Washington Huskies head basketball coach Lorenzo Romar was fired shortly after finishing a soggy 9-22 campaign, the worst in his 14 years at the helm, despite having the likely No. 1 overall pick (Markelle Fultz) in the upcoming NBA Draft. This seemingly non-controversial decision was made much more complicated by the fact that Romar was about to bring in a top recruiting class, led by Michael Porter Jr., the top-ranked player in the nation, whose father was a Washington assistant coach.
And sure enough, new Huskies coach Mike Hopkins has since lost out on Porter Jr. and two other recruits, and two players announced they will transfer. Porter Jr. hasn’t announced where he’ll go yet, but all signs point to him joining his father, recently hired by Mizzou.
Porter Jr.’s decision to leave the Huskies made some sectors of Washington basketball fans mad, but none more so than Tacoma News-Tribune columnist John McGrath, who wrote a column last night entitled “Porter doesn’t fit the mold Hopkins is looking for.” If you think he’s ready to forgive Porter for this heinous betrayal, you’ve arrived at the wrong blog.
Michael Porter Jr. on Wednesday was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year, a formal honor that barely describes his obvious status as the greatest talent ever to grace a basketball floor.
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McGrath counterposes Porter winning the National Player of the Year award with Hopkins’s introductory press conference—because it was a bad thing to have won a national honor?—setting up the familiar complaint of me-first youths prioritizing themselves over team glory.
There were plenty of ways for Hopkins to reassure Porter that he’s Number One, Top of the Heap, Best of the Best.
“It is my honor to stand in your glorious and majestic presence,” Hopkins could have said. “I worked 22 years at a college basketball powerhouse, seen a lot of superstars in my life and time, but never have I been so privileged to meet the most gifted of them all.”
His hypothesis is that Hopkins could have retained Porter, if only he had simply worshipped at the altar. By this logic, Porter didn’t leave Washington because the head coach who recruited him, as well as his father, were fired, but because the new coach wasn’t excessively deferential to his talent.
Hopkins took a more detached approach. It seems he believes that high school prospects who are all-in pose a sturdier foundation for a program in flux than prospects who look at college as a brief, obligatory diversion — seven months of basketball boot camp before the stakes get real.
If Porter is as good as scouts say he is (really fucking good!) then of course he’s only coming to college for a cup of coffee before leaving to get paid for his labor in the NBA, a situation not necessarily of his choosing but forced upon him by NBA rules. But McGrath, of course, only sees nobility in recruiting mediocre prospects who aren’t good enough to quickly jump to the NBA:
The UW commitment was lukewarm, entirely steeped in his father’s friendship with Romar. For that matter, Porter’s affiliation with Nathan Hale was lukewarm. He averaged 36.2 points on those 29 occasions the Raiders played a basketball game. The rest of the time, the home-schooled Porter was isolated from classmates.
Kid arrives from out of town, a senior with no friends at the cafeteria lunch table. So the easy solution, of course, is to ensure he never sits at the cafeteria table.
McGrath pins Porter Jr. choosing not to attend UW on the fact that he was home schooled, and moved to follow his father’s new coaching job at Washington, ascribing Porter Jr. no agency, a basketball cyborg driven only by selfishness. As if moving across the country to play for a weak program with little chance of winning the Pac-12 was all part of a grand, devious plan.
Happy trails, Michael. You’re the best basketball player in the history of the world, a genuine miracle-worker. But when a marching band didn’t appear at your front door, and the coach didn’t genuflect to you on the porch, you realized the University of Washington was ready to move on. Hang in there, Anointed One. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Hang in there, Anointed One. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
It seems that McGrath’s me-first attitude is keeping him from seeing Porter Jr.’s side of the equation.