Last week, I posted the first half of my interview with Percy Allen, the beat writer for the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team for the Seattle Times. You can read that first part of the interview here. Now, let’s get to the second part.
Jeff Taylor: This is your third season covering the beat of the Washington Huskies. In all three seasons you have witnessed this team go into slumps and then have to get hot late in the season just to make the NCAA tournament. Why do you think the Huskies have been so inconsistent the last three seasons despite their enormously talented players?
Percy Allen: Well, to answer that question, I think you have to look at the coach. Romar himself has admitted that there are issues he needs to address to prevent these types of slumps and the poor performances they have often had on the road. Part of the reason I think the team gets off to slow starts against decent competition has to do with Romar’s philosophy about coaching. As a player, he appreciated the ability to find his own game. That is something he tries to allow with the players he recruits. He does not go into training camp with any pre-determined ideas about who will be the starter, how many minutes players will play, what their roles on the team will be. He does not have a “rotation” planned when the games begin. He gives the players lots of latitude to show what they can do, see who works well together, and sort of lets the players themselves figure out what the roles will be. But, during this process of the players finding themselves, it can result in issues of chemistry and lack of cohesion.
Jeff Taylor: But, there has to be a point in the season where he’s seen enough right? Is there a point in the season where he builds in more structure to the offense and defense? At what stage does he take the reigns and decide “OK this is what the rotation will be and what roles you will have”.
Percy Allen: I think Romar usually tightens the leash right around the 5th or 6th conference game. At that stage, he generally will shorten up the rotation, he’ll play certain combinations of players more, and decides what sort of roles they will play. Every year is different and much of it depends on the personnel he has. He is constantly adapting as the season goes on. If he sees something develop that needs fixing, he’ll change things up mid-stream.
Jeff Taylor: You have had the chance as a journalist to cover the Sonics in the NBA and the Huskies in college hoops. You’ve indicated previously that you enjoy the NBA more. But, what specific things do you like more about the NBA and are there things you enjoy more about college basketball?
Percy Allen: Wow, that’s a great question and a tough one to answer. In terms of the NBA, I think the thing that really stands out most is the athleticism. These players are just such incredible athletes. Their size, speed, and leaping ability just boggles the mind. It’s almost as if the court is too small to hold 10 players of that caliber all at once. The other thing I appreciate is the ability to get to know the players much more. I learned so much about the game of basketball from players like Gary Payton, Nate McMillan, and Shawn Kemp. Those guys, especially Nate McMillan, really would take the extra time to talk with you, explain what was happening on the court, why they ran certain plays or schemes.
George Karl is one person I admire the most. He really took the time to “teach” me the game, in a way that you could not possibly get just by watching in the stands. It’s much harder to get to know the players in college. They are just kids. They are students and they need to get out of the locker room and back to their classes and studying. And, that’s the way it should be. But, it is just harder to spend that time with them to develop the relationships.
Jeff Taylor: So, are there things about the college game you like more than the NBA?
Percy Allen: It’s different. One thing I like is that the college game is a bit more unpredictable. It’s really enjoyable watching the young players develop and to find their game. It was amazing to watch Isaiah Thomas grow as a player in his three years at UW and to see what he is doing now in the NBA. It was fun to watch a player like Quincy Pondexter really sort of click, to “get it”, his junior year. Then to see him really carry this team on his shoulders his senior year, and then head off to the NBA.
Jeff Taylor: How do you feel about the atmosphere of NBA games and college games as you have traveled around the country? What do you think about some of the criticism that people have of the NBA that there are so many games that many of the players sort of just take the game off.
Percy Allen: Well, there certainly are times when players take games off. It’s a long season and the coaches and players need to look out for the bigger picture, which is the NBA playoffs. That being said, I totally “get” why some people don’t really love the NBA. If I were paying $85 to go to an NBA game and one or more of the stars were not playing, or not playing with their best effort, I would be upset. Also, I understand the attitude in Seattle about not caring about the NBA. I am from Cleveland and I know what it is like to have a team ripped away from you.
Jeff Taylor: But, how would you describe the differences in the fan base. Is one more passionate than the other?
Percy Allen: Well, I would say the fan base is more diverse in the NBA. People can really jump on the bandwagon when the team is doing well, not matter their background. The college crowds are a bit more provincial, more exclusive. People really only get into the team when they have some connection to the school; whether it is the school they went to or someone in the family went there. Often, a significant portion of the population is sort of thinking “what’s all the fuss about” when a team is winning, because they don’t have a direct connection to that university.
Jeff Taylor: OK, last question. Do you feel like you have gotten into the groove with the blog at this point? I know there were quite a few people complaining, or at least comparing you to Bob Condotta and how he ran the blog before you. Do you feel comfortable now that this space is yours?
Percy Allen: Yeah, I feel pretty comfortable with the blog. I am totally different than Bob and we do things differently. I completely respect Bob and what he has done with the beat and the following he has. But, I also think we have some fun over on this side and are doing things to keep the fans informed. I spend quite a bit of time reading blogs from other Pac-12 teams to see what they are doing and seeing how this site compares. I really like some of the things I see down in Tucson or in the Bay Area, and I try to incorporate new ideas that will work well. But, all in all, I think this blog is doing a really good job giving the readers the information they want.
We have a great staff at the Seattle Times. I am really amazed at the photographers and writers and staff who help put this thing all together. I am really proud of what we are putting together.
Jeff Taylor: Well, thanks so much for being so generous and taking the time to talk to me. I got my start following the Huskies online with the Seattle Times blog and although I am so busy writing for Husky Haul that I don’t comment much anymore over at your site, I check your blog every day and read everything that you write. I really enjoy your stuff and think you are doing a great job.
Percy Allen: Thank you and it was fun to get the chance to talk with you…
You can follow Percy Allen on Twitter @percyallen and follow me @huskylenz
If you’ve never checked out Percy’s blog over at the Seattle Times, which I am sure you have, click on the link.