Coach Danny Sprinkle: UW Huskies ‘have to be a man-to-man team’

Apr 2, 2024, 1:52 PM

UW Huskies Danny Sprinkle...

Head basketball coach Danny Sprinkle of the University of Washington on March 31, 2024. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Danny Sprinkle is the new head coach of the UW Huskies men’s basketball team, but he’s no stranger to the University of Washington.

Sprinkle, who was hired last week following one year as head coach at Utah State and four years with his alma mater Montana State, grew up a UW fan as his dad played football for the Huskies in the 1960s.

Taking over with UW Huskies feels very personal for Danny Sprinkle

When Sprinkle joined Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy on Tuesday, he was very quick to break out a “Go Dawgs” before diving into how he became the next head coach at UW, which came after Utah State’s season ended in the NCAA Tournament.

“It was actually after we got back from the NCAA Tournament, kind of when I knew things were really going down that path,” Sprinkle said. “… When we flew back and got off the charter, it was just me and my mom and dad, so it was pretty cool. It was about midnight just around the dinner table when I told them. And obviously with my dad’s history here and some family living in Seattle, it was pretty special.”

Sprinkle has been to the NCAA Tournament three times as a head coach, but the Huskies haven’t been to the tournament since the 2018-19 season. Building a team for postseason play is key, Sprinkle told Bump and Stacy.

“We talk about it a lot. We’ll talk about it in summer workouts,” Sprinkle said. “We’ll talk about how we’re going to play at the end of February and March and how what we’re doing from a toughness standpoint and drill-wise, it’s developing us to be our best at the end of the year. I know how games are won in February and March, and it’s by players. You have to have guys making shots, you have to have guys getting the big rebounds or the big stops, and you have to have that built into your culture or you have no chance. So we talk about it a lot. We almost kind of speak it into existence so that way our guys are prepared for the moment.”

UW’s style of play under Sprinkle will also look different than it was under former head coach Mike Hopkins. That’s especially true defensively, as Hopkins was big in running the 2-3 zone he adopted from his long tenure as a Syracuse assistant coach under Jim Boeheim.

“I mean, it’s kind of old school. They’re going to be tough and physical,” Sprinkle said. “Our guys, we’re going to guard. Like I said, I know that’s how you win games late in the season. We’ve been primarily probably 85% man-to-man team in all of my five years as a head coach. You do have to mix in zone. Coaches are too good and players are too good. Like, you have to throw some change of pace. Our zone has mostly been a 1-3-1 kind of half-court trap. And I think with the athletes we’re going to be able to get here, that’s going to be really effective at times. But we’re going to have to be a man-to-man team.”

Sprinkle said his defense is also very “contained.”

“We keep our guy in front and make them score over us. Be disciplined, be in the gaps, and that way we have our rebound responsibilities taken care of and you box out your guy, and then we’re going the other way,” he said.

Offensively, Sprinkle wants his players to “play fast.”

“On misses and turnovers, we played as fast as anybody in the country the last couple of years, and I don’t want to change that,” Sprinkle said of his Utah State and Montana State teams. “I think letting guys utilize their talent and their speed and athleticism, that’s what I want them to do. If we do get stuck in the half court, then we’re going to run a set and we’re going to get our guys that are scorers and are creators the ball to be able to give us the best chance to get the best shot.”

UW Huskies’ Sprinkle on ‘changed’ landscape of college sports

With college athletes making a lot of money off their name, image and likeness (NIL), Sprinkle says “the whole college landscape has changed.” That makes it hard for some schools to get local recruits to stay home.

“It’s transactional now. It is. It’s kind of if you have the money, they’ll stay, and if not, somebody (will give them) something more,” he said.

For UW, Sprinkle wants to find players who are the right fit for the team, the school and, most importantly, want to play at Washington.

“They don’t want to play for themselves, they want to play for Husky basketball. And that’s important because that’s been the culture here,” he said. “When you look at when coach (Lorenzo) Romar and some of the best teams that ever played here, they were playing for the name on the front of the jersey. And it’s easy to say not (for the name on) the back, but that’s why Nate Robinson and Brandon Roy and (Will) Conroy, that’s why those guys were so great here is because Seattle was so important to them.”

What’s also hard now is that most players don’t want to stay at a school to develop. They want to play immediately, otherwise they’ll transfer somewhere else.

“Those days are over. If you bring in a highly-touted freshman and he doesn’t play or gets beat out, he’s leaving,” Sprinkle said. “And it doesn’t matter if he’s from Seattle, if he’s from LA, if he’s from Houston. Like wherever they’re from, they’re leaving. They want to play. That’s the hardest thing about shaping a team and shaping a culture these days.”

Listen to the full Bump and Stacy conversation with new UW Huskies men’s basketball head coach Danny Sprinkle in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

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Coach Danny Sprinkle: UW Huskies ‘have to be a man-to-man team’