SEATTLE — When Brad Jackson was hired to be the newest member of Lorenzo Romar’s coaching staff at Washington, he spoke of scouting being one of his strengths.
His first game assignment as a Washington assistant could be the easiest scouting report Jackson will ever put together.
The task this week for Jackson was to give a detailed breakdown of the Huskies’ exhibition opponent on Wednesday night, defending Division II national champion Western Washington.
Just so happens that Jackson, a graduate of Hudson’s Bay High School, knows the Vikings perhaps as well as anyone. He was the head coach at Western Washington for the previous 27 seasons, capped by leading the Vikings to their first national title last season.
Was it odd and awkward to scout players that he recruited to Western? You bet. Did it make his job easier? Absolutely.
“It meant that I probably didn’t have to study as hard,” Jackson joked Tuesday.
But that won’t make Wednesday any easier when he looks across and sees the players he brought to Western now as opponents, or Tony Dominguez, the new coach of the Vikings, who served as an assistant to Jackson for the previous 17 seasons.
After nearly three decades as the head coach in Bellingham, Jackson jumped at the opportunity to move up a level and become an assistant on Romar’s staff. It wasn’t the first time Romar had tried to hire Jackson.
But that was before Jackson had provided a capper to his career. His early years at WWU were spent rebuilding a program that had not made a national tournament appearance in 16 years before Jackson took the Vikings to the NAIA national tournament in 1988. Western Washington was 46-57 in the four seasons before Jackson arrived. In years two through five, the Vikings won 20 games each season.
Suddenly, Western Washington basketball was a community event and Jackson was able to maintain that in his long tenure.
“I felt like I was treated very, very well by the community and we were fortunate to be able to develop something that hadn’t happened prior and sustain that over time,” Jackson said. “So that’s the thing that I feel good about. I think basketball at Western Washington has become a community event people take a lot of ownership in, take a lot of pride in. We just tried to develop a culture of excellence.”
The pinnacle of Jackson’s career at WWU came last season when the Vikings defeated Montevallo 72-65 to win their first national title in just their second appearance at the Division II Elite Eight. And the Vikings return three starters off that championship team, so not only does Jackson know the personnel that Washington will face, but also the attitude WWU will bring as the underdogs into the Huskies’ lone exhibition game.
“The psychological advantage is certainly in their favor. When Western came in here before it was a mindset that we’re going to come out and play well,” said Jackson, who twice brought the Vikings to Seattle to face Washington in exhibition games. “And given the number of players that have come back off the national championship team, their goals for this year I do not think it will be a situation where they are intimidated or going to be holding back.”
For the Vikings, the game against Washington is just a precursor to this weekend when they will travel across the country to play at Duke. It’s the fifth time in the last six seasons the Blue Devils have invited the defending Division II champ to play an exhibition on their home court.
Romar said the early date for the exhibition game changed some of the Huskies’ preseason camp plans. It was just by luck of the rotation that Western is this year’s opponent as Romar has spread his exhibition games around between WWU, Seattle Pacific, St. Martin’s and Central Washington since 2007.
“Hopefully. regardless of who we play, we have pretty good familiarity with that team,” Romar said. “So we pick his brain just as we would any other team that we would play.”