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.
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.
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!
Back when I was an undergrad at Washington, our athletic director was a guy by the name of Todd Turner. Skinny dude, glasses, kinda poindexterish. You may remember him.
Anyway, Turner resigned (read: got canned) in January, 2008 after four years on the job. He had presided over the worst era of Husky football in the program’s storied lineage, and as we all know, football drives the ship at most D-I schools.
When it came to the gridiron, Turner’s tenure was an epic failure for two big reasons.
It’s Sunday. I haven’t really written anything in a while. I’ve been off fighting technology like Tron. My computer has been a complete and abysmal wreck over the past few days. Like Charlie Sheen, basically. When I get all this sh*t straightened out, I’m going to name my laptop “Charlie Sheen.” No, wait, eff that. I’m naming it “Rick Vaughn”. Even better. And if you get a piece of it, I’ll let you rename it.
(Major League II quote.)
So what have I missed? Quite a bit, in fact. So rather than stick to one topic in this soon-to-be-diatribe, I’d rather discuss multiple things. Like Bill Simmons does. Except without all the self-effacing letters from readers. Without further ado…
You’ve been getting picked on a lot lately, and I don’t like it. University of Washington message boards are overflowing with venom directed at you. Alums are bored by your antics. Kim Grinolds over at Dawgman.com even has a post-game grading system for you guys. And sadly, he just gave you an “F” for your performance against Long Beach State.
Frankly, if this whole experience has taught us anything, it’s that a fan base can actually be as compelling as the team they support. Because this “down year” in the Pack is becoming a story line unto itself. And that’s a testament to how far we’ve come to this point.
Word on the street is that the Dawg Pack isn’t up to snuff this year. For those of you who consider yourselves avid Husky Men’s Basketball fans, you may have an opinion on the matter. Regardless of your personal feelings, however, the local message boards are abuzz with talk about “a down year” in the Husky student section.
One current Dawg Pack member took the liberty of emailing me on Tuesday night with a few gripes about his fellow constituents. Here’s the context of his letter. Take note, Husky fans:
Not unlike when Darth Vader infiltrated Cloud City, when Lord Voldemort infiltrated the Ministry of Magic, or even when Jack Parkman infiltrated the Cleveland Indians’ clubhouse, Howard Schultz (aka Schlutz) — that rat bastard of epic proportions, he of ultimate betrayal and epic turncoat-ism — has infiltrated the University of Washington Dawg Pack.
Take a look at what that evildoer is up to these days. Son of a b.
This is the front and rear of the 2010-2011 University of Washington Dawg Pack Men’s Basketball t-shirts (special thanks to loyal reader Rebecca for the photos):
Today is a sad day. It marks the end of a beautiful relationship that we shared together. The University of Washington students and you, Ernie Kent, head coach of the Oregon Ducks and our greatest adversary.
A foe unlike any other, you proved yourself worthy of our animosity, our scorn, our jokes, and our begrudging respect all at the same time.
You were a stubborn man, but not without conviction. Our tumultuous working relationship, in fact, began as a result of your headstrong attitude.
Back in 2005, you decided you wanted our student section relocated to your personal liking. The Dawg Pack, you argued, should not breathe down the necks of opposing ballclubs. The Dawg Pack, you reasoned, would be better situated across the court, or at least along the baselines.
You even went so far as to petition the Pac-10 with your proposal. Unfortunately for you (and fortunately for us), they shot you down. Legend has it that then-Arizona head coach Lute Olson stood up on our behalf, praising the Washington student section and insisting that we not be moved.
The Dawg Pack will begin a two-night campout starting this evening, in preparation for Saturday’s game against UCLA and the arrival of ESPN Gameday.
On a Jonathan Higgins side note, I remember my first time camping out for a basketball game. Stanford, 2004.
It was a cold evening, and in the middle of the night some Cardinal fans drove past and threw things at us. Some of us had no tents, including me, and in the morning I awoke to a homeless man standing at the foot of my sleeping bag. The very first Dawg Pack campout. Those were the days.
Anyway, if you are a local proprietor and want to help make this event a success, please stop by Hec Edmundson Pavilion on the north side of the arena anytime following the conclusion of tonight’s Husky basketball game against USC. Drop off food, drinks, and anything else that spirited college kids would enjoy on a chilly winter night and you won’t walk away disappointed.
Finally, if you work for Red Bull, now might be your greatest opportunity ever to pull in new consumers. I know how you guys love to send out your workers and hand out free drinks. Why not stop by on Friday night with about a truckload. These guys could use the energy. They’ll be spending 12 hours going crazy on Saturday and will need “wings” to get through the day (see that, I even plugged your slogan).
So help them out. They’ll love you for it, and I’ll even talk about you guys more than I already do. People listen to me. I’m kind of a big deal.
There’s no getting around the fact that Saturday’s men’s basketball game between the Huskies and the UCLA Bruins isn’t nearly as anticipated as it was six months ago.
The Huskies haven’t lived up to their early-season hype (going winless on the road until last Saturday will do that to you), and the Bruins have been a young team struggling to find their rhythm all year long.
ESPN probably wasn’t counting on such a lightly-heralded matchup when they scheduled their Gameday crew to appear live from Hec Edmundson Pavilion on the day of the contest.
But, as is the case, the Gameday crew will be broadcasting from the home of the Dawgs all day on Saturday and are doing anything and everything they can to generate excitement for this matchup. Which leads us to the above video.
We all know the Husky men’s basketball team can’t win games on the road. Simply cannot do it.
They’re fantastic at home (they’ve only lost at Hec Ed once this year), but absolutely dismal away from campus.
It’s a problem that has plagued the ballclub all season long, and in search of answers, we’ve come up with 11 potential solutions to stop the bleeding. Because everyone can use a little help sometimes.
11. Pay hookers in each road city to dress in purple and cheer for the Huskies.
“No, no. You’re not getting it. We want you to stand over there, next to the band member playing the trombone. And for God’s sake, these trombones are pristine, why do you keep referring to them as rusty? This isn’t hard to understand. Dammit.”
From getting skewered on opposing team’s fan sites, to being lauded for their effort from those same opponents, to a spread in ESPN The Magazine, to helping the Huskies achieve a 16-1 home record thus far this season, the UW student section is without a doubt one of the most formidable fan bases in the entire country.
An article published Monday on The Sun Break — a local online news magazine run by a handful of accomplished writers — credits the Pack for the team’s successes, highlighting Saturday’s victory over Arizona State as a foundation for the claim.
I don’t know about you, but I have the urge to listen to a little Tommy Tutone right now.
Things we can take away from this game:
We’re still playing at home.
Let’s face it. Unless they decide to hold the entire NCAA Tournament at Hec Ed this year, we have zero chance of winning a national championship.
And yes, I realize that even talking about the Tourney at this point is out of the realm of our current state. Though you have to figure that if we land a high seed in the NIT or CBI and get home court throughout, we could at least win something.
Don’t laugh, it’s a distinct possibility. Let’s shoot for the dance, anyhow.
Was that game-planning we saw?
I believe it was.
You may have noticed the utilization of none other than the high post against Washington State’s 2-3 zone this afternoon. In spite of the fact that the Huskies don’t really possess a big man capable of playing in the high post, they were able to use Quincy Pondexter in that role successfully for the duration of the game.
Pondexter was able to do everything you’d expect of a high post player in the zone. He knocked down 15-footers from the line, penetrated and scored, drew fouls, kicked out, found cutters, and basically did it all. Textbook form from Quincy, and props to the coaching staff for having the wherewithal to attack the zone effectively.