“Everybody’s hungry,” Crisp told Dawgman.com this week during UW’s final week of spring workouts. “All the games, all the losses, the negativity that was thrown at us…everybody’s got it all built up in them and we just use it in our workouts and everything we do to get better. Every aspect - the classroom, all of that.”
There’s been a lot of upheaval in the wake of UW’s 9-22 season, including only two wins in conference. It started with the firing of long-time head coach Lorenzo Romar. Romar was not just the dean of the Pac-12 coaches, he was a fixture in the Seattle Basketball community. And in a flash, it was all gone - and Crisp saw it all unfold in real time.
“Right when (Romar) got out of his meeting I was leaving the gym,” Crisp said. “I ran into him right after he got the news. I could tell seeing him from afar with his body language and his face that something was going on. I talked to him then. It was tough. He said he was going to stay in touch with me and was sad he could be there to watch the rest of my career. We talked and everything is still good with us.”
Romar was let go March 15th. Two months later, and Crisp still seemed a bit taken aback by the thought of it. “Everybody was surprised,” he said. “It really hit people. It’s kind of like a big shock throughout the whole city. What’s going on from here? A lot of people were unsure about a lot of things.
“He’s been in this program forever and that’s who I grew up watching. When I watched the guys, Romar was coaching. This is going to be a whole new culture with him being gone. It definitely hit me hard.”
Crisp gave himself a day to get over the initial shock, and then started to plan. What was he going to do now?
“I let my family know,” he said. “I talked to them. They told me to stay patient. You don’t have a lot of time ahead of you, so just think about what you really want to do, see how things work out, see who comes in. See how things play out, pray about it. I did that and everything worked out fine.”
During the whole coaching transition, Crisp never thought about asking for a release to go and possibly pursue other options. “I’m from here, a hometown guy,” he said. “I love having all my family here to watch me play. I was just waiting to see who they brought in because I wanted to stay here. This is where I’m from. Coach Hop (Mike Hopkins) came in and I was real happy with that so I could stay home.”
Crisp recounted the first time he met Hopkins.
“He was in a suit the first time I met him on campus before his meeting, and he sprinted up to me from across the court,” Crisp said. “He was wearing a suit! I was like dang. He came up, gave me a big hug. From then on I was like, this guy is a real dude. He’s a real genuine guy. You could feel it the first time you meet him. I don’t think people yet understand just how genuine he is.
“Obviously his energy is crazy but he’s like a freak when it comes to attention to detail. Everything matters. Every little detail matters. He’s real big on that. He’s not going to let anything slide.
According to Crisp, new assistant coach Dave Rice is another one of the new coaches that is a real stickler for the particulars, especially off the court.
“He’s real big with academics,” Crisp said of Rice. “He knows a lot, he’s a real smart guy. He won’t say too much, you know? But the stuff that he does say is all real important stuff, all attention to details. He makes sure everybody is staying on top of their work in the classroom. He’s a real big part of the team.”
And being a local kid, Crisp already had a relationship with Cameron Dollar before the former Seattle University Head Coach came back to Montlake for his second stint with the Huskies.
“He started recruiting me when I was real young,” Crisp said of Dollar.
“He was always a real cool dude. I would go to some of the Seattle U games and he would talk to me. We would have conversations and he was always real cool with me. Playing against him too. He saw my game, so he was already familiar with my game. He had scouting reports against me, so now he’s on my side helping me. It’s cool.”
With Dollar and Will Conroy still on staff, there’s ties to the past with Romar. With Hopkins and Rice, there’s a new energy and way of doing things that has already rubbed off on the players during their off-season workouts.
But the specter of Romar still looms. Now an assistant at Arizona, the new-look Hoop Dawgs will have to go to battle against a familiar face.
“It’s going to be a real emotional game, obviously,” Crisp said, having already thought about it. “But it’s Arizona. I’m not going into it with a friendly mentality. We’re trying to get that win.
“We’re coming into everything with a championship mentality. We’re ready for next year.”