Last year, the Seattle University men's basketball team visited Hec Ed for the inaugural rekindling of a citywide rivalry that was snuffed out 29 years prior, when the Jesuit school with a proud hoops tradition (Elgin Baylor, Clint Richardson, the O'Brien twins, et. al.) made the controversial decision to abandon Division 1 athletics. To borrow a bit of soccer parlance, the game felt like a "friendly," as the Huskies toyed with the Redhawks for a half before throttling them.
"So, coach, what was like to dance with Baryshnikov in White Nights?"
But this year's different. Seattle U is now coached by Cameron Dollar, Husky helmsman Lorenzo Romar's longtime right-hand man, and has played an all-D1 schedule that has seen the team pull off extraordinary upsets at Utah and Oregon State, the latter a record-setting 51-point demolition that sent jaws agape nationwide.Meanwhile, as anyone who bore witness to last night's loss to lowly UCLA can attest, the Huskies of this year aren't nearly as good as last year's model, despite the team's insanely lofty preseason ranking. They miss the hell out of departed seniors Justin Dentmon and Jon Brockman. Absent Brockman's inside presence, the Dawgs, who again play host to Seattle U Tuesday night, will be hard pressed to come up with an answer for 6'10" Redhawk dynamo Chuck Garcia, arguably the city's best pro prospect (sorry, Quincy).
Last week, Seattle U athletic director Bill Hogan said that he felt the SU-UW rivalry was still probably a year away from being truly competitive. (2011 will mark the first time SU will host the Huskies, at KeyArena.) Romar's not sure it'll take that long. "We played Oregon State at home, and it was a four-point game or something (the Huskies actually won by six points)," says Romar "They went into Oregon State, and it was a 51-point game. [A fierce rivalry] could be here quicker than people think."
"We'll be competitive," promises SU assistant Donald Dollar, a former Atlanta (GA) high school coaching legend who happens to be Cameron's dad. "It's not outside the realm of possibility that we'll win."
Win or lose, what's got to gnaw at Romar is the fact that Garcia was earmarked for the Huskies as recently as June. Despite the the fact that the junior college transfer met NCAA academic requirements, UW denied him entry. Off he went to Seattle U, where he now plays for the man who recruited him on UW's behalf.
"People forget, a relationship [between Garcia and Dollar] was formed years ago," says Dollar. "Even after I started [at SU], I was helping him get stuff ready for Washington."
"Chuck Garcia is one of the nicest young men I've ever met," says Romar. "It's unfortunate that it didn't work out here, but I couldn't be happier for where he is now. He's getting national acclaim and getting Seattle U's program national acclaim. As devastated as I was to not get him, I couldn't be happier for him. And I'll leave it at that."
As for his relationship with Dollar, who assisted Romar at Saint Louis University before the two men migrated to Montlake together, Romar says, "It's weird in that, probably for the first time in 10 years, we don't talk on a regular basis. He's busy with his program, and we don't talk every day. But we stay in touch, and whenever we talk, it's like where we left off."