Commentary: Seattle U men’s basketball thriving despite early-season coaching change

It's the feel-good story that not many are talking about – at least, yet: The Seattle U men’s basketball team, which is thriving despite a turbulent start to their season. 

If you missed it, less than a week before their first game in November, the school placed coach Jim Hayford on administrative leave. Hayford had reportedly used a racial slur in a scrimmage, and although he apologized, the majority of his players refused to play for him. About a week later, Hayford resigned, with athletic director Shaney Fink saying it was clear Hayford was no longer able to effectively lead the team.

This past weekend, the Redhawks won their seventh straight game. They’re a perfect 6-0 in their conference for the first time in school history. And their 15-4 record is the school’s best start in 58 years – since 1964!

To do this in a normal season would be accomplishment enough. But to do so amidst such controversy and a shake-up at the very start of their season is remarkable. They’re averaging more points per game than any other team in the Western Athletic Conference. Darrion Trammell leads the WAC in assists and steals per game, and Cameron Tyson has 22 more three-pointers than anyone else in the conference so far. 

By the way – that includes this incredible half-court buzzer beater in the first half at Abilene Christian on Thursday.

Certainly a lot of credit goes to interim head coach Chris Victor, who, along with his coaching staff and captains, has held this team together after the sudden and unexpected change. Whether Victor is coaching for the full-time job or not, he’s shown that he’s more than worthy and deserving. But at the very least, it’s great to see this group playing for each other and enjoying this run. 

Listen, there’s no question Seattle U needs more exposure to recruit competitively against other schools in this city and across the state. That exposure will come from conference titles and most importantly, finally earning berths into the NCAA Tournament in March. 

It’s been about 15 years since Seattle U first applied to return to Division I sports, and in the time since, they’re still waiting to punch their ticket to the Big Dance, despite a chance to do so in their conference tournament each year. If that somehow happened this March, of all the seasons they’ve had to this point, it would qualify as one of the best stories of the year. 

Because if they’re able to do that – and create some momentum – we’ll start to see more than an average of 1400-1500 fans when they play a handful of home games at Climate Pledge Arena. The announced crowd of just 775 fans for a weeknight game in December in an arena that holds more than 18,000 will be a distant memory. 

That kind of success is up to them. But the least we can do tonight is give them the exposure they deserve for the accomplishment this season to this point.

And yes – they’re back at Seattle Center on Wednesday night – so go check them out.