More on the unhealthy relationship between basketball & basketball fans in Seattle
Specifically a few questions for the Washington Huskies athletic department
We all know about tragic departure of the Sonics and what they meant to Seattle. I’ll spare the details of how the city has been negatively affected but I don’t think basketball fans living outside of Seattle really understand the pain of simply not having professional basketball in your city. It’s one thing if your city never had an NBA team, but with Sonics fans it’s almost as if we opened our presents on Christmas, then the following morning we found out our house was robbed and they had all been stolen. It’s safe to say we are damaged.
Because of the theft that I am trying to refrain from speaking on, the Washington huskies men’s and women’s basketball teams have become the only tickets in town in for high level basketball. But like I just said, we are damaged…
You can see the attendance for the 2010–2011 men’s season was still very high only being a couple years removed from losing the Supes. I’d infer that people were clinging to any basketball they could get, but as the years progressed the attendance continued to dip. There’s probably a few things that could’ve factored into this. The first being the team’s success. The 2016–2017 season ended in the fourth consecutive year the dawgs have not reached the NCAA tournament and it’s only fair that fans were becoming less and less interested in the team, regardless of being deprived of basketball. Another contribution could be the overall morale of basketball fans in Seattle during these times. From 2011 to today we’ve been jerked around a little bit. Seattle was the frontrunner for the Milwaukee Bucks, and then it fell through. There were the Sacramento Kings rumors, but again that fell through. Then the news of Russell Wilson teaming up with Chris Hansen to build an arena was talked about non stop on sports radio for about 2 weeks and I haven’t heard anything since. All of this up and down I’m sure has taken a toll on the majority of fans to the point where people have just become tuned out of the basketball universe. Maybe even holding a grudge with the sport itself.
And then a kid from Upper Marlboro, Maryland named Markelle Fultz literally came out of nowhere…
Along with Markelle followed the highest home attendance average since 2012 and also a general basketball buzz around Seattle again. I’m not sure what the expectations were for the team headed into the season but people were certainly ready to attend games again. After five straight seasons of decreased attendance, despite owning the worst record in the Romar era, the 2016–2017 season (starring Fultz) had an average attendance of 7,614 seats filled per home game with two sellouts of the UCLA game and senior night vs Arizona. Almost a 1,500 person per game increase from the year before. UCLA and Oregon were the only other schools in the conference with a significant increase in attendance.
Now what would you credit this increase to? It definitely has to be Fultz right? It seems as if his 23 points per game overshadowed the team’s 9–22 record and to be honest, Fultz was the sole reason I attended five home games myself this year. It has felt like forever since Seattle basketball fans have been granted with the opportunity to root for NBA level talent each night and I couldn’t miss the opportunity. This seemed to be the case for many others too considering the spike in attendance. I was beginning to feel somewhat spoiled, like I was getting something I didn’t deserve in Fultz and in the back of my mind I knew the dawgs had ANOTHER #1 high school recruit in Michael Porter Jr. set to where purple and gold next season.
Two #1 recruits in consecutive years??? This was really hard to process and just when I felt I was beginning to, the school pulled the plug on Lorenzo…
Look, I get it… 9 and 22, worst season in the last 30 years. Haven’t been able to make the tournament with NBA talent. Not to mention that damn 2–3 zone… There were a couple handfuls of arguments that could be made on why Romar needed to be let go and the 10 year extension in 2010 seemed to make him a little too comfortable but jeez, did the athletic department know who was coming in next season? While Porter Jr. would’ve had a tough time turning the program around by himself and would’ve likely had a Ben Simmons at LSU type of season next year, you’d have to imagine 9–22 with a 13 game losing streak to end the season would be the proverbial rock bottom for coach Romar. You couple that with Porters 3 high school state championships in 4 years, in two different states while averaging 37 points per game and defeating the acclaimed Oak Hill in his senior year… might’ve done some damage next year. Porter Jr is truly a once in a generation player that is ready for the next level right now and UW chose to let him walk.
Along with the departure of Romar was the exit of Porter Jr. as well. Just a day after the firing, a request to back out of his commitment to UW was asked for. It’s one thing to fire your coach that has been there for 15+ years and still had a contract through 2020, but to essentially show you are willing to risk losing the #1 recruit in the nation is what I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around. There has seemed to be a domino effect with Porter Jr. leaving as three of the other four Husky commits have backed out, including shooting guard Daejon Davis (ranked 44th on ESPN’s top 100) from Seattle’s Garfield High School.
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Winning is the number one priority but the decision to blow things up and restart seemed a bit forced if you ask me and I wouldn’t be surprised the attendance numbers began to fall again going into next season. The option to hire Hopkins from Syracuse would have still been on the table next season but for whatever reason the change needed to happen now. I’m just trying to understand the urgency that was shown. All things considered, I will still be in attendance for a few Dawgs games this year. Being a basketball fan it would be childish of me to limit my basketball viewing to a television screen. On top of that, how can you not be interested in the start of Hopkins head coaching career? After being the understudy of Jim Boeheim for 20 years I’m sure locks in some recruiting ties to the east coast.
These are all major pluses for me, I swear. And I fully understand that I may be one of the few taking these moves so personal but I’m just confused, want a real explanation on the decision making and strangely am already missing Romar a little bit.