The lone common thread holding the proceedings together on Sunday was coach Lorenzo Romar. Without him, none of that would have been possible.
Romar has helmed the greatest sustained run of Husky basketball since the 70s & early 80s with coach Marv Harshman. Before that, you have to go back to the 50s with coach Tippy Dye. Before that, we’re talking good ol’ Hec Edmundson in the 20s through 40s: the dawn of Husky basketball. There haven’t been many truly great Husky basketball coaches over the decades, but coach Romar certainly deserves to be in that discussion.
Nevertheless, he’s on the hot seat, entering his 12th season with the Huskies. Romar – featuring the bulk of the pre-2009 squad in Sunday’s game – led the Huskies to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 2004-2006. Then, featuring the bulk of the post-2009 squad in Sunday’s game, Romar led the Huskies to three more NCAA Tournament appearances. However, since then, we’ve had back-to-back NIT appearances, with last year ending in the first round. Too many Husky fans see the program trending in the wrong direction, when in reality we’re just in a bit of a dry spell. Ebbs and flows. Ups and downs. These things happen in college basketball. You’re not going to be at the top of the heap every single year. But, it’s how long it takes you to bounce back that defines the career of the college head coach.
In watching that game on Sunday, I was overcome with the elation of witnessing all those great players in one room. There are other universities out there with more established basketball programs. Other universities with tons of NBA players to their credit. But, how many of those schools could’ve put on the type of show the University of Washington put on this weekend? How many of those schools could have recruited ALL of their best players to come back on a Sunday in the middle of June to play in a for-fun basketball game? There are some amazing head coaches throughout college basketball, but how many of them have the kind of pull that coach Romar has with his players?
I’ve been campaigning pretty hard over the last year or so on the Keep Lorenzo Romar ticket. I think it would be foolish at this time to get rid of one of your best-ever head coaches, and not just because I think the neat Husky All Star Game was neat. I still believe in Romar’s abilities to coach and recruit. I believe in his abilities to turn this program back around and get it going in the right direction again. I believe Romar is the best man for THIS job.
The more I think about the Husky basketball program, though, the more I feel we all need to re-think our priorities. Let’s face it: we are NEVER going to be a national power in men’s basketball. Hell, we’ve already got a national power in our own state with the Gonzaga Bulldogs! There is only so much talent to go around, and that’s not even taking into consideration the fucking Louisville Cardinals (and others) poaching all of our best players. So, we should stop trying to look at this situation like it’s something we can control with a simple change in coaches.
First of all, if you lose Romar, you lose your direct connection to all of those great players we saw on Sunday. That’s not bad just because we wouldn’t have any more Alumni Games, but it’s bad for recruiting. You want to show that you have a solid base. You want the support of your best alumni when you’re going out to recruit future (hopeful) alumni! It essentially puts you back to square one, and you have to hope that the new head coach is able to re-build all those relationships with all those Romar greats.
The thing I’ve been saying all along about this issue is: don’t change for the sake of change. If you’re going to bring in someone to replace Romar, make sure he has a pedigree of building championship programs! Which, when you think about it: why would any of those guys choose to come to Washington? There are tons of other schools with tons of money. There’s no amount of money the University of Washington could toss out there that couldn’t be matched by a bigger basketball institution, if this hypothetical head coach is really worth his weight in gold.
I would argue it’s more prudent to stick with the program we have in place. Let Romar continue building on the foundation he’s already constructed. If we’re going to break through anytime soon, it’s going to be on the shoulders of Romar. Otherwise, be prepared for another LONG wait as we break in a new program.
The fact of the matter is: we shouldn’t have our eyes on national championships. We should set our sights on Pac-12 championships. Something more tangible. Something that’s still somewhat difficult, but something that we can also attain more than once a century. Let’s face it! It’s getting tougher and tougher to break through in this college basketball landscape. It would save a lot of heartache if we can just be happy thinking on a smaller scale.
This isn’t like professional sports. I’m always railing against Seattle fans who are just happy making the playoffs. I want championships out of my pro sports teams! I don’t want to settle for anything less. But, in college, these things are fundamentally out of whack. There’s no such thing as parity in college sports. Not as long as the super conferences house their powerhouse universities. The same dozen-or-so teams are going to compete for the basketball national championship every year. That’s just the way it is. You need something truly special to be a Cinderella in this day and age. Why do you think the country constantly loses its shit whenever we see one in the Tourney?
The Washington Huskies can hope to be nothing better than a particular season’s Cinderella. That’s best-case scenario, forever and ever. We’re never going to be that Goliath school terrorizing everyone around us. Therefore, I contend that Romar should NOT be on the hot seat. Because he’s proven that he’s more than capable of winning in this conference. Winning this conference and making the NCAA Tourney: THAT should be our goal going forward. Getting into the Sweet 16 should be OUR national championship. Going even further is some impossible, beautiful dream that we should be so lucky to achieve but once a lifetime. We’re not those other schools. We’re not Duke or North Carolina or Kentucky. Hell, we’re not even Ohio State or Texas or Arizona. We’re less than, and sometimes that’s okay. We can still generate entertaining seasons. We can still produce NBA-quality players. And we can still be proud of Romar and the job he has done, both on the court and off, with these young men.
Let the man do his thing. If anyone is going to get us back to winning conference titles and to making the NCAA Tournament, it’s Lorenzo Romar.