Jackson, a Cougar at heart, is a perfect fit at Washington
Former Western Washington coach Brad Jackson is a fighter and, just as important, he's a good guy. His move to UW is a bold, smart move.
Seattle Times staff columnist
At her wedding in 1978, Deb Jackson, the new bride of basketball coach Brad Jackson, was pulled aside by Dorothy Harshman, Marv's wife.
Deb's new husband was an assistant coach at Seattle Pacific and had dreams of someday running his own college program. Dorothy had lived her life with an iconic coach. She had married Marv and basketball, and she wanted to remind Deb that when you marry one, you get the other.
"I want to tell you that it's a tough business," Dorothy told Deb, a Hall of Fame gymnast at SPU, who met her husband in the hallway at the school's Royal Brougham Pavilion. "You can make a choice to either fight it or join it. I made the choice to join it, and it's been a great ride."
Late last week, Brad Jackson was named to replace Raphael Chillious as an assistant coach at Washington. Chillious is expected to be named an assistant at Villanova this week.
The best part of my job is the associations I've made over the past 30 years in Seattle, the abiding friendships I've made through sports. Coaches, players, a few general managers, athletic directors and fans who, over the years, have become friends much more than column fodder.
Brad Jackson is one of those important associations.
For most of his 27 years at Western, I watched him in epic battles against Seattle Pacific, saw him in chess matches and dogfights with Ken Bone, Jeff Hironaka and Ryan Looney.
Jackson is a fighter and, just as important, he's a good guy. A perfect fit for Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar.
A bit off basketball's beaten path, Jackson developed a national reputation at WWU. He won 518 games, culminating in last season's Division II championship, beating Montevallo (Ala.) in the nationally televised title game.
Although he played at Washington State, Jackson's connections to UW are deep.
He was recruited to WSU by Harshman before Harshman left for Washington. He played freshman basketball under future Husky assistant Denny Huston. Jackson's father-in-law, Roland Halle, was a member of Washington's 1953 Final Four team and later was an assistant there.
When Jackson was an assistant at SPU, he often went to Harshman's practices at Washington and watched an impressive guard named Lorenzo Romar.
And now, more than 40 years after he chose WSU over Washington, the Cougar is a Husky.
"It's a little weird," Jackson, 60, said by phone from Bellingham Sunday afternoon. "I'm sure my Cougar friends are going to be all over me. But an opportunity like this is probably only going to come around once. I had to go for it."
And now the head coach is becoming an assistant again. The coach who has been as faithful as the North Star is moving on.
"The adjustment to not being a head coach? I don't know if that will be a big deal. I don't think so," Jackson said. "I do know that it is different. You're making suggestions instead of decisions. But that's OK. I've been head coaching since I was 28. I'm not ego driven.
"Still, I honestly don't think I could do this with a lot of coaches. This is a chance to work with Lorenzo, and I think Lorenzo is a very sincere, very real person with very unique convictions. He's strong-willed, strong-minded. He's just a genuine person who's not all taken with himself. He communicates with people and he's just a great coach."
Romar and Jackson have their rich friendships with Harshman in common. Both were recruited by him and both were molded by him.
Even after Harshman left WSU, he often would call Jackson to see how his former recruit was doing. Jackson said the conversations were as much about life and education as they were about basketball.
"Marv has a great brain for the game. I learned a lot about basketball from him, about evaluating players and interacting with players," Jackson said. "But the relationship has gone way beyond basketball. There has been a deep friendship between the two families."
Twice, after Kevin Eastman and then after Paul Graham was fired, Jackson applied for the head coaching job at his alma mater. But if not getting the job was a disappointment to him, he never showed it.
"We made the decision a long time ago to not play the jump-around-all-over-the-place game," Jackson said. "Being able, as a young coach, to build something at Western, I loved that. It was awesome.
"Certainly, I wanted to see if I could get that job at WSU. But I also know that when you haven't been at that level, there's a lot that goes into a hire. It was disappointing, sure. But at the same time, I understood, and we're very happy with what we've done here."
Not many of us get the chance to take an adventurous new step in our 60s. Jackson could have stayed at Western another 20 years and been very happy. He would have chased more national championships and influenced the lives of several hundred more basketball players. But this was an opportunity too sweet to ignore.
"It's one of those spice-of-life situations," Jackson said.
And a coup for Romar and Washington.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com.
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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