We start with Nathan Hale’s state championship in 3A: An undefeated season. Arguably the best prep basketball team ever in Seattle – and that’s saying a lot.
And despite what I’m about to say, you have to give credit to the athletes for living up to the hype. For staring in the face of scrutiny all season and defeating all comers, from the best in our state to the best in the country to finish a perfect year. To many, this should simply be a celebration of our city - of Seattle basketball – of an incredible performance from Michael Porter Jr. to a successful first-year head coaching campaign by former NBA All-Star Brandon Roy.
I agree with that: Don’t take away anything from the kids. Their on-court performance deserves the highest praise and recognition. And to me, Nathan Hale is a fantastic feel-good story.
But I also understand the cloud that hangs over it.
To recap the timeline: Nathan Hale was a perennial doormat in boys basketball. 3-18 last year. Lorenzo Romar hired his longtime friend Michael Porter Sr. as an assistant coach at UW. Porter and his three sons moved to Seattle. Roy, a Husky alum, takes the head coaching job at Hale. The Porter sons decide to play for Roy at Hale. Four more top prospects transfer to Hale. Porter Jr. then officially commits to Romar and UW.
Thus began the Miracle on 30th Ave Northeast – a storybook rise from the ashes, culminating in a state championship last night.
Even giving them the benefit of the doubt that everything was done aboveboard (because nothing has been proven otherwise), you still have to understand how it looks.
Here’s a hypothetical: Let’s say Ingraham High School, a perennial doormat in prep football, hired UW alum Warren Moon as their new head coach. The father of the top quarterback recruit in the country happens to be a longtime friend of Huskies coach Chris Petersen, who hires him as an assistant coach. They move to Seattle and his son enrolls at Ingraham to play for Moon. Ingraham then gets 25 transfers of top recruits (remember, we’re being proportional between sports here). The top quarterback recruit then commits to play for Petersen and the Huskies.
In one season, Ingraham becomes the top-ranked prep team in the state. Is that a feel-good story? Or a school taking advantage of a broken system that doesn’t enforce open enrollment the way it should?
And as far as transfers, the school is basically doing what private schools are allowed to do every single year.
Or, for Husky fans: Let’s say University High in Spokane, who went 0-and-5 in district this year, hired Washington State alum Drew Bledsoe as head coach. The father of the top recruit in the country happens to be a longtime friend of Mike Leach, who hires him as an assistant coach. His son then plays for Bledsoe and University High gets 25 top football recruits transferring in. The top recruit then commits to play for Leach and the Cougs.
I hope you see my point. Again, no one should take anything from the athletes. They’re not at fault here. Let the kids celebrate.
But coincidences or not, Hale’s worst-to-first story is still overshadowed by the circumstances of how it all came to be. You have to understand why critics are still talking about how it all appears.