Garfield High photo

Ed Haskins tells CF.C he thinks Seattle talent can help take Washington State basketball to the next level

ED HASKINS remembers the night like yesterday. More than 12,400 vocal Cougs were in Beasley Coliseum to see Washington State battle UCLA in a late-season showdown for first place in the Pac-12

Haskins’ big brother, Cougar forward and co-captain Aaron Haskins, was not only a key performer on that NCAA-bound WSU team but also taking center stage before tip off by playing the national anthem on the saxophone.

“I was 11-years-old,” remembers Ed, the esteemed Garfield High basketball coach who today joined Ernie Kent’s staff at WSU.

“The place was packed, it was senior night and UCLA, if I’m not mistaken, was ranked in the top five in the country. It was just a huge game ... I remember my brother being really nervous — in part because he was going to do the national anthem.”

The Cougars won in thrilling fashion on Bryan Pollard’s putback at the buzzer, but Aaron’s stirring anthem is what his little brother — like many others who were there — remembers most.

“He totally shut the place down,” Haskins recounted with CF.C. “I think that really set the tone for that huge win and I believe George Raveling said that later.”

Beasley was deafening that night in 1983.

“I want to help Coach Kent get that place rocking again,” Haskins said. “That’s all I remember when Aaron was playing and when I attended WSU. Beasley was full. People were waiting to get into the gym.

“It was just exciting, so much anticipation. I know for a fact Coach Kent is the one to bring us back to that place. I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to help him do that.”

Since his brother graduated from WSU, Haskins said, there have been two notable eras in Cougar basketball, under Kelvin Sampson in the early 1990s and Tony Bennett a decade ago. In both, he believes, WSU could have taken matters to an even higher, lasting level by tapping into the pipeline of talent from Seattle.

The Cougars have landed a handful of Emerald City guys over the years, but no 4-star caliber prospects since Charlie Sells and Terry Ball came on board in the early Marv Harshman years.

“Seattle is a hot bed of basketball talent, absolutely, but I don’t think it’s about cracking the code,” Haskins said. “I think it’s about building strong relationships and attacking the stigma of Pullman, among Seattle kids, head on.”

By stigma, Haskins is referring to the middle-of-nowhere perception rather than the charming, spirited college town that it is. The UW, being just minutes from home, can be a natural default for Seattle prospects, but WSU lends itself to incredible nurturing, maturing and mentoring, Haskins said.

“I think sitting next to Mike Bethea (Rainier Beach head coach) for nine years and knowing Darryl Hennings (director of Rotary Style club basketball) for 20-plus years and trying to do things the right way at Garfield will help me convey Coach Kent’s vision and open the door (to more Seattle prospects),” he said.

Between his work as an AAU coach, assistant at Rainier Beach and head coach at Garfield, Haskins has helped develop a Who’s Who in Seattle-area basketball talent. The list includes Jamal Crawford, Spencer Hawes, Nate Robinson,  Isaiah Thomas, Roderick and Loderick Stewart, Will Conroy, Ryan Anderson and Tony Wroten. Old Cougars Mike Ladd and Reggie Moore also are among those he’s coached.

Kent’s energy, enthusiasm and focus on mentoring players sold Haskins on joining the crimson side.

“I’m 44 years old and after talking with Coach Kent I was ready to get into the weight room. He’s a great motivator,” Haskins said. “I’m coming to Washington State because of what I’ve seen in Coach Kent. With a couple of pieces, he can do the same thing at WSU that he did at Oregon (two Elite Eight appearances)."

Asked about the possibility of flipping his two most recent stars (Stanford verbal Daejon Davis and UW commit Jaylon Newell) to WSU, Haskins chuckled and said “can’t touch that other than to say they’re great young men who will follow their hearts.”

WHEN IT COMES TO SIBLINGS — AND THERE were eight of them — Aaron Haskins stood out. And not just because he was 6-foot-8.

“Aaron is the oldest of nine and I’m the youngest. We affectionately called each other the bookends,” said Ed.

“Aaron was my idol. When mom would tell me he was coming home from WSU I would literally wait on the couch looking out the window for four or five hours waiting. I would meet him at the car when he drove up.

“He was larger than life to me. As the years progressed, he became more than a big brother but a mentor and father figure. He was so wise.”

Aaron passed away, unexpectedly, in his sleep in 2009.

“We had a very special bond and it went way beyond brothers. We were best friends. Literally, I miss him terribly… he’s with me everyday.”

After graduating from WSU with two NCAA Tournament appearances on his resume, Aaron Haskins went to work as a WSU admissions counselor and later helped form the school’s minority recruiting office. He and his wife Cheryl and three kids moved to Seattle in 1992.

That was the same year Ed headed east, to WSU, from hometown Pierce Community College in Tacoma. And contrary to popular belief (mistakenly abetted by CF.C), he wasn’t a walk on guard with the Sampson-coached Cougars, Haskins points out.

“I was with the team all the time and worked out with them but I never put on a Washington State uniform. I was there, but I didn’t travel with the team or anything like that,” he said.

Haskins was so close to the program, in fact, that he hired two Cougar players from that era — Reco Rowe and Winston Bell — to assist him at Garfield. Another, but younger, old Coug — Randy Green — also assisted Haskins at Garfield.

“I got to know Coach Sampson very well and admired him,” Haskins said of his time in Pullman. “What a great basketball mind and feel for the game — how he managed a game was incredible.”

He remembers that Sampson had the word “intensity” printed on the back sides of the Cougars’ practice shorts.

When Haskins first put on a whistle himself, at South Shore Middle School in the Rainier Beach neighborhood, it was an instant fit.

“I immediately fell in love with coaching, more so than playing,” he said. “Seeing the light turned on with kids, being called coach, everything about it was really, really special to me.”

A few years later, former Seattle U basketball standout and Seattle Seahawks tight end Ron Howard introduced Haskins to Bethea at Rainier Beach High.

Five state championships and a host of NBA players later, that young coach is a seasoned veteran who is now off to test himself in the Pac-12.

RELATED STORY: Remembering Aaron Haskins and his special moment

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