Maybe yesterday’s headlines should have counted for at least another year for Ken Knutson.
Instead, the University of Washington’s all-time winningest baseball coach is unemployed, pink-slipped Monday after 17 years as the Huskies’ head coach.
Forget about his winning percentage of .600, best for a Huskies baseball coach. Forget about his 584 wins, most by a Huskies coach. And forget about his three Pacific-10 Conference coach-of-the-year awards.
On Monday, Knutson, who spent almost all of the past 27 years as a player, assistant coach and head coach at UW, learned that it’s not yesterday’s headlines that matter. It’s what you’ve done today that counts.
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In the past five seasons, UW finished fifth or sixth each year, finishing with a losing record once. This season, Washington slipped to 25-30, Knutson’s third losing campaign as head coach and first since 2000, when his team went 26-30.
Two success stories could have contributed to Knutson’s firing: The softball national championship won by Washington this season and Oregon State’s back-to-back NCAA baseball championships in 2006 and 2007. The success of these two programs raised the standard. If they can do it, why can’t Knutson?
His firing shocked his players, fans and opponents.
“I’m proud of everything the UW baseball program has accomplished during my years here,” Knutson said in statement released by the school. “I have met some really awesome people and coached so many great players over the years. That’s what I’ll miss the most, for sure.”
It’s a shame Knutson’s success didn’t buy him more time. Jim Lambright deserved that chance as the UW’s football coach 10 years ago. Hopefully, this decision won’t turn a winner into a loser.
Big meet, big performances
Austin Abbott and Zack Midles saved their best for last.
Abbott, who throughout his running career has shown this knack for coming up with the expected, placed seventh at the NCAA track and field championships in the 1,500 meters, capping his illustrious career at Washington with his sixth All-America honor. It’s his first in the 1,500.
“I’m happy with All-American, especially how I ran at Pac-10s and regionals. I sucked,” said Abbott, a Chehalis graduate.
Midles, a junior at Washington and a Capital graduate, moved from sixth to fourth in the hammer in his last throw at regionals to qualify for nationals. At nationals, he placed 13th with a throw of 210 feet, just missing the cut to reach the finals by 3 inches.
Midles still was named All-America as six throwers that placed ahead of him are foreign athletes and aren’t eligible for the honor.
In the 1,500 preliminaries, Abbott started near the back of the back and with his signature sprint to the finish broke a 22-year-old school record with a 3:39.6. In the finals, he finished in 3:41.1, his second-best time ever.
Abbott earned his sixth All-America honor, tying him with high jumper Rick Noji for fifth-most in school history. Abbott’s seventh-place finish in the 1,500 is the best showing in school history.
Since high school, Abbott has run with a gritty determination. At state his senior year, Abbott tripped and fell in the 800 preliminaries after he got caught up in a crowd of runners, dropping him to last. Rather than quit, Abbott bounced up and finished third, passing two runners in the final 200 meters to advance to the finals.
Ross is a beaver
In six months, Robin Ross has gone from fired to hired.
In January, Ross was fired as head football coach at Western Washington when the program was dropped. On Monday, he was hired to be the tight ends coach at Oregon State.
“My work is done here,” said Ross, who went 6-5 in his final season at WWU. “Now, it’s time to move on and move forward.”
Ross left Oregon State in 2005 to become Western’s head coach. Prior to that, Ross was tight ends coach at Oregon.
Greg Schultz, a senior at Concordia University and a Centralia grad, was named the athlete of the year for the Cascade Conference. He’s a six-time All-American in track and field and a two-time national NAIA hammer champion. He won his second consecutive NAIA title in the hammer with a throw of 210 feet, 9 inches, a top-50 performance in the U.S. this year. ... Seth Harvey, a right-handed pitcher for Washington State University and a River Ridge High graduate, was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the 43rd round. Harvey, a junior, will have to decide if he’ll sign or return to school at Washington State for his senior year. He was the only South Sound athlete drafted. “He’s just glad he got drafted,” said Chad Arko, River Ridge High coach. “He was worried when he didn’t get a call yesterday.” There were 40 players from the state of Washington drafted.
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443