Making the case for Lorenzo Romar
Although the Huskies are likely to miss the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row, columnist Kevin Dowd thinks head coach Lorenzo Romar shouldn't be on the hot seat.
Although the Huskies are likely to miss the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row, columnist Kevin Dowd thinks head coach Lorenzo Romar shouldn't be on the hot seat.Photo by Joshua Bessex
So you think Washington should fire Lorenzo Romar.
You know the successes Romar has had in 12 years as the Washington men’s basketball coach. You know he’s won 253 games, second-most in school history, compared to just 141 losses. You know he’s led the Huskies to six NCAA tournaments and three appearances in the Sweet 16.
But you’re more concerned with more-recent history. You’ve seen the Huskies regress. You’ve seen them miss the tournament each of the past two seasons, and you know they’ll miss it again this year unless they win four games in four days at the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.
You think the UW could do better, should do better, than Romar has done the past three seasons. Maybe you think he can’t recruit. Maybe you’re tired of nightmarish inbounds plays. You know he is perhaps the nicest man in Seattle, but smiles don’t win games. Whatever the reason, you’re ready for a change.
You may be right, but I don’t think so. One need only look across the state — or, as was the case Friday night at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, across the court — to see the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
About a decade ago, the basketball teams at the UW and Washington State embarked on parallel resurgences. During the middle part of the 2000s, both were among the most successful programs in the conference and regular participants in the Big Dance. The Cougars were led by Tony Bennett, a slow-it-down coach who found the magic recipe on the Palouse, putting together consecutive 25-win seasons.
In 2009, Bennett left Washington State for Virginia. The Cougars haven’t made an NCAA tournament since.
And now the days in Pullman, Wash., might be numbered for his replacement, Ken Bone, a former Romar assistant and a very decent man who simply never won enough games. Friday’s 23-point loss to the UW certainly won’t help his cause.
The two programs are far from perfect parallels. There’s a greater tradition of success at the UW, and the school’s Seattle location makes it inevitably more attractive to recruits.
But neither school is exactly a traditional basketball powerhouse in the Pac-12. There have been plenty of years in the UW’s history when a 16-13 record, like the Huskies now boast, would have been cause for celebration, not for hand-wringing. Romar is a victim of his own success, being held by fans to standards that didn’t exist before he established them.
It certainly doesn’t seem that the people who matter are considering letting Romar go. In a recent conversation with Percy Allen of The Seattle Times, UW Athletic Director Scott Woodward said, “As far as I’m concerned, Lorenzo Romar is a perfect fit for Washington.”
There are nine years of evidence that Romar is a perfect fit. Relative failures of the past three years aside, he’s been the greatest coach in school history. To dump him for a couple middle-of-the-pack finishes in the conference would be highly shortsighted.
You want to see regression? Bone’s Cougars finished dead last in the conference last season and are a half-game out of the cellar again this year. It always feels harsh to say a man should be fired, but if either coach on the court Friday night should lose his job, there’s only one right answer.
Romar isn’t perfect, and the UW’s past three seasons have been far from it. But he’s the best coach the Huskies have ever had, and in all likelihood, the best they’ll ever get.
Reach columnist Kevin Dowd at email@example.com. Twitter: @KevinDowd
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