Extremely Unique UW Coaching Debut For Jackson
Oct. 23, 2012
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE -- Brad Jackson has coached for the last 35 years. He's won 518 games and is one of only three coaches with 500-plus college basketball victories in the state of Washington.
He's won a Division-II national championship. He's led teams to the state high school playoffs. He's been the Pac-8 Conference's assist leader for Washington State, in the 1973-74 season.
All those thousands of games. Yet the new, 60-year-old Huskies assistant has never been a part of a contest like his UW debut Wednesday night.
"Probably not. I mean, it is extremely unique," Jackson said with a chuckle Monday inside the Founder's Club above the west basket of Alaska Airlines Arena, site of Wednesday's 7 p.m. exhibition between his new Huskies and his former Western Washington Vikings (the real-time game chat will be here on GoHuskies.com).
Jackson led Western to its first-ever D-II national title just seven months ago. He's been mixing "we" and "they" all week leading up to Huskies versus Vikings.
"It's a really unique and interesting situation," he said. "Certainly I imagine I'll have a lot of mixed feelings. Not only with the players but with (newly promoted WWU coach) Tony Dominguez, who coached with me for 15 years, and a couple of the other coaches.
"It just kind of ironic that we are playing them, because Lorenzo (Romar) has had a four-year cycle with the local D-IIs," Jackson said of UW's preseason exhibitions. "This year was Western's turn."
Dominguez and Jackson still talk almost daily. Dominguez was Jackson's top assistant until August, when Romar called Jackson and asked if he'd like to replace Raphael Chillious on his Huskies staff.
Chillious left for Villanova, and Jackson fulfilled a long-time curiosity and took a step up to Division-I with Washington.
He's now fully a Husky.
Well, this week, sort of.
"I mean, I want us to play well. I feel totally invested here. But I want those guys to play well, too," he said. "Emotionally, it will be different. I mean, for a long, long time Tony and I were sitting together and coaching every game together. Now, he will be sitting down there.
"It is just really unique. I think it's a great way to start the season."
Seems the entire city of Bellingham will be focused on Wednesday's exhibition 90 miles south down Interstate 5. The Bellingham Herald newspaper is featuring Jackson before the game. And the Jacksons are still deeply rooted in the community of about 82,000.
Jackson and his long-time wife Debbie -- a four-time All-American gymnast at Seattle Pacific whose father Roland Halle was a member of UW's 1953 Basketball Team that reached the Final Four -- still have their home in Bellingham. Brad and Deb's 32-year-old daughter Lynsey, son Kyle, their daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren all live there. The church they love is there.
"So that's the part of this for us that is a real tearing," he said.
Jackson is expecting Western to bring a sizeable fan contingent to Alaska Airlines Arena on Wednesday. And he expects the Vikings to play well. They lost only three players off last season's team, meaning Jackson didn't exactly leave Dominguez with an empty cupboard to defend its national title.
More reasons WWU shouldn't be daunted by playing the Huskies: The Vikings have eight players on their roster from the Seattle-Tacoma area. And they are playing exhibitions in the two winningest home arenas in major college basketball this week.
After playing at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, where UW's 921 home wins are the most in the nation, Western plays Saturday at Duke. Jackson accepted last spring when the Blue Devils continued their recent tradition of offering the previous season's D-II champion a preseason exhibition at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"I know psychologically in these kinds of games - even without this aspect to it - it's one where I know they will come with a very, very strong sense of purpose," Jackson said of his now-former Vikings. "I know they would like nothing better than to have a strong showing. And they are confident, obviously. They've had good success. And I know they are planning on having more success.
"I know the mindset is such that they will come in with a fired-up personality."
Fired-up to beat their not-so-old coach?
Jackson doesn't think that's necessarily so.
"I've talked to every one of those players. Some at length," he said of a Western team with 10 seniors and juniors. "They basically were sad and glad, I think. It was probably a shock to them in a lot of ways, especially for some of the guys that have been in the program for a long time.
"I think that's the sad part, because you develop relationships. And then you were having a great year last year, and have had some pretty good years while they've been there. But at the same time I think they were also excited for me."
Western will look similar to UW, scheme-wise.
When Jackson arrived at Western Washington in 1985 he installed the high-post offense. It's the same set the Huskies are running as its primary set offense for the first time under Romar this season. Jackson's been running it since he was leading Eastside Catholic and Olympia high schools and at his first college job at Seattle Pacific beginning as an assistant in 1977.
From the late 1990s until about five years ago, Jackson said he ran the high-post offense "almost identically" to how the Huskies are running it now. That's with a one-guard front and a four-man alignment in the area of the foul line extended.
Senior point guard Abdul Gaddy is directing the new sets now that top scorers Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten have gone early to the NBA. Jackson said Gaddy and the Huskies got a timely head start on the high-post offense during their six-game exhibition tour of Europe that ended early last month.
"They are doing a very good job for this time of year. The Europe trip helped quite a bit," he said.
The next step, he said, is getting to the point where ball handlers can read the defense's anticipation of the guards' cuts off the high post in the new offense. So it will be a sure sign the Huskies have internalized their new scheme when Gaddy starts stepping back from the defense's sags inside for those cuts to the basket -- and starts taking longer-range shots instead of passing off the high-post sets.
"Have structure without taking away individual initiative," is how Jackson summarized the intent of the high post, quoting the master of it, John Wooden.
"We are all excited to see how this year's version of the Huskies is going to look because it is going to be a different style, which I think people will really enjoy," Jackson said. "Having coached that offense for a while, once the players start taking ownership, it's fun to watch. It really, in a sense, almost creates really good team play.
"It lends itself to very aesthetically pleasing basketball when it's played well."
He should know. He's coached it to both of the teams playing in Wednesday's exhibition.
"I'm sure," the new Husky, recent Viking said, "it will be interesting, to say the least."