ESPN’s Thamel: Why Dannen left UW, what it means for hoops coach search

Mar 20, 2024, 8:51 AM | Updated: 11:35 am

The Troy Dannen era of UW Huskies athletics is over almost as fast as it started.

UW Huskies athletic director Troy Dannen leaving for Nebraska

Less than six months after being hired as the athletic director at the University of Washington, Dannen is leaving the Pacific Northwest for the Midwest, taking the role of AD at Nebraska. Dannen was hired at UW in early October after running Tulane’s athletic department from 2015-23.

Pete Thamel of ESPN was the first to report the news of Dannen’s departure, and he joined Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk to explain why this happened.

“I think it’s pretty simple,” Thamel said. “Troy Dannen is of the Midwest. He was AD at Northern Iowa for eight years and that’s where his family is from, that’s where his wife’s family is from. And if you grow up in the Midwest in college athletics, Nebraska is a destination.”

“This was an opportunity, from what sources told me, that Troy Dannen saw as a way to get home to a destination job,” Thamel later added. “It wasn’t a slight on Washington as much as it was a slight on Washington’s geography, you know?”

UW Huskies men’s basketball coach search

What makes the timing of Dannen’s departure especially interesting isn’t just that Washington is officially joining the Big Ten soon, but that Dannen recently fired head men’s basketball coach Mike Hopkins after seven years on the job, so UW is currently searching for Hopkins’ replacement. So the Huskies now are looking for a new athletic director, too.

How does Dannen leaving impact the upcoming basketball coach hire?

“That search is expected to stay on track with where it was (before Dannen left),” Thamel said.

Danny Sprinkle, the head coach at Utah State who led the Aggies to an NCAA Tournament appearance this season, is the “presumed favorite” to be the next men’s hoops coach at Washington, Thamel said. If it’s not Sprinkle, Thamel says it’s likely another coach from the Mountain West.

“If you are a Mountain West coach and you can — I’m just guessing here — (get) 2.5 times your (current) salary to get to the right side of the river in a Power Two (conference), you’re probably going to deal with some athletic director uncertainty and take the job, right?” he said. “That’s not going to be, ‘Hey, I’m going to stay at Utah State, Boise State, Colorado State, etc., because I’m not certain who my boss will be.’ It’s, ‘I’m going to get to that right side of the river Washington is squarely on.'”

Despite struggles under Hopkins, Thamel thinks the UW basketball job “is a really good” one.

“It’s a tougher basketball job in the Big Ten, but Seattle produces talent,” Thamel said. “You guys know all the names and your listeners know all the names. So I don’t think it’s an uncomfortable moment for that search. But I think that search goes forward without too big of a hitch here. And I think whenever their target either loses in the NCAA Tournament or emerges here in the next week, I think they land the plane.”

“I don’t think it’s debilitating to the search,” Thamel added. “I think it’s an uncomfortable speedbump that gets smoothed over and they get exactly who they targeted and want.”

Listen to the Brock and Salk’s conversation with Pete Thamel at this link or in the player near the top of this story, or in the video player at the top of this story.

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