Barring a Cinderella run in the NCAA tourney, this year’s Washington basketball team won’t be regarded as one of head coach Lorenzo Romar’s best at the UW. However, if the team wins out and becomes the Pac-12 regular-season champion, then this season Romar will have turned in his best coaching performance. And he’ll also be the best coach in the Pac-12.
Romar should win the conference’s Coach of the Year award, and the race shouldn’t be close.
Let’s forget the fact that the team has been without potential starter and senior Scott Suggs this entire season due to injury. Heck, let’s even forget that sharpshooter C.J. Wilcox has been basically unable to practice since the Seattle University game, and was missing for the crucial loss to California.
No, let’s just pretend every team faces that much adversity. It’s still Romar’s award.
The Huskies were picked fourth in the preseason media-poll and are poised to finish with at least a share of the championship. That’s a big jump. Yes, a case can be made for Colorado’s Tad Boyle, who has guided his Buffaloes to an 11-5 record in the conference, despite being picked 10th by the media.
But CU won more games last year, and in a tougher conference. Its rise may have more to do with a West Coast media underestimating the team rather than a Coach of the Year performance from Boyle.
Meanwhile, on Montlake, Romar’s team has exceeded expectations and been a clear conference front-runner despite starting a freshman point guard who can’t shoot, a sophomore shooting guard who disappears for entire halves, and a supporting cast that is inconsistent as any.
Still, Romar has managed to coach this team to wins in 15 of its last 18 games, even though his top four scorers are second-year players or younger. He’s managed to keep the team winning despite talk swirling of its best two players leaving for the NBA, including potential one-and-done freshman Tony Wroten.
Wroten, who entered the UW with a bit of a reputation thanks to Twitter, initially drew a line in the sand when he refused to talk to the Seattle Times due to a story the news organization wrote while he was in high school. Romar probably had some advice for the freshman and he’s been great with the media ever since.
Meanwhile, other brash but talented freshmen around the league, such as Oregon’s Jabari Brown, left their teams when they couldn’t handle a little discipline.
But Wroten? He’s the team’s leading scorer and a legitimate candidate for conference Player of the Year. That’s some good coaching right there.
Right now, the Huskies are picked to be a low seed in the NCAA tournament just like the past few years. And just like last year, expect them to make some noise and probably pull an upset or two.
The Huskies’ losses aren’t that bad — they certainly don’t prove the UW isn’t a good basketball team. That South Dakota State loss? The Jackrabbits are 24-7. St. Louis and Nevada? Both are tournament-caliber teams. Sure, the loss at Oregon was bad, but the Ducks have been pretty formidable lately, almost beating Cal.
Yes, the conference is having a bad year. But the Huskies have been able to take advantage of it in a way no one else has, despite having to overcome adversity that would’ve crippled most teams.
And for that, Romar deserves to win Coach of the Year.
Reach sports columnist Jacob Thorpe at Sports@dailyuw.com or on twitter @Jacob_B_Thorpe.
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