Coach Lambright Talks Good Game; Will UW Play One?

The working definition of a Husky fan?

He’s the one who wanted Jim Lambright fired last year - and the year before that - because he couldn’t coach the University of Washington into the Rose Bowl.

As if being on NCAA probation was any sort of an excuse.

And now that the handcuffs are off and the Huskies still won’t be spending New Year’s in Pasadena?

Firing might be too good for him.

Not to suggest that the lunatic fringe has actually become the very fabric of UW boosterdom. But if the Huskies should stumble in Saturday’s Apple Cup against their 13-point underdog cousins from Washington State, the 74,000-strong chorus at Husky Stadium will surely invoke Lambo’s name in one-part harmony.

Only it’ll come out, “Lamboo.”

OK, given that scenario, it might be deserved.

After all, the Cougars are staggering into this bloated blood feud losers of five straight games, with a sutured-up defense and a green (but gifted) kid named Leaf at quarterback thanks to a messy - and, sadly, ongoing - internal affair. The Huskies, meanwhile, seem to have recovered from their recent travails and still nurse some dim hopes of being Pac-10 co-champions. Why, it sounds as if the spread should be 30 and not 13.

Naturally, it’s against this backdrop that Lambright has decided it’s time to lobby the Cotton Bowl for an invitation.

Cougs, this is your cue to feel overlooked.

Also, Wazzu operatives have supposedly decoded an incriminating slight uttered by Lambo on his television show. Such a scoop - the first remotely interesting thing to come out of a coach’s show since a caller on “Monday Night Quarterback” challenged Mike Price’s manhood.

This is all pretty hilarious - both Lambright’s timing and logic and the bilious nattering of his critics.

The Huskies lost to Oregon on the football field for the second year running. Now Lambo thinks he can beat the Ducks to Dallas on the strength of UW’s television market.

If only his kicker were as true as his demographics.

Not that Lambo’s arguments don’t have some merit, but this sort of groveling is so very un-Washington. And who cares, anyway? Of course the Huskies would rather spend New Year’s in Dallas instead of Christmas in El Paso, but is that any reason to involve the rest of us?

Still, it’s nice to have a Husky coach who isn’t content to be a 2,000-word underdog anymore.

The anti-Lambright faction, however, is quite perturbed that Washington’s football coach is not Don James, even though Don James himself wanted no part of the job once the Pac-10 and NCAA got through trussing it up with scholarship, bowl and TV restrictions.

Presented with the challenge of his life, Don James decided to make himself available for bar mitzvahs.

Before he left, he huffed that the scholarship reductions imposed on the Huskies wouldn’t hurt a bit, and he was right. They wouldn’t hurt him.

But these are not the well-stocked Dawgs of the James era - two former walk-ons start on defense, for example - and if the Huskies haven’t overachieved, they have at least achieved.

Don’t just take our word for it. Earlier, Cal coach - and former Husky offensive coordinator - Keith Gilbertson looked at the Huskies and pronounced them “the most average Husky team since 1987.”

Given his success at Cal, Gilby qualifies as an expert.

Yes, the kicking game failed against Oregon the way it rarely did during the James era. The Huskies self-destructed against Notre Dame, and wore down in the tie with USC the game that counted most.

Lambright was vilified then for going conservative on offense. As if Don James never did.

And he was booed for not desperately throwing deep in the closing seconds. As if James would have.

Lambright will never have James’ attention to detail, his record or - thank heavens - his reticence. His legacy is far different.

He stayed.

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact John Blanchette by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5509.

You can contact John Blanchette by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5509.

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