Last week, Rush The Court released a Top 20 College Hoops Jobs list. Criteria such as fan base, facilities, conference affiliation, and location were all considered when ranking the different job. Interestingly enough, Washington was not ranked, but was added as an honorable mention, along with four other teams; Pittsburgh, Illinois, Butler, and Missouri.
UCLA came in at No. 5
"Sigh… this job is still elite regardless of a juxtaposed fan base that on one hand is apathetic while on the other expecting Final Four and national championship banners every year."
Arizona came in at at No. 11
"The fanbase is relatively small but very supportive, and the location is hard to beat for many coaches fond of playing golf year-round and enjoying a direct talent pipeline into the fertile SoCal prep training grounds."
How did the Huskies end up being mentioned as an honorable mention?
This program has shown the ability to win on a consistent basis. As much as I have pushed and criticized this team to play better and make it past the Sweet 16, the program has been doing great since Lorenzo Romar has taken over.
Since 2002, the team has made it into the NCAA tournament six times, won three Pac-10 tournament titles, and has advanced to the Sweet 16 three times. Besides UCLA and Arizona, no other Pac-10 team has come close to UW's consistency in the past ten years.
However, what does UCLA and Arizona have that Washington does not have? National championships, final four appearances, and a rich legacy that extends further than the past ten years. Moreover, the Huskies are now lacking elite facilities to compete for recruits against programs like Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, and now Oregon.
Despite the lack of rich tradition and elite facilities, this job is still considered the third best in the Pac-12. What makes the Husky Job one of the best in the conference?
I argue that location has something to do with it.
The core of the fan base has been void of a professional basketball franchise. For the former part of the past ten years fans have not seen a winning a football team. Lastly, there really is not any other college program within close proximity to cheer for.
Maybe Sonics fans were always Husky basketball fans, but I think they probably have shifted more of their energy towards watching games at Montlake. Thankfully, during the dismal football years, Romar's teams were making it into the Sweet 16, and in a way, helping retain fans in the long-run for both sports. You'd be hard press to tell me that some fans would not have completely ditched UW athletics if both teams were stinking it up. Location has also helped because the two main basketball programs in the state are a five plus hour drive away and are in a completely different setting than the big city feel of Seattle.
Location also helps because of the rich basketball talent available in the Seattle-area. Isaiah Thomas, Jon Brockman, Brandon Roy, and Nate Robinson were all homegrown stars. Any experienced recruiter can build a solid foundation made up of players from the Seattle-area.
Being tucked away in Seattle also gives you some job security. I think it is a safe argument that Tia Jackson and Tyrone Willingham kept their jobs for too long of a time. I can't say they'd last as long as they did at UW if they put up the same results at a different college. However, being tucked away in the northwest also leads me to the downfall of being the head basketball coach at UW.
Seattle is cloudy, rainy, and depressing. Not only are you stuck on the west coast, but you are stuck in the northwest. It becomes that much tougher in luring a five-star recruit away from places like UCLA, USC, and Arizona. On top of that, you could not convince a five-star recruit they would be on ESPN on a consistent basis like North Carolina and Duke could (I'm hoping the new TV deal solves this problem).
All in all, the location might actually be a huge hinderance and the reason why UW coaching job will never be as great as the jobs ranked above it.
How can a coach at Washington move past this and become an elite program, despite being stuck in the northwest?
2011 has been the first rainy year in about a decade here. How many Seahawk games have been played in the rain at Qwest Field? Less than a handful. Location should be a selling point: an hour away from world class snow skiing, hiking and mountain climbing, not to mention beautiful BC at our door step, Mt St Helens and Mt Rainier...the list goes on. And now we all know about all of our players coming back and helping the younger guys...(even a nice writeup in SI) now that is cool...Romar is in a great spot...largely of his making. How many coaches can walk out the door and be looking at the water (or commute to work by boat)? Enough said.
Do you think basketball recruits are coming to Seattle at all because of its location? Or just to play basketball for Coach Romar and being part of the Seattle basketball community? @Hoopswatch