Aug. 19, 2012
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Brad Jackson's finally a Husky, 41 years after he almost became one.
Jackson has known Lorenzo Romar since the Huskies' head coach wore saran-wrap game shorts and an Afro as a Huskies player.
That was 1978.
And the link that bonds UW's new assistant coach with his new boss, Romar, goes back further than that. Long before the 1,031 head-coaching wins Romar and Jackson have compiled, combined, in college basketball.
Way back to 1971, through the legendary patriarch of college basketball in Washington.
"I was really close with Marv Harshman. I still am ... I am in contact with him just about every day," Jackson, 60, said Saturday night over his cell phone. "So by knowing Marv so well I've gotten to know Lorenzo a number of times through the years."
Jackson won 518 games over 27 years as head coach at Western Washington, including the first Division-II national championship last season for the Bellingham school. Friday Romar, one protégé of Harshman's, hired another in Jackson onto his UW staff.
A corresponding staff move will be announced this week, perhaps on Monday.
"We got an absolute steal," Romar said. "You hire a basketball coach off of winning a national championship? It doesn't happen very often.
"I'm just ecstatic."
Jackson played at Washington State - and almost at UW -- because of Harshman.
When the now-94-year-old member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame left WSU to coach Washington in 1971 -- for a $3,000 raise up to $21,000 annually, according to a profile of Harshman by Steve Kelly in the Seattle Times on June 11, 2011 -- Jackson was very tempted to transfer with him.
You hire a basketball coach off of winning a national championship? It doesn't happen very often.
But back then, players had only three years of eligibility at the varsity college level because they played on freshman teams first. Transfers from one Division-I school to another have to sit out one season per NCAA rules, plus the Pacific-8 Conference had a rule then that transfers between league schools must sit out an additional year.
So while Harshman went to the Huskies, for whom he won two conference titles and league coach-of-the-year awards before retiring in 1985 with 637 career wins over 40 seasons, Jackson stayed at WSU to get on with his career. He played for George Raveling, graduated in 1975 and wanted to become a lawyer.
He had earned his teaching credential and was preparing to take his LSAT exam while as an assistant freshman coach at Wazzu when Keith Swagerty asked him to be his assistant for Swagerty's first season leading Seattle Pacific in 1977.
That turned out to be a life-changer for Jackson.
"They paid for my master's degree," he said.
"And," he added wryly of the woman who was driving the car as he was speaking, "I met my wife Deb there."
Through her, Jackson has yet more ties to the Huskies.
Debbie Halle was a four-time All-American gymnast at Seattle Pacific. Her father is Roland Halle, a member of UW's 1953 Basketball Team that reached the NCAA's Final Four.
When Jackson began his coaching career, the late Dorothy Harshman pulled Jackson's new bride aside and advised her on being a coach's wife.
"You know what, Deb? You can either fight it or go along for the ride," Mrs. Harshman told young Mrs. Jackson.
"And," Brad said Saturday, "we've had a great ride."
After SPU, Jackson spent four years teaching and as head coach at Olympia High School and another one as assistant principal and coach at Eastside Catholic in the Seattle suburbs. He got to Western Washington in 1985. Romar ended his fifth and final season in the NBA that year, with the Detroit Pistons.
Now, Jackson is joining Romar's staff on the defending Pac-12 regular-season champions.
"I've been calling the shots for a long time. Obviously, that will be somewhat of an adjustment for me," the veteran of 32 consecutive years of head coaching. "But our coaches at Western, we all worked as a team. And in talking to Lo, I know that's how he likes to do it at Washington."
Jackson said he knows of the current Husky players, but not personally. Then again, it's not as if UW's and Western's recruiting circles intersect much.
"Obviously, I haven't coached at Division I. But I feel in some ways that will be a strength," he said. "I think what I do well is teach. I feel like I listen, I teach well, and I have good understanding of the game.
"At the Division-II level, there are a lot of recruits to sort through, and it's tough to get them sometimes. So I know a lot of folks.
I think what I do well is teach. I feel like I listen, I teach well, and I have good understanding of the game.
"I'm maybe different than a younger guy that is just getting his feet wet in coaching."
Indeed his connections throughout the Northwest, plus the fact Jackson has done everything from turn on the gym's lights for practice to rolling out the balls to coaching the low posts and guard weaves as a multi-tasking Division-II coach for the last 27 years, make him more versatile than most. That versatility likely will allow him merge relatively seamlessly into the Huskies' program days before it begins a two-week exhibition tour of Europe and Africa.
Jackson and his wife will be with the Huskies when they leave Friday for Barcelona. The team will play seven games from Aug. 28 through Sept. 7, in Spain, Paris and Nice in France, plus in Dakar, Senegal, the hometown of UW center Aziz N'Diaye.
Jackson is grateful for the foreign tour's timing in allowing him a bonus opportunity to learn Romar's system and how he will fit in. He and the head man had as of Saturday night yet to discuss what his exact role will be on a Huskies staff, that includes assistants Paul Fortier, another of Harshman's former players at UW, and Jim Shaw. Jackson has been friends with Fortier and Shaw for years.
"We are very thankful for this opportunity," Jackson said of the trip. "From the players' standpoint anything there is change, that is difficult. But kids are resilient, and I am really looking forward to getting to know them on this trip."
Jackson said his voice mailbox has been full and he has had so many texts and e-mail messages since his UW hire on Friday that he hasn't been able to read them all. But one congratulations he made sure he got to was from Harshman, through the legendary coach's son, Dave, a former assistant with WSU, Michigan State and the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics.
Oh, yes, Marv Harshman approves of his two protégés, Romar and Jackson, finally working together after all these years of intersecting connections to the Huskies.
"This is an opportunity to join a great university and a great program that Lorenzo has built into a power," Jackson said.
"This is very unique in that I already have a good relationship with U-Dub."