Familiar Face Returns to Husky Stadium
Nov. 8, 2008
by Jeff Bechthold
Each visit by a Dennis Erickson-coached team to Husky Stadium bringsto mind the incredible number of connections he brings to the both the UWprogram and the regional football scene.
Back in 1995, Erickson, ASU's second-year head coach, was the brand newcoach of the Seattle Seahawks, having already been the man in charge atIdaho, Wyoming, Washington State and Miami (Fla.).
Over at Montlake, former Husky player and longtime assistant coach JimLambright was entering his third season as the head coach at his alma mater.Across the state in Pullman, Mike Price was set to begin his seventh seasonin charge of the Washington State Cougars.
And, down the coast in Berkeley, Keith Gilbertson, also a former head coachat Idaho and the offensive mind behind the high-flying 1991 Huskies, wasentering his fourth year as the head coach at California.
What's amazing about all of that is the connection that those four menshare. It was Lambright, the oldest of the four, who led the way, earning ascholarship to the UW in the early 1960s despite being undersized even for theera. By the end of his career, he was an All-Coast selection and was on his wayto a career in football.
Lambright grew up in the same neighborhood as both Price and Erickson.Erickson's dad, Robert 'Pinky' Erickson was head coach at Cascade High inEverett, though his son played at rival Everett High, same as Lambright andPrice. Dennis went on to earn all-conference honors as a quarterback at Montana State.
Price, whose father Walt was the football coach at Everett CC, played safetyat Everett High as Erickson's teammate. He played for his father, then at bothWSU and Puget Sound.
Finally, the youngest of the four, Gilbertson grew up in nearby Snohomish,son of another football coach, Keith Sr., the longtime head man at SnohomishHigh (he's still an assistant basketball coach for the Panthers). The youngerGilbertson was a standout player on his dad's team before playing at CentralWashington and Hawai'i.
Their career paths are so inter-mingled and complex that the space onthese pages doesn't allow for a full review. In short, Gilbertson was an assistanton Erickson's highly successful staff at Idaho before succeeding him as theVandals' head coach. When Erickson left WSU to take the job at Miami, herecommended his old friend Price as his replacement. Price went on to lead theCougars to more success than they'd ever experienced before or since.
Meanwhile, Lambright spent year after year at the UW, eventually earningnotoriety as the architect of a new, attacking style of defense that revolutionizedthe game and led to the Huskies' 1991 dominance. Frequently, during thefall and in the off-season, at the office or in social settings, Lambright andGilbertson would pick one another's brains, countering from their oppositemindsets -- Lambright's purely defense and Gilbertson's on the offensive sideof the ball.
What's more, Erickson's late cousin Dick is a Husky legend. A memberof the Husky Hall of Fame men's varsity eight rowing crew that beat aSoviet team behind the Iron Curtain before moving on to a legendary careeras the Washington rowing coach.
And, after all that, Erickson has been on the other side of the field on anumber of memorable Husky football Saturdays, both good and bad. Therewas the infamous 1989 Apple Cup that ended with fans being sprayed withmace on the Husky Stadium turf. There was the much more pleasant (toHusky fans) memory of the 'Whammy in Miami,' when Lambright's 1994Dawgs broke Miami's 58-game home winning streak in the Orange Bowl.
In 2000, on the way to a Rose Bowl win and an 11-1 record, the Dawgsedged Erickson's Beavers 33-30, OSU's only loss that season.
Memories are one of the things that college football Saturday afternoonsare all about. And as much as just about anyone can be without ever actuallybeing a part of the program, Dennis Erickson has woven himself into Huskyfootball history.
So, welcome to Coach Erickson, who today leads his fourth differentteam against the Huskies. Maybe today will be another memorable one.