I’m on record over the last few years as being a staunch Lorenzo Romar defender in this space. I’ve ridiculed others who don’t really know what they’re talking about. All the while, I’ve been hoping and praying for this team to seriously turn things around, so I can say, “I TOLD YOU SO!” and really rub it in everybody’s faces. Because I like Romar. I like Romar as much as I like the University of Washington itself. There are precious few players I could make the same argument about – across all the sports I follow, that list includes King Felix and maybe a small handful of others – but I feel like he’s the only coach I could say that about. I’ve never wanted a team to win for a coach as much as I’ve wanted this team to win for this man.
And, indeed, however this thing ends, Lorenzo Romar is going to go down as one of the top two or three head coaches in the program’s history. So, in that sense, he’s a legend. An all-time great. And as such, he probably deserves to go out on his own terms. There’s a very large part of me that thinks he should be able to stay here as long as he wants and retire a Husky. In that sense, even if I have to suffer a string of 10 more mediocre seasons like we’ve had the last four years, I’ll take it. I know he’s not in the same league – as he’s never won a national championship – but I see him in the same realm as a Coach K or a Jim Boeheim. Guys who could go on forever at their respective schools. I’m certainly in the minority on this one, but that’s just the way I feel.
If you asked me to take a step back and be objective about this whole thing, putting all of my personal feelings aside, then I’d have to say yeah, his time has probably run its course. You could MAYBE stretch it out through next season, when he’s got another highly-touted One & Done player coming through the program. But, when that team ultimately fails to reach the NCAA Tournament, I think you have to just shake hands and walk away.
This is a great blog post from the SB Nation UW Dawg Pound, if you have a few more minutes. Like my last few posts, it addresses the Murray and Chriss jump to the NBA, only it takes it more head-on. The author, Chris Landon, takes the argument that it’s dumb for these two guys to leave (while at the same time, acknowledging that this is the world in which we live, and players have to be cognizant of the fleeting nature of their opportunities). It’s dumb for them to leave, because they’re clearly not ready. They’re under-sized, and there are huge flaws in their games. But, they’re being drafted based on potential, not necessarily whether or not they can help right away. And, the odds of them making it as bigtime pros are pretty slim. He also makes a great point that the players from UW who have actually managed to succeed at the next level, are those guys who played 3-4 years here (guys like IT, Brandon Roy, Nate Rob, and Q-Pon). I think that’s important when discussing whether Lorenzo Romar should be our coach going forward.
It’s very likely that Chriss and Murray flame out at the next level. And it’s true, they have practically no ties to the UW itself, and will only be remembered as part of a long list of guys Romar managed to get drafted. But, I keep thinking about a throw-away line from one of my last posts. If there was no One & Done rule in effect, would Murray and Chriss have played in college? The more I think about it, the more I think, yes, they probably would have.
Going into the 2015/2016 season, Murray was the guy with all the heat on him, so MAYBE he makes the leap, but I highly doubt it. While he was highly-touted, he was never some rare and special talent that the NBA would have to have RIGHT NOW. And, I really don’t remember there being much of any heat on Chriss. I think we all expected him to be a nice prospect or project for Romar, but he didn’t start having the heat really on him until Pac-12 play, when he figured out you don’t need to get two fouls in the first two minutes of the game to play the game of college basketball. There’s a point in his season where you see things flip – starting with the first Colorado game – he became way more consistent in his production; whereas early in the season he was VERY hit or miss. It was that second half of the season, on into the N.I.T., where Chriss had the scouts drooling all over him. That’s where he made his money as a potential lottery pick.
And who gets credit for that? Ultimately, I think Romar would deflect that question to the player, but I believe if it weren’t for Romar, guys like Chriss and Murray wouldn’t have blossomed to the point where they look the part of first round draft picks (whether Murray cracks that first round or not, he’s at least got a shot as long as the right team falls in love with him).
Romar has always been a great teacher of the game. He’s almost always been able to get the guys who buy in to steadily improve each and every year here. With just a single year, he can get the blue chip prospects NBA-ready. With 4+ years, he can get the lesser prospects good enough to at least be in the discussion (someone like Andrew Andrews, for instance, won’t be drafted; but he’ll be in some team’s summer league if he wants to continue his basketball-playing career). That has to account for something!
But, then again, you have to look at the state we’re in right now. Why did this last season’s team fail to make the NCAA Tournament? Ultimately, it was because the team was too young, and there wasn’t enough of a veteran bench presence to supplement what the stars were able to do. Guys like Thybulle, Crisp, and Green might develop into solid outside shooters; but this year they were all Freshmen, and that part of their games was streaky at best. If we had a reliable outside shooter on this roster, we could’ve done some real damage.
And, why was this team so young? Because the cupboard was bare. Last year, we had a lot of mediocre players either transfer or graduate, and we had nothing in the pipeline. So, you get what we had here, which was 7 incoming Freshmen and 1 incoming JuCo transfer. A more solid, veteran bench presence would’ve gone a long way, but what can you do?
Things look grim now for Romar and the program, because our best three players are leaving, with only one or MAYBE two quality players coming in (Fultz will be One & Done; Timmins might be good, or he might be nothing). So, it’s pretty easy to come to the conclusion that this team next year is going to look A LOT like it did this year, with probably another N.I.T. bid in its future. At which point, I mean, is there any other option but go through with a total regime change?
It wouldn’t be so fucking galling if the God damned Oregon Ducks didn’t turn their program around from a fucking joke under Ernie Kent to a guy in Dana Altman who has led them to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances in six total years with them, with at least one Tourney win in each season (culminating with this year’s 1-seed and Elite Eight appearance). Romar’s never gotten us to the Elite Eight … just sayin’.
So, you know, that’s where my head’s at right now. I’m torn! I hate being that guy who can’t pick a side and argue it to the hilt. A lot of people aren’t torn; they all agree that it’s probably time to move on (either right now, or a year from now when we’re in the same position). But, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel good about letting Romar go. I guess if I knew more success would be in our future, it would ease the pain; but the minute we let Romar go, the clock re-sets back to zero and we have to start all over. It’s almost like rebuilding the entire program from the bottom up. And, if we can’t bring in the right guy, someone special who can recruit the types of players we need for a long, successful run, then we’ll just be making a change for the sake of making a change, and spinning our wheels in the mud for another few more years.
God, do I need next year to be great.