do that.
Okay. That wasn’t the best Seattle sports weekend. The Huskies (both the football and basketball editions) lost, the Seahawks lost, and word came out on Sunday evening that both Hawks starting cornerbacks — Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner — are facing four-game suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use. So yeah. Admittedly, things could get better.
Scrolling through the Twitter timeline over the past 24 hours has revealed varying stages of grief from Seattleites. We’ve seen everything from denial, to anger, to depression, to acceptance. Some fans are ready to jump off a ledge, some are cursing out anyone who so much as talks to them, some are claiming it’s all a conspiracy, some have the blinders on and refuse to speak one ill word about any of our downtrodden ballclubs, some are coping with humor, and some are just plain sad. No matter one’s progress through the grieving process, it’s clear that these are dark times for us right now. And so as a result, I’m here to offer perspective.
Earlier this week, we found out that the University of Washington athletic department has imposed an interesting policy regarding sports and Twitter. Basically, media members reporting on any Husky basketball or football game are limited to the number of times they can tweet during a contest. Yep, it’s like that.
As a proud UW alum, I’ve been schooled on recognizing stupidity. And this is about as stupid as it gets.
Putting clamps on those giving you the time of day? Really? If there’s anything we all know, it’s that in America, the media cannot be controlled. You can’t stop the media, you can only hope to contain it. And yet trying to contain it usually doesn’t work out so well.
Knowing that this will undoubtedly spiral into an abyss of long-running jokes and never-ending punch lines, I figured I’d take the opportunity to ask my alma mater why on earth they’d want to censor their guests. I’ve come up with 11 questions. I was allotted no more than that.
A year ago, we had the Wroten Workout Plan, in honor of Husky Basketball player Tony Wroten. It was a fairly simple plan. For every turnover committed by the freshman point guard, participants would perform 25 push-ups as penance for the miscue. Likewise, 25 push-ups would also be performed each time Wroten made a free throw, though those push-ups would certainly be more of the celebratory variety. So if at game’s end Wroten had knocked down five free throws and committed five turnovers, all of us loyal Wroten Workout Planners would owe 250 push-ups for the young man’s effort. It was a great way to stay in shape while committing the sins of most sports fans watching a game — those being the snacking and beer drinking that come along with couch-sitting.
I read an article on Tony Wroten’s less-than-clutch performance down the stretch in Thursday’s loss to Oregon State and felt compelled to respond. As this feeling of compulsion rarely overwhelms me, I decided to follow through on my emotion with an actual response. I can tell you’re as impressed as I am by this turn of events.
All jokes aside, there’s something very real and intriguing about the player that Wroten has become over the course of this past season. So before we address the specific moment in recent history that has inspired such debate, let’s go back in time to last fall, when the Husky faithful was first formally introduced to No. 14…
From the moment he arrived on the campus of the University of Washington, fans seemed to take Tony Wroten with a grain of salt. The six-foot-five-inch point guard was a supremely talented prep superstar with a history of interesting, albeit relatively harmless, decisions away from the court. Skipping a high school Spanish class, then unwittingly revealing an academic scandal through Twitter as a result of a braggadocious post about said truancy might be the first interesting decision that comes to mind with Wroten. The teenager’s perceived legacy, however, was seemingly defined before such a violation ever occurred.
My gut feeling is that the Huskies will — yes, will — be going to the Big Dance. They’ll make it and it will totally be undeserved. I liken the Dawgs making the NCAA Tournament to a reckless teenager being bequeathed a brand new BMW by his wealthy, oblivious parents…right after he totaled the last BMW they previously gave to him.
This version of the Huskies has been given chance after chance after chance. Amazingly, they’ve continued to blow those chances, one after the other, only to later pay witness to good fortune falling squarely in their lap.
Take, for instance, the Pac-12 regular season championship. Heading into the final days of conference play, Washington had a golden opportunity to win the league title outright by knocking off an embattled UCLA team. They squandered that opportunity, thus putting their fate in the hands of the California Golden Bears. A Cal victory over Stanford meant Washington would share the title with the Bears; a Cal loss meant the Huskies would be blessed with the crown. As we all know now, California lost and Washington signed for a shiny package delivered at their doorstep. They won the Pac-12 title, but did they really earn it? I guess that depends on one’s perspective.
(Winners of each matchup listed in BOLD.)
Game 1: Washington State (8) vs. Oregon State (9), 12:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 7
Player of the Year candidate Brock Motum leads all scorers with eight points as the Cougars knock off the Beavs 17-12 in first-round play. Announced attendance for the tournament’s first game is 22. A quick head count of everyone in the arena reveals that only 19 people are actually present, however.
Game 2: UCLA (5) vs. USC (12), 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 7
The Bruins continue their stick-up-their-ass, inspired-by-scandal run to the NIT by throttling the Trojans and their bevy of backcourt munchkins. Reeves Nelson buys a ticket and sits courtside, but is later removed from the premises after rushing the court and setting a hard pick on one of his former teammates.
A big thanks to Josh Liebeskind for writing this article about the Dawg Pack and yours truly. I’m no expert on journalism, but if I was in charge of handing out Pulitzers, well, I’d at least consider Josh’s story.
Seriously, though, I’m flattered to have this…thing…I used to do featured in the newspaper of my alma mater. Makes all those classes I skipped (and the two extra years of undergraduate education, my Redshirt and Medical Redshirt years, as I like to refer to them) totally worth it.
Couldn’t be more appreciative of the opportunity to sit down and talk with an up-and-coming writer about the goofy things in my past. Please give the article a read if you get a chance. Thanks!
The problem with the Husky Basketball team is that they appear to not give a shit. In any sport there will always be wins and losses. That’s a given. But win or lose, you can only hope that your team gives a shit every time they play. So far this season, the Huskies have failed to prove to me — and to many others, I’d imagine — that they are among the shit-giving elite in college basketball. That’s not good.
As a collective unit, this year’s squad resembles Matt LeBlanc in Joey. After Friends, that guy completely mailed it in. He used to care. And then Joey came along. At which point, he more or less gave up. NBC was still signing off on his paychecks. That’s really all that mattered. Lazy bastard.
Since the Huskies neither star in a sitcom spinoff nor get paid, I can’t imagine what’s motivating them to take the court these days. Maybe it’s the free gear they get, the nice kicks they wear, or perhaps all the hot college chicks they get to bang. I don’t know. I am not a psychologist. All I see is a lack of effort, hustle, and desire. Which leads me to question the heart of the entire program.