Coach's Corner

I got a chance to spend some time with Andy Russo last month watching the NCAA Tournament. Coach Russo, as many of you know, coached the Huskies from 1986-1989 and complied a .500 record (52-52) - which was good enough to get him fired by then-UW President, Bill Gerberding. Gerberding just happened to also fire the legendary Marv Harshman, as well as forcing out football Hall of Famer Don James.

Russo feels honored to have followed a legend like Marv and fully realized how difficult that task was always going to be (just ask Jim Lambright).

Russo took his first Husky team to the NCAA's, then went to the NIT before two losing seasons cost him his job. He still ended up with a better overall winning percentage than John Grayson (.404), Mac Duckworth (.338), Tex Winter (.452), Lynn Nance (.306), or Bob Bender (.389). That's right, in the history of modern basketball, only Marv Harshman and current head coach Lorenzo Romar, have had more success with the Huskies. I never even realized the Huskies had lost that much in hoops.

Coach Russo loved his stay in Seattle, and was rooting just as hard as anyone for the Huskies to beat North Carolina. Following his time at UW, Russo went back to his roots and coached for two years in the Italian Professional League, where he took his team to the finals of the European Championship.

He then took a coaching job with Florida Tech, where in eight years he compiled a 125-94 record and settled his family in sunny Boca Raton. He is now semi-retired, while coaching his daughter Alie and her high school team. He also runs camps and follows his son Drew, who is a starting cornerback on the US Coast Guard Academy football team.

Like many of us, he stays in the game without the high pressure of having to win.

Andy, of course, also coached the great Karl Malone at Louisiana Tech before coming to Seattle to coach the Huskies. He recently attended the Pac-10 Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Eldridge Recasner, and is proud of his experience with all the players he had a chance to work with at Washington.

There is life after being fired as a coach at Washington, as both Russo and I can testify, along with a great Husky like Marv Harshman and all the previously listed coaches. It just comes with the territory, and we all realize that there are only two kinds of coaches - those who have been fired and those who will get fired.

Watching UW in the NCAA Tournament, Russo was extremely impressed with the athletic Huskies, especially the abundance of 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-6 long-armed defenders, and of course the shooting strokes on players like C.J. Wilcox, Scott Suggs, and Terrence Ross.

Although he was disappointed like the rest of us with the decision of Isaiah Thomas to declare for the draft, he can't wait to see the return of Abdul Gaddy, as well as the addition of Tony Wroten. He wished there were those kinds of in-state players when he was in Seattle.

Russo was especially impressed when the Huskies began to extend their defense, and believes that with one more big the Huskies could be knocking on the door again next year. I told him about the series of injuries that beset the team early and the various distractions that this team went through, and he just shook his head.

He is a great fan of Lorenzo Romar, and hopes coach is given a chance to finish his career at Washington. It's all about winning and perception, but we all eventually move on.

Andy Russo chooses to remain positive about his time at Washington. He's still rooting for the Huskies even though he's living on the opposite coast.


Dawgman.com Top Stories