It’s kind of a bummer. I dunno. There are a lot of mixed feelings right now, it’s hard to put them down in a coherent thought.
He’s been here since 2002! That’s such a long time. So much has happened since then. In many ways, with the NBA leaving, the one constant as far as Seattle basketball is concerned has been Lorenzo Romar. He’s been sort of the face of the 206’s hoops scene. With Romar, it’s always felt like we’ve had this awesome basketball community. So many Huskies playing in the NBA, but they all felt like local guys with Romar here. Now, he’s gone, and it feels like that community is shattered.
Growing up, the Husky basketball team wasn’t even REMOTELY on my radar. Not with the Sonics in town, kicking ass and taking names. I briefly got excited for a couple of those Bob Bender teams when I was in high school and they made that run to the Sweet 16. But, it wasn’t until Romar took over and Nate Rob & Co. came to Washington when I really become a fan.
Under Romar, the Washington Huskies have had an unprecedented run of success. Six NCAA Tournament appearances; no other Husky head coach has had more than three. Five top 2 conference finishes, tops in school history since we’ve been in the Pac-8/10/12. 298 wins (including NCAA Tourney games), second most in school history behind Hec Ed. All of this in a period in college basketball that has changed so much during his tenure. It’s going to take a HUGE name to fill his shoes.
This stinks. Not just because we’re almost certainly going to lose out on next year’s incoming Freshman class. But, you know, that’s part of it. I think the 2017/2018 Huskies could’ve been really special. I think we were poised to return to the NCAA Tournament and maybe even barge our way into a Sweet 16 spot. It could’ve saved Romar’s job, put the Huskies back on the map, and kickstarted a run of great Husky basketball teams. Now, we have to start over from scratch.
What’s worse, it’s very possible we lose what little holdover talent we’ve got on THIS team. Granted, there wasn’t much to be excited about – particularly with Fultz going to the NBA – but players like Crisp and Dickerson are poised to take a big step forward as Juniors, and who knows if they’re going to want to stick around?
Next year’s Husky basketball team could be rock bottom. I mean, legendary, all-time awful.
So, that’s the short term. Long term, of course, is the big unknown. Since the University of Washington is willing to throw around $3 million to buy out Romar, it would seem like money is no object when it comes to the next guy. And, you know, it’s not like this decision was made with a hair trigger. I think UW has been more than fair, and has given Romar as long a leash as could reasonably be expected. But, when you’ve been in steady decline like the Huskies have over the last 6 seasons, with some of the NBA talent Romar has had, with rising expectations what they are after you make 6 NCAA Tournament appearances in 8 seasons, it’s only natural to want to go in another direction with your program. 15 seasons is a long time to coach at one place, particularly when you’ve never gone past the Sweet 16. So, I would hardly think this decision should scare away any prospective head coaching targets.
Now, obviously, the trick is finding someone who wants to come here. Try to avoid listening to the Husky homers around here and think on a more national level: the University of Washington is not a powerhouse draw for college basketball. It’s a step up from the mid-majors, but it’s probably not a big-enough step up for a really successful mid-major head coach. So, you know, probably best to get Mark Few’s name out of your head. Or that Wichita State guy. While it’s entirely possible that UW could over-pay to bring someone in here, I think we have to be reasonable with our expectations on just how much the university is prepared to shell out. Let’s not forget, Chris Petersen and some of his assistant coaches are looking at big raises and he already made over $3 million last year. I hardly think the UW basketball program is flush with enough cash to pay football-coach money.
The upside is, regardless of who we bring in, he’s likely to be an all-around better head coach than what Romar has been in recent seasons. Romar has recruited well, particularly at guard, in getting some of these recent one-and-done guys (including next year’s class that will be transferring in short order), but his coaching has left a lot to be desired. There’s no real offense to speak of. He’s all but abandoned his old defensive identity in favor of letting his stars do whatever the fuck they want. The team has been relatively competitive on athletic ability alone, but that’s meant that we haven’t beaten a quality basketball team in years. We find ways to lose, or we get run out of the gym, by smarter, more technically-sound teams. And in 2016/2017, we weren’t even competitive, so what good has all that recruiting ability been?
So, here we are. The great unknown. It’ll be an interesting next few weeks to see what the Washington Husky basketball program looks like, but for now I think it’s appropriate to reflect on the end of an era. Lorenzo Romar has meant so much to the University of Washington and the city of Seattle when it comes to local basketball. While I understand why it happened, I hate to see it end like this.