SEATTLE - Can an extra foot save basketball? Tom Newell thinks so.
Newell, a former NBA and WNBA assistant coach, doesn't like what he sees happening to the game he loves, which explains why on Saturday a game was being played at Hec Edmundson Pavilion with the hoops raised from 10 to 11 feet.
"We're in a crisis situation right now in North America with basketball," said Newell, the son of Hall of Fame coach Pete Newell. "It's not a fun game to watch, I don't think."
Newell's answer was to stage a game, dubbed "For the Love of the Game," with modified rules that would put an emphasis on team play and fundamentals.
The game, which was played mostly by former college players, was not radically different from a normal basketball game, but it did produce a lot of what Newell was hoping for.
"I really enjoyed watching my team play today because they played the correct way," said former UCLA coach Jim Harrick, who coached the Gold team. "They shared the ball, they passed the ball, they hit the open man, they got good open looks at the basket."
Harrick, who wears all the basketball credibility he'll ever need on his left hand in the form of the NCAA championship ring he won at UCLA in 1995, thinks an 11-foot hoop is worth considering.
"Every year I've ever been in the game, guys have gotten bigger, faster and stronger," he said. "I don't see them lengthening or widening the floor. The logical thing is to raise the basket. I don't think that high school and college will do that, but I think this will open the professional league's eyes to the point where they may experiment with it and give it some serious thought."
"I thought it was awesome," said the Gold team's Brayden Billbe, a 6-foot-10 forward who played at Mercer Island High School and American University. "We hadn't played together before and everyone was out there passing the ball and getting open shots. No one was trying to show off for the cameras. I loved it, I absolutely loved it."
Billbe, who finished with a game-high 20 points and 14 rebounds, might want to consider campaigning for the 11-foot hoop to become more common.
"I'm definitely for it," he said.
During the game, fans used hand held devices made by Quizdom to answer questions that appeared on the jumbotron.
Of the approximately 850 participants, 65 percent said the NBA should raise the hoops to 11 feet, and 68 percent said men's college and professional basketball should consider moving the basket up.
"This will happen again, I will predict that," said Newell. "I think this experiment will happen again."