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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

June 22, 2009 at 8:36 PM

Baseball coach Knutson let go

We don’t always get much into other UW sports here, but since I’ve already gotten a few questions about it, thought it appropriate to acknowledge that the Huskies made a change with baseball coaches today as the school announced that Ken Knutson will not be back.
Here is the official release from the school. We also have this story here.
The release was vague as to who made the decision on this, and I talked to Knutson for a while afterward in an attempt to clear it up. Frankly, he left it remaining a little vague.
He made it clear that if it were an ideal situation, he’d still be the coach of the Huskies. But he also wouldn’t agree that he had been fired, saying that it was “a mutual decision” and that he had been having “a dialouge” with himself since the end of the season in which be batted around how much of himself he could still devote to being coach of the Huskies.
UW AD Scott Woodward, however, said in a statement to the Times that the school felt it was time for new leadership of the baseball program.
“Ken loyally served the University as a player, an assistant coach and head coach for more than a quarter of a (century),” Woodward said. “For that, we appreciate his contribution to the Husky baseball program. However, we have a number of upcoming program and facility improvements and we felt the program would be better served under new leadership. The Pac-10 is one of baseball’s power conferences and we feel that Husky baseball should be able to compete year-in and year-out for league championships and NCAA Tournament berths. I’m confident that we will attract a head coach that will be able to lead our student-athletes to higher level, both in the classroom and on the playing field.”
Knutson mentioned a private business in the press release, which is a reference to the Washington Baseball Instruction, an indoor facility in Woodinville he began operating in February.
“I just felt like there was a push on both sides, me wanting to do things in the private sector with an indoor training facility that I think is really starting to blossom and the fact that I have children that need me at home (three kids from 9-13),” he said. “The demands of being a D-I head coach are very, very difficult and I’ve been doing it a long time, so with all of that we sort of came to a decision.”
Knutson, however, also said that “I didn’t know” the decision was going to happen today. And he also acknowledged that “we didn’t win enough games the last few years.”
UW last made the NCAA Tournament in 2004 and in the last few years has watched as Oregon State has won two NCAA Tournament titles, WSU has made the tourney for the first time in almost two decades, and Oregon has restarted its baseball program, all making the Pac-10 more competitive than ever.
“We just haven’t been good enough,” he said. “I know there are issues. They are pretty easy (to document). But I’m competitive. I’m not going to be average. My coaching career wasn’t average. We’re just moving on right now.”
The issues to which Knutson is referring are largely the Husky Baseball Field, which has long been the subject of much consternation as it is not up to the level of a lot of other stadiums around the conference and the country, without permanent concessions or bathrooms, among other things.
“We’ve never been able to play a regional or super-regional at home,” he said. “We’ve played 32 post-season games and every one of them has been on the road, so that’s an issue. But the issue shows up every day in how the kids feel about themselves. We had a nice bump in the late ’90s when we moved (into the current facility) but at that time, nothing was going on in the Northwest.”
Knutson noted the massive change in athletic directors and football coaches during his time at UW and hinted that the baseball program wasn’t always at the forefront of attention.
“There’s just a lot of things that have gone on. It’s tough for me to swallow when I think we are battling an uphill fight and in the middle of the hardest conference to win at in America and we are a game out of second with five to play (this season),” he said. “We compete every year with local kids and are hamstrung by issues that the press or even some of the administrators don’t even know about.”
Knutson was a UW player and assistant before becoming a coach and he said that made it an especially tough “day for me because I’ve got a love for the Huskies.”
Knutson also noted that the school is in the process of building new clubhouses for the field and that he thinks he left behind a good nucleus of players for next season.
“There are issues there on their way to being solved,” he said. “Just unfortunately I won’t be able to be part of it as coach.”

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