Life-long Washington Huskies fan Danny Sprinkle thrilled for opportunity as new basketball coach

New Washington basketball coach Danny Sprinkle poses with interim athletic director Erin O'Connell at a press conference announcing the hire on March 27, 2024 at the University of Washington. (Photo by Curtis Crabtree / FOX 13 Seattle)

New Washington Huskies basketball coach Danny Sprinkle was still trying on Wednesday to process the reality that he's now going to be coaching the school he grew up rooting for from Montana.

Sprinkle was introduced as the new head basketball coach after spending just one season at Utah State, where he took the Aggies to the second round of the NCAA Tournament this past weekend. Sprinkle couldn't even get through the first sentences of his opening remarks without getting choked up.

"I know everybody says it's like a dream come true, but it's awesome," Sprinkle said on Wednesday.

Sprinkle wanted to make it very clear he doesn't claim Washington as his home state despite being born in Pullman. He was raised in Montana and claims the state as home. But beyond that reality, Sprinkle has always been a long-time Husky fan. 

Sprinkle grew up in Helena, Montana and went to school at Montana State University in Bozeman, but his first college basketball game was watching the Huskies play at Montana State in the 1987 NIT. His father, Bill, played football at Washington in the 1960s under head coach Jim Owens and that helped foster the attachment to the Huskies.

"Just with my family connections here and being a lifelong Husky fan, it's a tremendous honor," Sprinkle said. "And once it happened, it still hasn't really hit me because things move so fast."

Sprinkle and his father have attended Husky football games together on multiple occasions. He admitted that when he was coaching at Montana State and Utah State, he'd often leave their football games to go watch Washington play instead. The two were together to watch the National Championship game in Logan, Utah back in January as well.

Additionally, his sister, Erin, already lives in Seattle as well. Sprinkle said both Erin and his other sister, Lacey, were hoping he would get the Husky job.

"This is personal, too," Sprinkle said. "And not just my dad playing here, but like all of his friends that he played with. My sister, we grew up on Husky football.

"They wanted it to happen. It's special for our family. … So much of it is timing, opportunity, chance, and luckily we've had some successful seasons the last three years to put me in a position to be here."

Washington head football coach Jeff Fisch speaks with new head basketball coach Danny Sprinkle, and his father and former Washington football player Bill Sprinkle following a press conference announcing Sprinkle's hiring on March 27, 2024. (Photo by Curtis Crabtree / FOX 13 Seattle)

Sprinkle takes over the program after the departure of Mike Hopkins, who was relieved of his duties as head coach at the end of the season after seven years with the Huskies.

Hopkins, 54, was twice named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year in his first two seasons heading the program. The Huskies made it to the second round of the NIT in Hopkins’ first season in 2017-18, and followed that up with a Pac-12 regular season conference title following a 27-9 season in 2018-19. As a 9-seed in the NCAA Tournament, Washington beat Utah State 78-61 in the first round before being bounced out in an 81-59 loss to 1-seed North Carolina.

But Washington hasn’t come close to earning a postseason appearance since Hopkins’ second season on Montlake. 

Washington finished last in the Pac-12 in 2019-20 despite having two first-round NBA draft picks on the roster in Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels as freshmen. During a COVID-19 affected 2020-21 season, the Huskies managed just five wins in a 5-21 campaign where they were 11th in the conference. The Huskies were 7th in the conference this season with a 17-15 overall record and a 9-11 mark in the Pac-12.

Sprinkle believes the team is closer to getting back to the NCAA Tournament than it may seem. He wants the focus of the program to be the players and rebuilding the legacy of the program that thrived under local stars such as Brandon Roy, Will Conroy and Isaiah Thomas.

"I want to represent every former player," Sprinkle said. "Like I told the team yesterday, we're not playing just for this team. We're playing for anybody whoever wore that jersey before us. It's important to me and I come with that edge every day in practice. Days they don't want to practice, I'm pushing them because Isaiah Thomas would want to push them. I'm pushing them because Brandon Roy deserves it. I'm pushing them because Quincy Pondexter and everybody that played before, Detlef Schrempf, all those guys. Like that's my job. And I take an immense amount of pride in that and our team is going to take a lot of pride in that."

Under Sprinkle, the Aggies went 28-7 and won the Mountain West regular-season title before knocking off TCU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.


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