I spoke a little while ago with University of Washington athletic director Scott Woodward about the current state of the Huskies men's basketball program and coach Lorenzo Romar. The Huskies are mired in a 7-game losing streak -- the longest of Romar's 13-year career at the school -- and are in 11th place in the Pac-12 standings with a 3-10 conference record. Barring a miracle, the Huskies will miss the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive season.
But Woodward, as he always has when discussing Romar's tenure, said he's still looking at the big picture, such as Romar's successful track record of players graduating, as well as a 2015 recruiting class ranked by Scout.com as the 9th-best in the country.
"I look at the long-term approach to this thing," Woodward said. "Coach Romar has succeeded on all three things we asked him to do -- first and foremost, give our kids a great education and make sure they do what they’re supposed to do in the classroom. Coach’s record has been fabulous on that front. Obviously, (it's) just as important that we’re competitive, (and) give the kids the best experience they can have on the court. … Lorenzo’s body of work over his career here and what he’s done speaks for itself. He’s been incredibly successful, probably more so than any coach in the history of the UW program, and that goes a long way with me.
"Lastly, for the most part," Woodward said, acknowledging a couple exceptions here, "our kids have done the right thing, have abided by rules and have been great citizens and great representatives of the university. From that standpoint, Lorenzo is great. He’s in this trough period right now of having a few tough seasons based on circumstances out of his control, and to your point, his recruiting class and what looks to be a very talented youth movement in Seattle-area basketball is going to be good for the University of Washington and good for Coach Romar."
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Asked how he evaluates this season, Woodward said: "Obviously, this has kind of been a weird season. Started off really well, and right now is in kind of a slump. And I’m as disappointed as Coach Romar is in what’s happened, and it’s one of those things where you always want better and you hope that it’s better, but circumstances have changed for the worse this season."
Woodward said the annual goal for the men's basketball program should be "like all of our programs -- at a minimum, we should be making postseason play, and we’ve fallen short the last couple of years, but that’s the minimum goal. We should be competitive and do well year in and year out, and have nationally competitive teams."
Romar's contract runs through the 2019-20 season. If he were to be fired at the end of this season -- prior to April 1 -- UW would owe him a lump sum payment of $4.2 million. That figure decreases to $3.5 million the following year, and $3.2 million the year after.
But Woodward doesn't seem to be considering a change. Not yet, anyway. Asked if it's safe to assume that Romar will coach the team next season, Woodward said: "Barring a disaster, I sure hope so."
Beyond that, Woodward said, "we’re all on the hot seat all the time. That’s the pressure that we’re in. We have a very competitive athletic program here at the University of Washington, and we all feel it all the time. I'm not going to speculate on what happens today or tomorrow."
He added: "Coach has my full support. I think he's doing a tremendous job, and I think his body of work speaks for itself."
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple