With two star freshmen making the early jump to the NBA, speculation arises that the time is right to thank Lorenzo Romar for his contributions to Washington men’s basketball and send him on his way.
I disagree for a number of reasons.
Romar’s primary failing, it seems, is that he hasn’t sustained the high level of achievement that only he was able to reach at UW in the first place.
He’s being judged against Lorenzo Romar.
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The Huskies made it to the NCAA Tournament six times under Romar between 2004 and 2011. That’s as many NCAA appearances as the Huskies made in almost 50 seasons before Romar arrived.
He hasn’t taken them to the NCAAs for five consecutive seasons, and that’s a defensible cause for firing if you’re willing to establish that as the threshold of tolerance. If that’s what it is about at UW, that’s fine. That’s the most common criterion in college sports.
Or are there other factors? If mitigating qualities are considered, Romar certainly qualifies. As we’ve noted many times, Romar appears to be a fine ambassador for the university, a shaper of young men, a role model, and a follower of the rules.
It’s Romar’s reputation as a fine person that leaves local media hesitant to call for his ouster. But most also seem less than unsparingly in his support.
The conflicting influences seem to make people glad the decision is up to somebody else.
I’d have no problem at all sticking with him.
The early defections of gifted freshmen Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss are seen by some as a crippling blow to Romar and the trajectory of his program.
Well, who brought those guys in? Who helped them develop into potential first-round picks? If the opinion of top young talent was that Romar was nearing a dead end at UW, they wouldn’t have signed with the Huskies for this season.
Yes, the loss of Murray and Chriss is at least a short-term speed bump, but I think it will have an entirely different long-term effect.
If the two freshmen Huskies go in the first round of the NBA draft, it will attract the attention of every elite kid who is trying to find the quickest way to the NBA millions.
Romar’s already got top prospect Markelle Fultz set to come in next season. And he could lure more in the following recruiting season.
I think both of the defectors would have benefited from another year at UW — Chriss for polishing and Murray for bulking up. And it would have been fun seeing them mesh with the returning players, and with Fultz.
These are the issues that franchises deal with when they conscript the one-and-done talents. It can doom a program if it isn’t sustainable. Fultz following Murray and Chriss, though, makes it seem as if Romar is on the right track.
I understand the criticism that Romar may not be the best in-game coach, and his teams have been inconsistent.
But this year’s team played with more effort and energy and collective purpose than many of its recent predecessors.
It would make a sexier column and headline to grant Romar’s positives and then join the villagers with the pitchforks and torches.
But this is what I see and feel rather than what might be provocative. I save the blowtorch rhetoric for coaches who are the cheaters, the users, the insufferably arrogant, and the hypocritical who preach loyalty and leap at the first job offer.
Romar isn’t flawless, and fan impatience is completely justified.
Maybe UW could get lucky and find just the right person to replace him.
But once you make it all about winning, there’s that chance you get a quick-fix coach who wins and then bolts, or maybe the guy who takes short cuts to meet your must-win goals and gets you in big trouble.
I think UW is better off sticking with Romar.