When former UW assistant and UCLA point guard Cameron Dollar decided to take the head coaching gig at Seattle University this past off-season, more than a few folks were perplexed. Dollar was the top assistant to a head coach (Lorenzo Romar) and a program on the rise; were he to bide his time for another year or two, surely he'd land the top gig at a scrappy mid-major with even odds of making the NCAA tourney each year.
Coach Dollar's Squire Park head-scratcher gets less itchy with every Redhawk win.
Instead, Dollar chose to take the reins of a once-great, then dormant, now-fledgling team without a conference, TV deal, or a means to make the postseason, per the NCAA's rather punitive regulations for new programs. In so doing, he was handed the basketball equivalent of the keys to a nice old Mustang that hadn't had its ignition turned in 25 years.
The flip side is the job comes with very little pressure. Don't tell that to Dollar, though, whose team is playing as though its rookie coach's job is on the line. Last night, the Redhawks upset the University of Utah on the road, the same University of Utah that's produced NBA first-rounders like Andrew Bogut, Andre Miller, and Keith Van Horn and was once coached by the mighty Rick Majerus. The win marks three in a row for Seattle U, which started its streak with an impressive victory over Fresno State in front of former Chieftan (SU's former politically incorrect nickname) and NBA great Elgin Baylor on the KeyArena court now named in his honor.
It may be awhile before the Redhawks are selling out the Key, but their insanely cheap ticket prices make taking them in a fairly risk-free bargain in the meantime (season tickets behind the basket cost less than the worst upper-bowl seat at a single Sonic game). Harvard's visiting on January 2, and the Redhawks have road games further down the schedule against UW (wouldn't it be nice if Seattle had a legit crosstown rivalry?) and Oregon State, but the team's most important tilt will be a December 30 visit to Loyola-Marymount.
Loyola, you see, is one of the lesser teams in the WCC, the conference Gonzaga and a slew of Jesuit colleges play in. It'd be a perfect fit for Seattle U, and yet the conference has expressed wariness over adding an upstart program that could adversely impact its power ranking, a critical figure when it comes time to determine at-large bids to the NCAA tourney. But Seattle U. beat Loyola last year at home, and if it can pull a repeat on the road, the arguments for keeping Dollar's program out get all the more hollow.