I want to thank Kelsey Plum for filling a major void when it came to the month of February the past two years. Because frankly, the Seattle hoops scene - outside of the shining beacon of Plum and the Husky women's basketball team the last couple years - looked pretty bleak.
That’s not the case anymore.
Between the buzzer beater at Hec Ed, and another momentum builder at KeyArena, a couple men’s basketball programs in Seattle are finally energizing their respective fanbases and gaining a relevance in February that just might translate to a little madness in March.
After all, if you had told me that less than a week into February, Hopkins would have the Huskies at 17 wins, including two massive victories over Top 10 opponents, I would’ve said you were nuts.
Last night’s game against Arizona was not only a signature win for Hopkins and the Dawgs, it was also a symbolic changing of the guard, given Lorenzo Romar’s presence there and the tribute to the longtime Husky coach before the game. It was appropriate. It was special. And it made the game’s conclusion even more exceptional.
Even better, there’s been a reawakening of a Dawg Pack that was all but in hibernation for close to a decade. Alaska Airlines Arena is now rocking the way it should. Because even when your football coach gets this excited, you know it’s something extraordinary.
That pure joy is contagious. You seek it. You crave it. When it comes to local men’s hoops, it’s been missing around here for years.
And that’s one of the reasons why it’s also important to not forget that Seattle is a big enough market for two top-tier programs. And while Seattle U is far from that right now, it’s showing signs that it can be a dangerous mid-major program down the line.
The Redhawks are now 14-2 at home this season. 14-2! I mean, they only won 13 total games all last year. And whether or not you’re currently following them, there’s a loyal alumni base that’s been desperate for success with just one winning season over the past seven years. As we’re seeing at UW, change can be good with the right hire.
Which, by the way, it’s also worth noting that both Jim Hayford and Mike Hopkins have a friendship with and the respect of Hall of Fame coach, Larry Brown.
“Coach Brown said, ‘Hey, you’re two great guys, got into town at the same week – you need to support one another,” Hayford said.
“That’s the great thing about the coaching fraternity – when you got really good coaches locally, in the offseason, you get a chance to learn, connect and grow. I know I’ll spend time with him for sure,” Hopkins said of Hayford.
So yes, each of these coach’s stories is unique in its own right.
But on a Super Bowl night that reminds us of how unified this city can be in supporting its own, we lump them together in a nod to the Husky mantra “Tougher Together.”
It’s great to see the resurgence of both Seattle programs – and a hope that both programs won’t just be “Tougher Together,” but come March, successful on the national stage as well.