What The Fuck, Husky Basketball?!?!

This is just a God damn embarrassment.  And it starts at the top.

What happened to you, Lorenzo Romar?  You used to have convictions.  You used to be as much of a coach as you are a mentor.  Your teams were built around DEFENSE!  Your depth guys, as well as your studs, would blossom and grow during their time here!  They’d improve from year to year, and from the start of the season to the end.

You’ve sold your soul, Lorenzo Romar.  And, for what?  Some Blue Chippers?  Some 5-star, 1-and-done recruits?  You’re going to lose your job over a bunch of players who don’t give two shits about college basketball or the University of Washington?

I get that you can’t compete at a national level if you’re not recruiting at a national level, but you can’t do this half-way and expect to have success!  You can’t sign one guy here, two guys there, and surround them with fucking scrubs and expect to win at this level!  You need balance!  You need talent up and down your lineup!  Markelle Fultz can’t fucking do it all!  I don’t care if he ends up being the #1 draft pick; I don’t care if he ends up in the Hall of Fame one day!  He can’t drag this bloated corpse of a team into the NCAA Tournament, because every single teammate is fucking worthless.

David Crisp:  Crap.

Noah Dickerson:  Crap.

Matisse Thybulle:  Crap.

Sam Timmins:  Crap.

Malik Dime:  Crap Who Can Block Shots.

Dominic Green:  Crap.

I mean, you tell me.  You tell me where the help is coming from.  Not a damn one of these guys can play defense!  Not a damn one of these guys can consistently shoot from the perimeter!  Not a damn one of these guys can take over when Fultz has the occasional off-night (and, let’s face it, the more other teams realize that and clamp down even harder on Fultz, the more off-nights he’s going to have with this team).

We’ve been in this rut since Isaiah Thomas left, and it’s never been the same.  You’ll recall we brought in Tony Wroten, and thus began our love affair with the one-and-done-ers.  Instead of being a coach, being a leader, Lorenzo Romar has just handed the keys to these Freshmen and let them do whatever the fuck they want.  Playing defense?  That’s not going to get you into The League!  Fuck that, just work on your offense and get drafted in the first round!

Lorenzo Romar’s legacy is going to be:  got a lot of guys into the NBA, at the expense of the University of Washington.  Which, you know, good for the kids, I guess.  It’s not like they get paid to play in college anyway, so they might as well get theirs.  But, it sucks as a college basketball fan and particularly a fan of the University of Washington.

One of the worst, least-fun Husky basketball teams I’ve ever seen was in 2006-2007, the year after Brandon Roy and the rest of the first-wave of great Romar players left for the NBA.  That was the Spencer Hawes year.  Hawes did okay for himself, ended up getting drafted in the first round, but the Huskies missed the NCAA Tournament after making it the previous three years.  The year after that, the Huskies bottomed out, and it wasn’t until the 2008-2009 season – and the second-wave of great Romar players, led by I.T. – when we finally recovered.  Once that wave petered out, we’ve been chasing nothing BUT the Spencer Hawes’ of the world, and we haven’t sniffed a legit post-season berth ever since.

I thought we’d learned our lesson, but I guess not.  Hawes is my least-favorite Husky basketball player, tied with every other one-and-done asshole who’s given us false hope only to drag us down into obscurity once again.  Fultz is just another in a long line of nobodies.  Sure, he’ll make a name for himself in the NBA probably, but he ain’t mean shit to me.

As for Romar, what can you say?  I’d really like to see what the 2017-2018 Huskies look like with our incoming class next year, but will it ever happen?  And, if it does, is Romar coach-enough to whip these numb-nuts into shape?

I doubt it.  I don’t think he has the fire anymore.  I don’t think he has the will to enforce any kind of defensive ideology.  I think he’s just out there, collecting a paycheck, letting these kids do whatever the fuck they want.

And, I think it’s fucking sad.  Early-days Romar wouldn’t have settled for this bullshit we’re watching now.  Early-days Romar actually gave a fuck.

I Don’t Know What To Do About Lorenzo Romar

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.

New Huskies Starting To Make Big Impact

You couldn’t help but take a Wait & See approach to this Husky basketball season, with all the turnover compared to recent years.  With Andrew Andrews being The Guy, and everyone else being complete unknowns, I don’t know if I’d blame you for feeling like, “Oh, here we go again!”  I mean, there we were, coming off of arguably Lorenzo Romar’s worst season as the head coach of this team, which itself came off of three other seasons where we failed to make the NCAA Tournament, and now our only experienced player is a guard who arguably shoots too much?

But, here we are, a little more than halfway through the season, and this team has a real shot at contending for an At Large bid, if not an outside shot at winning the Pac-12 Tourney.  Andrew Andrews was and is the glue that holds this whole thing together, and without him, I don’t think this team has a shot, but if this team is going to make the leap and BE a Tournament team, it’s going to need the kids to mature in a hurry.

If you watch enough Husky basketball, you’ll notice a few things.  Here’s what I’ve noticed so far.

Dejounte Murray is probably the biggest star, and most NBA-ready player, in his class.  Without really knowing the college basketball landscape, I have no idea about what this year’s draft is going to look like.  I think, if the season ended today, Murray could probably find himself selected somewhere in there (I would argue more likely in the second round).  He’s flashing brilliance, and what he’s got going for him are the next 11 regular season games, along with the Pac-12 Tourney and whatever other post-season tournament we land ourselves in.  These are Murray’s showcase games, for all intents and purposes.  These games will go a long way towards showing NBA scouts whether Murray is a first round talent, or a guy who could use another year of seasoning.

I’m of the opinion that college guys could ALWAYS use another year of seasoning, but I can certainly see the risk involved.  Tony Wroten, for example, probably maximized his value in his 1 & Done season.  Unless he was going to remarkably improve as an outside shooter in his second year in college, I don’t think he could have done much better than where he was selected (with all the risk in the world of him stagnating and falling in the draft as a result of him staying a second season).  Isaiah Thomas left with a year of eligibility at his disposal, but again, I think he had proven everything he needed to, especially in his final year here.  He risked seeing himself overshadowed by Tony Wroten of all people.  So, one might argue that Murray could see himself overshadowed by an incoming Freshman next season, but don’t forget this:  Andrew Andrews won’t be here.  So, if Murray decides to come back, this will be HIS team in 2016/2017.  If he lights the stat sheets on fire the rest of this season, he’ll certainly feel the pull to be a 1 & Done player.  But, if his game log up to this point is any indication, he still tends to have his good days and his bad days, and all those bad days aren’t doing him any favors.

What’s working for Murray is that he’s got an outside shot.  It’s not great, he’s hovering around 31% from beyond the arc, but he’s not a total liability.  His height is NBA-calibre (6’5), so no issues there.  He’s leading the team in rebounds, assists, and steals (6.4, 4.7, 1.7 respectively) but he’s also leading the team in turnovers (3.4), and that’s where, I think, he can make the most progress in his game.  If he stays one more year, cleans up his ball-handling and decision-making, he’ll see those turnover numbers go down and those assist numbers skyrocket.

The other guard in our 3-guard rotation is a guy I like A LOT.  It doesn’t hurt that I’ve got a huge man-crush on Andrew Andrews, but David Crisp reminds me a lot of Andrews.  His quicks, his fearlessness in taking the big shot, his ability to make shots from anywhere on the court.  Crisp nailed a dagger from the corner to force that Utah game into overtime, and I don’t think that’s the last we’ve seen of his clutchness.  My favorite thing about Crisp:  I don’t think he’ll be leaving us anytime soon.  Not to say he isn’t good, but he’s not the prototypical NBA guard the way Murray is.  That doesn’t mean he can’t take his game to the next level, but it likely means he’s going to need to stay for 3-4 years, watch his game flourish, and continue to shine when the lights are on him.

I don’t think I’ve seen a Freshman this ballsy since IT.  He absolutely wants the basketball in his hands in crunch time, and isn’t afraid to take the last shot, even knowing it’s more likely to be missed than made.  He’s hitting a decent 34% of his outside shots, but for now, that’s pretty much all he’s shooting.  Of his 175 attempts taken, 111 are behind the arc.  So, you know, he’s going to have to develop a dribble drive, and an ability to finish at the rim.  But, let’s not forget that he’s probably this team’s third or fourth option (behind Andrews, Murray, and whatever big man gets position in the post).  As Crisp develops, and as this roster changes in the coming years, look for him to take on an increased role, and I would wager he’ll be up to the task.

Of the Freshman forwards we have on the roster, Marquese Chriss might be the most dynamic.  He’s also, unfortunately, the most prone to get into foul trouble.  It’s the main reason why he’s only averaging 23 minutes per game.  The Huskies have played 19 games this season, and Chriss has fouled out in TEN of those games (Good God, Lemon!), with five more games where he finished with 4 fouls.  He’s fouled out in all but one of our seven Pac-12 games to date, so obviously that’s something that needs to change.

When he’s on the court, though, he might be the most naturally talented basketball player we have.  He’s hitting 53% of his shots, grabbing 5 boards, and hits a decent (for a big man) 70% of his free throws.  Mostly due to the foul trouble, he’s had an up & down season kinda like Murray, and at 6’9, 225 lbs, he’s not the ideal size for an NBA power forward.  So, in that sense, I think he’s more of a lock to be back next year.  Likewise, he has no outside shot whatsoever, so he’s not going to be your typical small forward in the NBA.  He probably needs to bulk up a little more (in muscle, obviously), develop a mid-range jumper, and cool it on the bone-headed fouls.  Once he takes care of that, his natural abilities around the rim will ensure he’s got a future in the NBA, probably as a bench player, good for defense and those tough points in the paint.  I can’t wait to see what he can do in a Husky uniform in the next year or two; I think he could be really special for us.

Noah Dickerson is the other Freshman big man who’s making an impact.  He also tends to get into foul trouble – not quite as much as Chriss – but he’s taken great steps to improve his game since conference play started.  Dickerson has scored in double digits in four of the last five games, with a lot of hard-fought buckets in the paint.  He’s not quite the natural scorer that Chriss has proven to be so far, but he’s a better rebounder, and he doesn’t even try to have an outside game.  His mid-range jumper is coming along nicely, as he tends to be the guy standing at the free throw line when other teams put their 2-3 zone on us.  He can hit that jumper from the stripe, which is odd because he still needs work on his actual free throw attempts.  At 6’8, he too is undersized for a power forward at the NBA level, so I wouldn’t expect him to go anywhere anytime soon.  But, if he’s already this good now, as a Freshman, how awesome is he going to be three years from now?

In keeping with the Freshman theme, Matisse Thybulle is absolutely going to be a fan favorite.  He’s a 6’5 small forward with rock solid defense, and he fills up the stat sheet.  5.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.0 blocks, and only 1.6 turnovers over 24 minutes per game.  He’s somewhat of an anomaly, as he has a better 3-point percentage than his overall field goal percentage (39.6% vs. 37.4%), but it’s not like he’s out there just jacking threes.  He spots up, and teams are going to leave him open because they’ve got so many other players to worry about.  But, to his credit, Thybulle is knocking down an impressive number of those attempts.  He’s a role player, and he’s likely always going to be a role player for this team, but as the years go by, he’ll find himself playing starter’s minutes and making a huge impact for the Huskies, much like Justin Holliday and Bobby Jones before him.

Finally, if you watch Husky games, you’ll note that there’s a 7-man base rotation, of players all averaging over 20 minutes per game.  Anyone below that threshold (Donaven Dorsey, Dominic Green) tends to play on a situational basis (depending on foul issues, and the like).  The big man I’ve been most impressed with so far has been Malik Dime.  He’s a Junior College transfer, coming to Washington with two years of eligibility remaining.  He’s 6’9, and listed as a forward, but he’s essentially what passes for this team’s center.  His wingspan is out of control, which is a big part of why he leads this team in blocks (at nearly 3 per game).  He’s shown a knack for avoiding foul trouble (for the most part), so even though he’s technically this team’s 6th man, he tends to be in the game early, and playing a good chunk of minutes (while also finding himself usually on the floor at the end of games).  From Senegal, like former Husky Aziz N’Diaye, Dime doesn’t quite have the stone hands of his countryman ex-Dawg.  He’s also got the athleticism to run up and down the court with these guards, who frequently reward him with alley-oop jams.  I don’t know what Dime’s future holds, as far as his NBA prospects are concerned.  He’s a little under-sized, and a little under-weight to bang around with the big boys in the pros.  And, he could probably develop more of a post game, if he wants to be a role player at the next level.  But, his defense, rebounding, leaping ability, and overall athleticism make him an interesting prospect.  Maybe someone who could benefit from some further development at the D-League level, if he doesn’t feel the need to seek out professional employment overseas right away.  My only quibble with his game so far, if you can even call it that, is he tends to have a heavy hand with his blocks, with the balls flying out of bounds rather than into the waiting hands of a teammate ready to push the ball the other way.  That’s where someone like Robert Upshaw really had a knack.  Of course, I highly doubt we’ll ever face the type of off-court troubles with Dime that followed Upshaw around, so in that sense I guess you take the good, you take the bad, and so on and so forth.

The overall consensus with this Husky team is that right now, it’s good, it’s exciting, and we all can’t wait to see what’s to come next in the remainder of this season.  But, even more thrilling is the possibility of what this team might look like NEXT year.  I know, as fans, we tend to over-value the future at the expense of the present, but think about this for a second.  The Huskies are off to a 5-2 start, and have as good a chance as anyone to win the Pac-12 regular season title.  Going into the 2016/2017 season, the only person we’re guaranteed to lose is Andrew Andrews.  If Murray and the rest of our Freshmen stay on board, even with whoever is slated to join us, we’re DEFINITELY going to be one of the top teams in the entire conference, with a high likelihood of going into the season ranked nationally.

I honestly don’t think we’ve seen a Husky basketball team this talented since the heyday of Nate Rob, Brandon Roy, Tre Simmons, Bobby Jones, Will Conroy and the like.  We all wondered if we’d ever get back to that level, and if we did, would Lorenzo Romar still be the guy calling the shots?  For the last few years, I’ve been on a one-man crusade calling for the Huskies to keep Romar and let him turn this thing around.  Well, I believe he’s done just that.  AND, if he can keep it all together, we could be looking at some real Tournament darlings for years to come.

Get excited, Dawg fans.  We’ve put up with a lot of crappiness in recent seasons.  THIS is the payoff.  Husky basketball is back, in a big way.

Andrew Andrews Is Pretty Great

The last great Husky basketball team was from the 2010/2011 season.  Isaiah Thomas’ last year, MBA and Justin Holiday playing big minutes; Wilcox, Ross (as a Freshman), Suggs, Overton, Gant, Aziz, all rounding out a deep and quality roster that saw this team run the table through the Pac-12 Tournament (with IT’s Cold Blooded moment against Arizona one of the most iconic single plays in the program’s history), nab a 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and lose in the Round of 32 by three points to an Elite Eight-bound North Carolina Tar Heels team.

THAT … was a fun Husky basketball team.

Every year since then, I’ve tried to talk myself into this being a fun basketball team to watch.  As my expectations dwindled, I at least had hope that there’d be some entertainment value to those teams.  The 2011/2012 season saw two NBA prospects (Ross & Wroten) lead the team to a regular season conference title; but a first round exit in the Pac-12 Tournament relegated that team to the N.I.T.  The 2012/2013 season was built around C.J. Wilcox and not a whole lot else; they were bounced in the first round of the N.I.T.  We had hope for the 2013/2014 season with Wilcox in his senior year, alongside heavily hyped Nigel Williams-Goss, Andrew Andrews in his second year, and JuCo transfer Perris Blackwell rounding out our front court with some other hold-overs we hoped would see some natural improvement.  That team wasn’t even good enough to qualify for the N.I.T.  Which led us to last season, where we bottomed out with a mighty 5 conference wins.  NWG returned for his second season, Andrews was an upper-classman, Robert Upshaw transferred here and looked like the real deal, and Shawn Kemp went into his senior season.  By all accounts, last year’s team should have been something special, or at least A LITTLE better than it was.  Instead, Upshaw got kicked off the team, and the rest of the roster never really meshed.

Which brings us to this year, where the only notable hold-overs are Andrew Andrews and Donaven Dorsey.  Romar’s incoming Freshman class was one of the highest rated in the country (and maybe his highest rated ever), but with that comes a lot of uncertainty.  Would Romar be able to mold everyone into shape in time?  Would the players play well with one another?  Or, would they all be playing for themselves, in hopes to parlay their individual successes into NBA stardom?

It’s taken me a while to want to write about this Husky team, because aside from Andrews, I didn’t know much at all about these guys, aside from what I read in the newspapers.  But, reading about basketball is nothing compared to watching it, and soaking it all in.  I can say, from what I’ve seen so far this season, there’s A LOT to like.

For starters, I just have to say this, Andrew Andrews is playing out of his mind.  As the only senior on this team, he’s had a lot on his plate since the minute last season ended.  And, he has absolutely come through like gangbusters!  I’m sure everyone respects Romar and the other coaches, but basketball teams need on-court leaders, and Andrews has been that and then some.  When you factor in all the youth (six Freshmen playing regular minutes, with a transfer – Dime – also new to the program), this team was only going to go as far as Andrews was able to carry them, especially early in the season, when everyone was just getting used to playing together.

So, what has Andrews done?  Well, he’s leading the team in minutes (33), points (21.7), and free throws attempted and made (189 & 159, respectively).  He leads all guards in shooting percentage (.401%), and he’s second on the team in rebounds, assists, and steals per game (6.2, 4.7, & 1.4 respectively).  Andrews has always had the reputation as sort of a loose cannon when it came to the way he’d jack up crazy shots, but you don’t score over 1,500 points in your career by passing the ball all the time!  He’s currently ranked in the Top 10 of all time Husky scorers, just ahead of legends Detlef Schrempf and Brandon Roy.  Right now, he has 1,513 points.  If he manages to average 20 points per game the rest of the regular season, he’ll end up with 1,733, which would put him just ahead of IT for 7th all time.  An extended Pac-12 Tourney run, with a likely N.I.T. or NCAA Tourney appearance, and it wouldn’t be impossible to see him get up into the 1,800 range (he’d need to finish with 1,805 to tie Jon Brockman for 3rd all time).

In short, Andrew Andrews will go down as one of the greatest Huskies of all time.  I know points aren’t everything, and he’s played on some pretty bad teams the last three years; if he weren’t having the year he’s having now, with the success this team is having so far, I don’t think we’d be having this conversation.  But, he IS having the year he’s having, and this team IS successful so far, and Andrew Andrews is the biggest reason why.  If he’s able to lead this team back to the NCAA Tourney – after so many years in the wilderness with supposedly more talented players (Wroten, Ross, NWG) – then I don’t see how you don’t include Andrews in the same breath as the greats like IT, Roy, Brockman, Pondexter, Nate Rob, and the rest.  Here’s a guy who’s loyal, who stayed through his senior season, who was forced to play behind some highly-recruited 4-star prospects, who’s now shining the brightest when given the opportunity to lead his own team.  He’s the consummate Romar Guy, who has improved each and every year of his college career, and is finally reaping the rewards of all that hard work.  He’s one of the best players in the Pac-12 right now, and absolutely deserves to be in the discussion for Pac-12 Player of the Year.

This was going to be a different post, but sort of morphed into a love letter to Andrew Andrews.  I dunno, I feel like a lot of Husky fans are skeptical about the guy.  Like he’s all of a sudden going to fall apart, watch his field goal percentage plummet, and start jacking up even more crazy shots to compensate.  Do the haters not see how he’s getting so many of his points at the free throw line?  38.5% of his overall points are from free throws!  That’s crazy and awesome!  He’s going to find a way to get his and contribute to this team’s success, even if he has an off shooting night here and there.

But, probably more importantly, as this season continues, there’s going to be less and less of a need for Andrews to be The Guy.  As players like Dejounte Murray and David Crisp start to assert themselves, and as our bigs get more comfortable with the college game and the way fouls are called … I mean, we’re already starting to see those guys step their games up.  But, going forward, I would anticipate there will be less pressure on Andrews to carry the whole team.  He’ll be free to play within the flow of the game and continue to contribute in his usual ways, with the peace of mind to know that it doesn’t have to be ALL on him.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about the rest of the team, as Husky Basketball Week prattles on.

C.J. Wilcox Is Yet Another Husky Drafted Into The NBA Under Lorenzo Romar

Last night, with the 28th overall pick, the Los Angeles Clippers selected C.J. Wilcox, shooting guard from the University of Washington.  That makes 7 first round draft picks – and 10 draft picks overall – in the Lorenzo Romar era.

Someone with MUCH more time on their hands than myself can go around the ranks of college basketball and see where that ranks among the other head coaches out there right now.  I’m sure he’s a step or two behind Calipari and the like, but he HAS to be in the top ten of active college basketball coaches, right?

Here’s the breakdown (remember, Romar has been with us since 2002):

  • Nate Rob – 2005, first round (21st overall)
  • Brandon Roy – 2006, first round (6th overall)
  • Bobby Jones – 2006, second round (37th overall)
  • Spencer Hawes – 2007, first round (10th overall)
  • Jon Brockman – 2009, second round (38th overall)
  • Quincy Pondexter – 2010, first round (26th overall)
  • Isaiah Thomas – 2011, second round (60th overall)
  • Terrence Ross – 2012, first round (8th overall)
  • Tony Wroten – 2012, first round (25th overall)
  • C.J. Wilcox – 2014, first round (28th overall)

Anybody else remember Bobby Jones getting drafted?  Yeah, neither did I.

A lot of special players on that list.  A lot of potential that, for whatever reason, wasn’t fully realized.  Nevertheless, a good number of them are still in the league, and putting up productive careers.  I.T. has been a rock for the Kings.  T-Ross has showed flashes of greatness up in Toronto.  Q-Pon is a valued contributor for the Grizzlies.  Tony Wroten has dramatically improved his shooting touch, to go along with all of his other, more impressive qualities he featured in college.  Hawes is a solid big man who has yet to really find a home in the league.  And, of course, Nate Rob is the guy who won’t say die.

Lorenzo Romar has been living life on the hot seat the last couple years.  His gift is his curse:  he helped Husky fans grow accustomed to contending for Pac-10/12 championships and reaching the NCAA Tournament on an almost-yearly basis.  We didn’t have NEARLY the kind of success we’ve had recently, prior to Romar … you have to go back to the mid 80s, and then back again to the God damned 40’s & 50’s!  Now that we’re three seasons removed from the Tourney, the same guy who elevated the program is seeing himself torn down by the fans and in the press.

And yet, he can sit here and point to the fact that he has had ten players drafted into The League.  And a few more undrafted guys have had cups of coffee.  On an almost-yearly basis, we’ve seen another Husky infiltrate the league.  And, if they manage to stay healthy, the Romar kids generally produce at a high level, while remaining hard working and incredibly easy to coach.  Lorenzo Romar’s basketball legacy is out there, doing great things, and C.J. Wilcox continues the trend.

Wilcox is the greatest shooter we’ve ever seen.  It’s just too bad we couldn’t get a team around him that was competitive.  When I saw that he was drafted by the Clippers, I couldn’t have been happier.  For starters, because he’s not playing for OKC.  But, more importantly, because he’s on a good team that’s still on the rise, with a good head coach, and now a good owner who will hopefully do what it takes to win.  It’ll be nice to hear sporadic great things about Wilcox when he does well in the years ahead.  Here’s to hoping he’s the piece that pushes the Clippers over the top.

The UW Alumni Basketball Game Was Amazing

Just know that the following post is coming to you completely, 100% snark-free.  The spring and summer of 2013 – if it’s remembered for anything – will be remembered as a vast wasteland of Seattle Sports Hell.  Dark, desolate, Mariners-filled … we don’t get to look forward to the Sonics returning, we likely won’t have pro hockey anytime soon, and the wait for Seahawks and Husky football is absolutely excruciating.  It’s been a crappy last few months, and it’s going to continue to be a crappy next few months.

But, smack dab in the middle of our calendar year, an oasis in the endless desert that is Seattle sports, we had an event at Hec Ed yesterday afternoon that – for a few hungover hours – left me feeling like a kid again.  With a smile plastered on my face like the first time I ever saw a pair of naked boobs in my face.  And, truth be told, every time since.

For an idea that seems so much like a no-brainer, this was a first for Husky basketball.  An All Star Game comprised exclusively of Husky players over the last 10 years or so.  Split into two squads:  pre-2009 and post-2009.

You’re talking about a who’s who Husky greats!

Pre-2009:

Will Conroy
Brandon Roy
Nate Robinson
Tre Simmons
Spencer Hawes
Bobby Jones
Jamaal Williams
Mike Jensen
Hans Gasser

Post-2009:

Isaiah Thomas
Quincy Pondexter
Jon Brockman
Justin Holiday
Justin Dentmon
Terrence Ross
Tony Wroten
Matthew Bryan-Amaning
Darnell Gant
Ryan Appleby

I had a feeling that the older guys would win the game, thinking that they SURELY would have wanted it more.  Plus, you’ve got some wily vets on that team who can pull from a deeper bag of tricks.  Couple things of note, though:  the pre-2009 bench was MUCH leaner (indeed, there was even one fewer player on the pre-2009 roster), and the post-2009 team was flat-out stacked.

Post-2009 won the game 107-103, though for the most part it didn’t even feel all that close.  You’re talking about an All Star Game, so defense wasn’t really the name of the game.  Post-2009 generally held comfortable leads, while Pre-2009 would go on the occasional spurts to tie the game or hold brief, small leads.

The Spencer Hawes/Jon Brockman battle was epic.  That was surely worth the price of admission by itself.  Hawes was certainly the best player on his team, scoring 21 points and grabbing 17 boards, but Brockman was the only guy on the post-2009 team that could even come close to containing him.

Will Conroy looked like a man possessed; I think he wanted to win that game more than anyone.  He didn’t come out of the game until midway in the second half after he’d picked up his 4th foul; I was sure he was going to just stay in the game until he fouled out (apparently, they were playing by NBA foul rules, as Conroy picked up his 5th late in the game, but stayed in).  He didn’t appear to have off-the-charts numbers when I watched live, but apparently he ended up with a triple-double (16 points, 12 boards, 11 assists), with a quadruple-double if you count the 10 turnovers.

Tre Simmons led his team in scoring with 23, making 6 of 19 shots (5 of 16 from behind the arc).  Nate Rob started each half, then left after about 11 minutes each time and never returned.  He had a quiet 7 points even though he was jacking up shots practically from mid-court.  Roy had a quiet game too, but started to pick it up in the second half; he finished with 13 points.  Bobby Jones didn’t get into the game (I think) until the second half (for some reason; I blame Warren Moon’s erratic basketball coaching style) and was instant offense in the early going.  Mike Jensen looked better in yesterday’s game than he did in his entire Husky career, making all five of his shots and remaining somewhat active on defense.  Jamaal Williams is a big dude who provided a physical presence for the vets.  As for Hans Gasser … he played five minutes and scored 0 points.  So there’s that.

Isaiah Thomas was the MVP of the game, with 24 points on 10 of 20 shooting (4 of 11 from behind the arc).  He simply took over in the second half and willed his team to victory (just as he did for us so many times in his Husky career).  Q-Pon somehow managed to get to the free throw line 11 times, making 8.  He had a quiet 17 points.  Tony Wroten looked MUCH improved, both with his jumper and at the free throw line.  It was pretty sweet to see how he and IT played off of one another.  That 2011/2012 team really could’ve been a mad-dog with both of those guys playing in the back court.

Justin Dentmon continued his hot string of shooting, carrying it over from his final season in a Husky uniform.  Holiday and Ross were fairly quiet, scoring a combined 17 points, but taking only a combined 17 shots.  MBA was effective in limited duty (9 points & 8 boards in 15 minutes).  Gant and Appleby were limited in a numbers crunch, as the rest of the squad was too good to sit for too long.

The whole event was a total victory.  There was a Legends Game to kick things off, with some real old timers doing a short game with 10-minute halves.  Lorenzo Romar won the MVP of that game as he jacked three 3-pointers in finishing with 11 points.  There was a 3-point contest at halftime of the Alumni Game, with Dentmon beating out Simmons, Pondexter, Nate-Rob and Appleby.  And, after the Alumni Game, they had a Dunk Contest with MBA, Holiday, Gant, and Ross.  The latter two made it to the finals, with Gant winning it all thanks to a fan-vote on Twitter.  Gant’s best dunk was a bounce off of the shot clock followed by a slam.  Ross’s best dunk happened in the first round (and it was the best dunk of the whole day), where he had Tony Wroten go 15 rows into the stands, throw the ball into the court, and on a bounce Ross caught it and windmill’d it home.  Each netted a 50 for their efforts on those two, but that’s what happens when you use your best dunk in the first round.

When I first heard about this event, I had it pegged as something that might draw 5,000 fans or so.  Turns out, they sold out, with the Will Call line stretching all the way down the street to the New Husky Stadium.  If they’re able to bring in the same crop of guys every year, I don’t see why they wouldn’t keep this tradition going!  You’re talking about 10 NBA players on the same college basketball court putting on one hell of a show.  I would very much go to this every year they’re able to put it on, no doubt about it.

The Lorenzo Romar Debate Rages On

As this season progresses, the discontent with the Husky basketball program is only going to intensify.  That’s the way it is.  Husky fans have grown accustomed to a certain level of success.  Hell, the Husky PROGRAM has grown accustomed to a certain level of success.  So, losing all these games (to sub-standard programs both in and non-conference), as well as losing all these games in a ROW (after a 4-game winning streak to start conference play), has to be eating away at the psyche of both the players, the coaching staff, the Athletic Department, and the fans at large.

I get it.  Everyone’s pissed off.  Or, at the very least, mildly annoyed.  We’re all ticked because the team is not living up to their regular level of success, and THAT’S making us even angrier because we feel even THAT level of success isn’t good enough.  It’s not enough just to live up to what we’ve seen from other Romar-led Husky teams, it’s a point of contention that:  why can’t we be even BETTER?

The biggest monkey on Lorenzo Romar’s back is:  not getting past the Sweet 16.  For that, I have no defense for the man.  In the Nate Rob/B-Roy years, we had some electric teams.  That 2004/2005 season where we had a #1 seed in the Tourney is particularly galling, because of its rarity around these parts to have a 1-seed college basketball team, and because of the way we ended up losing (in the Sweet 16 round, to the 4-seed Louisville Cardinals).

I’m not here to blindly defend the man willy-nilly, in spite of some of my posts on the subject.  But, I’m also not going to sit around and go along with the crowd who wants to run the guy out of town after one bad season in the last five years.

Someone ran across my last post on the subject and wrote a thoughtful retort; I would recommend reading it even though he takes me to task for some of my sloppier assertions.  Since this is such a dead period in local sports, I’ve opted to reserve my response to his response for a brand new post (content generation, ho!).

I’ll start with this, apropos of nothing:  I don’t think Lorenzo Romar is the perfect coach.  I don’t think he’s the best coach in college basketball.  I think there are plenty of things you could question about the man’s in-game decision-making.  For instance:  why was Desmond Simmons riding so much pine last night, especially at the end of the game, and especially when he’s your best overall defender (who can cover guys inside and on the perimeter)?  Why risk letting Aziz get hacked and put at the line (where he missed two crucial late free throws), or God forbid jacking up a desperation 3-point ball from the corner on an inbound play?

I would also question his preference to have senior guards constantly taking the final shots in games over more-talented younger guys.  How many times did we see Game Overton blasting through the lane, throwing up some wild and crazy shot when it would’ve been more appropriate for someone like I.T. (only a junior) to have the rock with the clock ticking down.  Yes, we all remember COLD BLOODED against Arizona, but really give that season some thought and harken back.  The same goes for Abdul Gaddy this year; Romar needs to have him cede immediately to the younger and more vital Andrews and let him show what he can do.

There are countless other examples of things you COULD question, but for the most part you can see the logic.  Here’s the thing:  I understand being loyal to your upperclassmen.  But, if you’re going to be a top-notch program, you’re going to have to deal with the certainty that you’ll have one-and-done players.  Those players are one-and-done for a reason:  they’re the best of the best (usually).  Put the ball in THEIR hands, if you’re so fortunate to have them, when the game is on the line.

Abdul Gaddy is a real point of contention.  A point made by the aforementioned commenter:  “… I don’t know if Romar is at fault for the poor development of Gaddy and Suggs, but it’s frustrating no less.”

It’s a good point.  We DON’T know who’s at fault for Gaddy not living up to his billing.  I’ll leave Suggs alone, because I think Suggs is what he is, damn his rating coming out of high school.  He’s a spot-up long-range shooter and that’s all he ever was going to be.  Which is fine, if you’ve got the proper guards at point who will drive the lane, draw in defenders, and kick out.  Scott Suggs should be NOBODY’S primary or secondary offensive option (unless he’s playing for some lesser, Sun Belt-ish conference).  But, on a well-balanced team, he wouldn’t be a bad fourth or fifth option, preferably off the bench.

Gaddy, however, is a completely different ball of wax.  I said it last night (when he biffed that alley-oop pass at the end of the game) and I’ll say it again:  Abdul Gaddy is quickly becoming my least-favorite Husky.  He was supposed to be great.  He was our big catch of the 2009 Freshman class.  We may never know what would’ve been had he not injured his ACL at such a critical period of his development in his Sophomore year, but from what we’ve seen since his return, even if he could’ve gotten that medical redshirt, it’s unlikely he’d be any better next year than what he is right now.  Which is a semi-dependable ball-handler who makes WAY too many mistakes with the ball for a guy in his Senior season.  A guy who has never had even a remotely decent jump shot.  A guy who’s an average defender at best (but who will frequently be beaten by shorter, quicker guards).  And a guy who has little-to-no ability to penetrate a defense and finish at the rim.

So, who’s to blame?  Was it Romar not coaching him up, taking his high school talent for granted?  Was it all those sites who rank prep athletes for dropping the ball?  Let’s face it, we had a pretty good idea pretty early on that Gaddy would be a likely 4-year player in college.  With Gaddy supposedly being in the top-2 of incoming point guards that year nationally, you’d think at the most he would’ve been here 1-2 seasons, had he reached the potential everyone thought he’d reach.  Even if those sites DID drop the ball, if you’re Lorenzo Romar, you have to be BETTER than those sites.  As a talent evaluator, you have to know what you’re getting into with a major recruit.

But, there’s the other side of the argument, which is:  did Abdul Gaddy do enough work on his own to better his game?  Did he practice his shot enough?  Did he keep himself in good enough shape?  Did he work out with other players to better his dribble-penetration game?  Or, is he just lazy and thought he could coast on talent alone through his college career, with no real ambition to go on to the next level aside from a hazy, far-off dream?

Or, did he just not have it to begin with, and everyone fucked up, from the scouts to Romar to Gaddy himself?  I’m apt to believe this over anything else.  He could’ve been the Michael Jordan of practicing, working on his game, and having a relentless drive to be the best, but if he just didn’t have the talent to succeed and grow as a player, then it’s pointless trying to spread the blame around.

But, to say that Romar doesn’t get the best out of his players – which the above-referenced commenter, Taylor, noted – means you simply haven’t been watching his teams very closely.  I’m not interested as much in how guys rate coming out of high school.  There are plenty of blue-chippers who go on to fail.  But, I get it, the more blue-chippers you bring in, the better your odds are of having some dominating teams.  I’m more concerned with how guys look in Year 1 vs. how guys look in Years 3 and 4.

Look at Jon Brockman, as one example.  He didn’t come out of the womb an All-Conference player.  In his first season, he averaged 8.4 (points) and 6.5 (rebounds).  But, he consistently worked on refining his game to where he averaged 18/12 as a Junior before giving way to I.T. in his senior season.  Look at a guy like MBA, who averaged 4 and 3 in his first year.  By his senior season, he was up to 15/8!  How about Q-Pon?  From what I remember (and I could be wrong), he was fairly highly rated coming out of high school.  Remember what he was like early in his college career?  VERY inconsistent.  We kept waiting for his breakout that seemingly would never come.  In his first season, he averaged 11 and 4.  By his last year, he was up to 19 and 8 and led this team to an impromptu Sweet 16 run.

I could go on, but let’s just call it what it is:  Romar has coached up his share of guys.

The big theory in college athletics goes like this:  as a new coach, you do your best to bring in as many good players as possible.  You coach them up, you find some modicum of success in the post-season, and that begets even better recruits, which begets more winning, and so on and so forth.  Taylor’s main point, from what I gather, is that Romar has reached a wall, or a plateau of sorts.  He makes a very good point in his section about the other top-tier schools I listed.  I’m going to save myself the time and take his word for it:  those other coaches had more success, and quicker than Romar’s first 11 years with the Dawgs.  In a lot of cases, those coaches took nothing programs, caught lightning in a bottle, and went on to monster success.

So location has nothing to do with it.  I don’t know if I lamented our location as much (I don’t feel like re-reading my whole previous post to find out), but if I did then I was pretty erroneous on that mark.  However, I will say this:  just because it’s taken Romar 11 years to get where we’ve gotten (which isn’t all that impressive, in the grand scheme of things) doesn’t mean this is as good as it gets and it’s only downhill from here.  He’s a fairly young guy, and if you hear the man speak in person, you can tell he has a good rapport with the younger generation, so if he was given a free pass to coach here as long as he desired, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for him to turn this program into a national power.  Really, it just takes one class, one team, to catch that lightning in a bottle.  Generate a surprise Final Four run and before you know it, those blue-chippers we keep losing to Kentucky and Louisville and Arizona and UCLA are now coming here.

Which is why I wouldn’t dismiss out of hand his ability to recruit and build NBA players.  Some guys, like Ross and Wroten, and Roy and Nate-Rob and Hawes, were going to be NBA draft picks regardless.  But, Q-Pon was no guarantee.  Brockman was CERTAINLY no guarantee (an under-sized power forward or a slow small forward, depending on where you think he fits on an NBA team).  I.T.  was another sub-6 foot point guard who ended up being the last pick in the draft.  Yet, he was showcased by Romar on some quality (though not elite) Husky basketball teams, and he made it.  Bringing in blue chippers who leave early is just as important as building NBA-calibre players out of nothing, like he did with the likes of Brockman.  Because it sets an example that you don’t HAVE to go to those other elite schools to get noticed.  You can come here, play for a program everyone respects, and still find success as a pro.

But, I’ll walk this argument back:  Romar hasn’t caught that lightning in a bottle.  His best teams have been disappointments in that regard; they haven’t gone very far in the Tourney.  And his other Tourney teams have lost too quickly to generate much of anything in the way of national buzz.  So, we’re NOT on the level of an Arizona or a UCLA.  We’re in that meaty 2nd tear of the Pac-12, with Cal and Stanford and now, I guess, Oregon (God, just seriously fuck Oregon already!).

So, I get the frustration, I really do.  And Taylor’s point about Romar’s lack of success in non-conference games (especially on the road in non-conference games) is valid.  On the one hand, I’m sitting here telling you that Romar gets the best of his players, that often his players improve from season to season (and during individual seasons, when they’re playing much better towards the end than they are in the beginning), but on the other hand, why can’t Romar have them ready from the beginning?  Why do the Huskies constantly underachieve in their non-conference games?

What’s worse:  the non-conference schedule has only gotten EASIER since Romar’s early days as a Husky coach.  I don’t have an answer for that either.

But, I trust the man’s judgment.  If he feels his teams aren’t ready for elite competition in the first month of the season, then that probably means they aren’t ready for elite competition.  What do I read every year?  Romar’s defense is difficult for guys to learn.  It takes some of them a while to figure it out, which ultimately costs them playing time early in their careers.  I’ll counter Taylor’s point about Terrence Ross:  he WASN’T good as a Freshman until very late in the season.  If he was, he would’ve played a lot from the first game.  Instead, he got very sporadic minutes until he finally figured it all out come conference tournament time.  He certainly didn’t get the kind of minutes that Wroten got as a Freshman, but that’s another story.

What I think Romar gets the least credit for is how he turned this program around.  Taylor felt like belittling me on this point.  Yes, the Huskies are in the Top 15 all time for most college basketball wins.  That’s quite impressive.  They have well over 1,600 wins, which, I mean WOW, right?  Except, the Huskies have been around for 110 fucking years!  They’re tied for the 14th-longest running basketball program in the nation; of COURSE they’re going to have a lot of wins!  Truth be told, though, the Huskies – in those 110 seasons, have exactly 20 conference titles (hardly a “substantial amount”).  A whopping 12 of those were won by teams coached by Hec Edmundson; you know, the guy they named the arena after.  Yeah, Hec Ed had some GREAT teams in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.  Maybe I’ll go back to college, become a history major, and read all about it.

You know who doesn’t give two shits about how good the teams were in the pre-Korean War days?  Everyone born after the Korean War!

Throw your historical winning percentage around all you want.  Keep telling everyone how the Washington Huskies have the winningest home arena in college basketball.  No one gives a shit.  In the 49 seasons before Lorenzo Romar became the Huskies’ head coach, the Huskies won exactly 2 regular season conference championships.  Or, you know, the same number Romar has won in his 11 seasons.  I’m not necessarily saying 2 conference championships is acceptable, but don’t tell me that he was inheriting some program of ANY historical significance.  It’s only significant to Husky alums as a way to talk trash to our Pac-12 brethren.

I’ll close with Taylor’s closing point.  Romar has, indeed, lost a lot of confidence in Husky fans.  To have two first round draft picks last year and only manage to make it to the N.I.T. Final Four is kind of a travesty.  But, the year before that he led a VERY young team into the second round of the Tourney, and the year before that we were in the Sweet 16 with a team that essentially only had two scorers!

I ask again:  is a guy not allowed to have a down year?  I disagree with Taylor’s argument that the Huskies are destined to be terrible again next year.  First of all, with Gaddy leaving, we’re talking about addition by subtraction.  I think any game now, we’re going to find out that Andrew Andrews is something special and a solid foundation piece in the seasons to come.  I agree wholeheartedly with Taylor’s point about rather winning a national championship with 15 guys who never set foot in the NBA over having a bunch of lottery picks and losing in the first round, but that’s neither here nor there.  When do you EVER see that?  Inevitably, with college basketball, you need a good mix and some luck.  You need a couple blue chippers, but you also need those four-year veterans who know the system, who lead by example, and who can chip in as complementary players on both ends of the court.

This year, we kind of got caught with our pants down.  We’re very young AND we’re lacking in any blue chippers (unless you count Gaddy, but I don’t with the way he’s played his whole career).  Our veteran presence – Suggs, Aziz, Gaddy, and Wilcox as a Junior – isn’t enough, because they’re not talented enough to carry the mail.  But, they’re forced to carry the mail, and that’s why you see games like we had last night.  We can contend with some of the best Pac-12 teams, but ultimately we’re going to come short this season because the talent just isn’t there.

But, that doesn’t mean we won’t have the talent NEXT year.  Darin Johnson and Nigel Williams-Goss look like a one-two punch at guard to be reckoned with.  I don’t know if both will play next season, but you’re talking about 3-4 star players.  If we DO somehow land Aaron Gordon (which, I don’t think we should get our hopes up too high on that end, but what a coup that would be!), then the sky is the limit for the 2013/2014 season (especially if we’re fortunate enough to have Wilcox stay for his senior season, where he isn’t necessarily the ONLY offensive option and doesn’t constantly draw the other team’s best defender all game long).

Truth be told, even if we don’t get Gordon, all hope isn’t lost.  There have to be players in the JC ranks out there for Romar to poach.  I think he would be well-served to tap into that well again.  We keep getting our panties in a bunch over these 4-star high school guys, but there are effective JC transfers out there just WAITING for the chance to shine for a program desperately seeking a big man or two.

I’ll actually finish (seriously this time) by 100% agreeing with Taylor’s closing statements.  Yes, if attendance keeps falling, Romar probably won’t stand a chance.  It’s a shame, but that’s the reality in today’s major college sports.  I would hope that Romar has at least earned one more season on top of this one, regardless of how far attendance numbers plummet.  If we get these new recruits for next season and the team STILL struggles to find its way, then I might just be there with everyone else, leading the charge to run the guy out of town.

But, I don’t think this is a Tyrone Willingham situation.  I don’t think we’d be doing more harm than good to give the guy at least one more season.  Honestly, I think we’d be well-served to give Romar at least the next TWO seasons.  I don’t subscribe to the notion that just because you haven’t made a Final Four in your first decade, that means you’re destined to never be elite.  I won’t do the research at this time, but there HAVE to be late bloomers out there, who might’ve struggled or been middling in their first decade as a major-conference head coach, only to turn it on later in their careers.  I just don’t see why Romar can’t be one of them.

Taylor and I agree on one final point as well:  it would be foolish to make a change just to make a change.  The University of Washington has a ton of money.  If you absolutely HAVE to pull the trigger, don’t go out and hire the next Paul Wulff (or whoever the basketball-equivalent would be).  Go out there and make a big fucking splash!  Bring in one of the big dogs, give him free reign over the program, and get the fuck out of his way!

Don’t Be Stupid: The Huskies Should Never Fire Lorenzo Romar

This link was brought to my attention over the holidays thanks to Percy Allen’s blog.  I’ve been a little too under the weather to properly rage against this moron.  But, as I sit under a pile of snotty tissues, next to a bottomless glass of orange juice, I think I’m ready to give this asinine notion the respect it deserves.

Which is quite the shame, because this is the kind of opinionated, lack-of-facts, straight-from-the-gut type of blogging I tend to respect.  I don’t need a blog to tell me the fucking news stories of the day!  I want to know what you THINK!

Of course, this guy who writes for Rant Sports (seriously, who’s ever heard of Rant Sports?  Come on!  This gets picked up by the Seattle Times Husky Basketball Blog?), he’s entirely off-base.

Here, let me cherry-pick some of the stupidest lines:

The school itself has some of the best facilities in the conference and have a decent history. This isn’t some middling FCS program trying to go big time.

OK, first of all, these facilities were a JOKE before Romar got here.  You know why the school was able to improve those facilities?  Through Romar’s success.

Also?  “A decent history”?  You’re joking, right?  What history would that be?  You mean the TEN times we made it into the NCAA Tournament?  You mean that ONE time we made it to a Final Four?  I’ve known some middling programs in my day; the Washington Huskies before Romar were BOTTOM-FEEDERS.  Get your head out of Bob Bender’s ass, his teams weren’t that sweet either.

For the record, while the Huskies pre-Romar went to 10 total NCAA Tournaments in however many DECADES of existence, the Huskies with Romar have gone to the Tourney 6 times in 10 seasons.  Pretty fucking okay?  Pretty fucking okay.  Moving on.

Last year, he had two first round NBA draft picks and still couldn’t make the NCAA tournament. His teams racked up gaudy win numbers against the mediocre PAC-12 but were left out because they couldn’t win any of their big non conference games. Romar was part of the reason.

So, he had two first round picks in the NBA draft.  Let’s start with that nugget of information.  How many other schools had more than one player taken in the first round last year?  Let’s see, there was Kentucky, UConn, North Carolina, Syracuse, Duke, and Vanderbilt.  Now, if you ask my opinion, I’m going to tell you those are PROBABLY some of the best basketball programs in the fucking WORLD.  Again, just one man’s opinion.  But to have multiple first round picks come to your school at the same time … that’s pretty fucking impressive.  And, not for nothing, but Terrence Ross didn’t come out of high school a polished diamond.  It took him a year to get his feet wet.  A year of experience in Romar’s program.

But, you’re right.  Couldn’t make the NCAA Tournament.  Although, it’s not exactly our fault that the Pac-12 was at its lowest point in the conference’s history.  When you’ve got to try and bank on a small handful of non-conference games against quality opposition, you’re going to be at a disadvantage come At-Large time.  RPI is a bitch, know what I’m sayin’?

Still, I wouldn’t say Romar was the problem, at all.  He consistently, year after year, gets the very BEST out of his players.  Oftentimes, players other schools wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.  He doesn’t create the schedule.  He just gets his teams ready to compete.

Year in and year out, he’s one of the worst “X and O’s” coaches in college basketball.

I can’t argue with that.  Not because he’s right, but because it’s an impossible argument to prove.  Are you sitting there, watching every game at every school in ALL of college basketball?  Are you tracking the plays every single coach runs throughout the country?  You must have the best college basketball cable package in the known universe and one of the best time machines ever created.  Saying Romar is “one of the worst X and O’s coaches in college basketball” is like saying Uncle Rico’s tape is pretty much the worst video ever made.  Like anyone could even know that!

He’s survived solely on athletes and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

Oh?  You mean like all those “athletes” on Kentucky, UConn, North Carolina, Syracuse, Duke, and Vanderbilt?  THOSE athletes?  Those athletes that every great basketball program needs to succeed?  Good programs have athletes, everybody!  It’s a fact of life!  Talented players who can run fast, jump high, and shoot basketballs.  Hell, it’s almost like Lorenzo Romar is trying to build a basketball program or something!

This year’s roster includes highly rated players in Abdul Gaddy, Scott Suggs and C.J. Wilcox.

Highly rated?  In what universe, exactly?  I know Abdul Gaddy was highly-rated coming out of high school, but he’s largely been a disappointment.  I wouldn’t blame Romar for that, though.  Romar has done the best he can with a kid who just isn’t elite.  It happens.  Sometimes the blue-chip, 4-star athletes don’t pan out.  Then again, this writer has something against athletes, so maybe that’s part of the problem?  As for Suggs and Wilcox, they are spot-up shooters at best.  They are role players being forced into a situation where they have to be stars; it’s a bad combo.

I will readily admit, this 2012/2013 team is not good.  This is certainly a down-year in every sense of the phrase.  The Huskies have no one who can post-up, the Huskies have no one who can drive the lane and score, the Huskies have no one who can consistently get to the free throw line (except Aziz, and he’s one of the worst free throw shooters in the country).  This team is a trainwreck!  It’s the same reason why the Pac-12/Pac-10 has been a trainwreck for the last few years:  all the talent has fled to the NBA.  The coffers are barren!  But, by all accounts, reinforcements are on the way.  Look out, though, the reinforcements might be … *shudder* … athletes!

Longtime head coach Lorenzo Romar is still living pretty on the Brandon Roy-Nate Robinson days. Problem is, this is 2012, and his team is going nowhere. The time is now for the Huskies to make a change at the top.

You’ve got me there.  Those Brandon Roy/Nate Rob days were pretty fucking glorious.  But, I would think if you’re going to bash Romar about ANYTHING, isn’t it pretty obvious where he has failed this University?  How about the fact that he has yet to get beyond the Sweet 16, in spite of the fact that he had some pretty fucking good teams back in those glory days?

Of course, I would argue some of his more recent teams (with Brockman and Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter) were pretty glorious too.  Again, he’s leading this university in NCAA Tourney appearances (good), but he’s not getting past the first game of the second weekend (bad).  There’s your free shot at Romar and you blew it!

I will say this again:  the Washington Huskies are not a nationally elite program.  The fact that Lorenzo Romar has brought in ANY of the talent he’s brought in is a testament to his abilities as a recruiter.  You come to Seattle, coach for a school with no history, and try to get 17 and 18 year old kids to come here from California and Florida and the Midwest!  When there are so many other schools (like those listed earlier, and like many others NOT listed) – even in our own conference – who are more desirable for their track record, their location, and their chances to make the NBA.  You let me know how you do!

Now, CAN the Washington Huskies be a nationally elite program?  Sure they can.  It’s going to take more than the recent decade of success, though.  It’s going to take many, many decades of success.  You know how you get that success?  Continuity.  What do some of the greatest schools of all time have in common?  Duke, Syracuse, UConn, North Carolina, Arizona for a while there … they all had or have head coaches who were with them FOREVER.  Those universities committed to their elite head coaches because they believed in what those men were trying to build.  They didn’t rip everything apart thanks to a down year here and there.  They waited.  They let their legendary head coaches work.  And in the end, they’ve been rewarded handsomely.

You know what the biggest problem is in sports?  Impatience.  When you have a great thing going – especially in college – you ride it out for as long as possible.  Oh, you’re upset that some other schools or professional teams might be sniffing around Coach Romar?

Finally, loyalty is a two way street. While the university signed him to a 10 year contract two seasons ago he has still flirted with the idea of leaving. The Illinois Fighting Illini and the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves were supposedly interested. I call his bluff and let him go.

Really?  You’d let him go, huh?  Before I get ahead of myself, just because someone else gives you a job offer (or even hints at a job offer) doesn’t mean you’re not loyal.  By the way, has Romar ACCEPTED any of these job offers?  If my understanding of basic logic is worth anything, I would venture a guess that he has not.  And therefore, Romar has been VERY loyal to this university.

I, for one, want other schools and professional teams after my head coach.  That means he’s doing a good job.  My biggest nightmare is the day some NFL team hires Steve Sarkisian away from the Husky football team.

It’s called “building a program” for a reason.  If you fire a local legend, only to replace him with some “up and coming young coach”, you’re not building anything.  You’re tearing everything down only to RE-build all over again.  That’s dumb.  Let Romar do his thing.  You’ll feel like a fool when he starts getting some real results.

Look back at all the players Romar has gotten into the NBA.  All the players who have improved from absolute DISASTERS when they were Freshman, to all-conference players as Seniors.  Brockman, Pondexter, Thomas, MBA; hell, look at where Brandon Roy was when he started vs. where he was when he finished!  Improvement, across the board.  Players enter the University of Washington as unmolded blobs of clay.  Nothing but swinging-dick athletes who are nothing but raw.  Lorenzo Romar molds them into stars.  He consistently challenges the best teams in the Pac-10/12 and finds the Huskies near the top more often than near the bottom.  If that’s not a great head coach, then I’ve got some news for you.

Not that I would ever advocate for what I’m about to say, but if you’re going to fire Lorenzo Romar just to bring in someone fresh, you don’t do it for some “up and coming young coach”.  You do it for John Calipari or Rick Pitino, or even Baylor head coach Scott Drew (who probably would’ve been the hottest head coaching commodity before the latest scandals).  You want to go that extra mile?  Sometimes, you gotta get your hands dirty.  How many schools has Calipari left in his wake with all his violations?  Is that what you’re after?  Because that’s probably what it would take if you decide to fire Romar.

My opinion:  you stick with Romar.  The man has earned a little confidence.  One bad season isn’t worth throwing away your entire program.  Let the man do his thing.

Isaiah Thomas Is Still Great For Husky Recruiting

What does it take to bring in top-flight talent into a college basketball program?  Top-flight talent.

In other words, if you’re starting where the Huskies started when Lorenzo Romar was hired, you’ve got a VERY daunting task ahead.  But, thanks to him, we had a big influx of talent.  And he took that talent and turned it into more talent.  And now he’s continuing the cycle.

A 4-star recruit, Nigel Williams-Goss, just declared that he will sign with the Huskies in their 2013 recruiting class.  In the Seattle Times blog post I read today, he’s attributed to this quote:

They have a track record of sending a lot of pros through the years …

Which got me to thinking.  That’s true!  That:  is a true statement!  You’ve got Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Spencer Hawes, Jon Brockman, Quincy Pondexter, Isaiah Thomas, and soon to be pros in Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross.  Those are eight guys who have had (or will have had) extended periods of time in the NBA.  But, how good are they really?

Nate Rob has the most experience, having played in 448 games, winning multiple Slam Dunk contests.  But, he’s an old man by basketball standards, being a 7-year pro and all.

Brandon Roy probably had the greatest NBA career (or, at least, he was the best of the bunch in the NBA), but he suffered chronic injuries and was forced into early retirement.  Plus, for as great as he was, it’s not like he was a flashy, me-first type of guy.  He was never one to grab the glory, so for the most part the country as a whole didn’t pay a lot of attention to him (compared to other superstars who shall remain nameless).

Hawes, Brockman, and Pondexter have all had nice little careers, but they’ve been role players at best, and bench-warmers at worst.  No 4-star recruit comes to college with a dream to one day play 3 minutes per game in the NBA.  They all want to be the Next LeBron, or the Next Kobe, or whatever.

IT, on the other hand, is doing what none of those other Huskies have been able to do.  He’s young – having just completed his rookie campaign.  He’s awesome – having made a real case for Rookie of the Year.  He’s getting all the right kinds of publicity – starting as a rookie at point guard, with his size, etc.  He’s one year removed from the college program that helped make him a star – the same college program that just featured two guys who are pretty much guaranteed to be First Round draft picks in the upcoming NBA draft.

When high school guys talk about the Washington Huskies as a program that “sends a lot of pros through,” they’re talking about Isaiah Thomas.  He’s the cocky underdog, a fighter with a sass-mouth that can back up all his shit-talk on the court.  And even though he plays for Sac-town, he’s always going to be a Husky.  He’s always going to be an asset to the program (just like Wroten and Ross will be assets, even if they didn’t exactly lead us to a title while they were here).

Washington has a reputation now.  We’ve always had a reputation, but now we’ve got a GOOD reputation.  We’re a program who has seen elite guys come and go.  We’ve got a head coach who has made NBA players out of raw, unsculpted Play Doh.  We’ve got a community in the 206, 253, and 425 that continues to come back home and remind the world there are some elite basketball players playing in the Pacific Northwest.

And the better IT does as a pro (not to mention all the other guys mentioned), the better the University of Washington is going to do as a program.  We will never be lacking in guard talent, I’ll tell you that for free.

The Best Washington Husky Basketball Players In The Lorenzo Romar Era

Before Lorenzo Romar came to town, I was never really much of a Washington Husky basketball fan.  Though, I do remember being in high school on Thursday, March 19th, 1998, when Rip Hamilton ripped our guts out in the Sweet 16.  Aside from that shot, and the fact that Todd MacCulloch was on the team, I don’t remember much else from the Bob Bender era.  After that game, and the following season where we lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, three years of 8th and 9th place finishes sealed Bender’s fate.

Then, in 2002, we signed Lorenzo Romar.  And everything changed … though not right away.

Romar came to the Huskies with 6 seasons’ worth of head coaching experience, 3 with Pepperdine and 3 with Saint Louis.  In his 6 seasons, Romar had a 93-88 record, with one NIT and one NCAA Tournament appearance.  I can’t say that expectations were super-high for Romar coming to Montlake.  But, it turns out he exceeded those expectations beyond our wildest dreams.

That 2002/2003 team had some talent, but they weren’t quite there yet and we finished 9th again.  In his second season, however, we made it to the Big Dance.  What followed that underachieving first season was post-season appearances in every other season but one (2006/2007).  Six NCAA appearances in eight seasons, including three Sweet 16 appearances.  We’re 8-6 in the Tourney, and even though we haven’t been able to get past the Sweet 16 under Romar, it’s easy to realize just where he’s taken this program since he got here.

We’ve won two outright Pac-10/12 championships, we’ve won three other conference tournament championships.  He has coached at least six major NBA players (and another three at least who have had cups of coffee in the league), and that’s not counting Ross and Wroten, who both figure to be first round picks this year.

So, in honor of all the great Lorenzo Romar has brought to the Washington Huskies, I’m compiling a roster of 12 guys.  The greatest men’s Husky basketball players to play under Coach Romar.

The obvious place to start are the five guys who have not only gone on to make a dent in the NBA, but also made a significant dent with the University of Washington.  They are, in no particular order:

It’s a tad undersized, so I probably wouldn’t make that my Starting Five, but those are the five who are the most obvious choices to be on this All Romar Team.  All of them played at least three seasons in college and all of them got progressively better each and every season – a trademark of just about any Lorenzo Romar student athlete.

In the next grouping, I think these guys are almost just as obvious, but in this case we’re talking about critical role players Lorenzo Romar has cultivated over the years.  Again, in no particular order:

Even though Bobby Jones and Justin Holiday are essentially the same player, I’m including both of them on my team, because you can never have enough hard-nosed defenders.  I believe that, and I know Lorenzo Romar believes that.

I figured this team needed another true point guard (because, let’s face it, Nate Rob was many things for the Huskies, but a true point guard he was not).  It came down to Conroy and Justin Dentmon in my mind (with no apologies to Ryan Appleby), and while Dentmon might have had the better offensive numbers (especially in his Senior season), Conroy always had the better assist numbers.  Now, if Abdul Gaddy comes out next season and blows everyone away with his leadership abilities, then this might change after next season.  For now, Conroy is my guy.

And, to round things out, I needed a pure shooter.  THIS one came down to Simmons and C.J. Wilcox.  Granted, Simmons only played here for two seasons, but he was cash money while wearing the purple and gold.  Of course, should Wilcox come out next season and blow me away, he will rightly deserve a spot on this team.  Until then …

At this point, you’ll notice that no one on my team is taller than 6’7.  We need big men!  Unfortunately, what has plagued Lorenzo Romar throughout his tenure with this team is the fact that he can’t regularly get quality big men.  Sure, he got Spencer Hawes, but he was one-and-done so nuts to him.  Romar has had to take what he could get and do the best with what he had.  Therefore, the following two guys also make my team (until a day comes when we get someone better):

These might not be the most popular choices – especially MBA – but look at it rationally.  I’m not going to include any one-and-done players on my list (sorry Tony Wroten), and if you look at the rosters through the years, these two really ARE the best true big men he has coached.  If anyone wanted to see the genius of a Lorenzo Romar, look no further than the career trajectory of Matthew Bryan-Amaning.  He was positively DREADFUL in his first season with the Huskies.  Field Goal Percentage around 40%, rebounds per game around 3, minutes down around 14 per game.  Then, look at his Senior season!  28 minutes per game, nearly 55% from the field, and an even 8 rebounds per contest!  That’s the Lorenzo Romar Effect in a nutshell.  And, as for Aziz, he’s slowly but surely getting there.  In his second full season, he made the All Pac-12 Defensive Team.  Sure, he might get into foul trouble more often than not, but he will give other teams hell for about 20 minutes a game in the paint.

My 12th man isn’t going to some bottom-feeder who never played a lick of meaningful minutes (like Zane Potter or Brendan Sherrer).  There’s too much talent on the All Romar Team to waste on a pasty white guy.  This pick is more of a personal favorite.  Even though he left school early, he’s still made an impact on me.  And, I think he’ll fit on this team quite nicely.  He is:

Not a one-and-done, so he fits the mold I’ve set.  The only downside is thinking about the potential he had to be a Player of the Year candidate.

I think it’s a pretty decent squad.  Here it is again, from shortest to tallest:

  • Isaiah Thomas 5’8 (PG), 2008-2011
  • Nate Robinson 5’9 (PG/SG), 2002-2005
  • Will Conroy 6’1 (PG), 2001-2005
  • Brandon Roy 6’5 (G/F), 2002-2006
  • Tré Simmons 6’5 (SG), 2003-2005
  • Justin Holiday 6’6 (SF), 2007-2011
  • Terrence Ross 6’6 (SG/SF), 2010-2012
  • Bobby Jones 6’7 (SF), 2002-2006
  • Quincy Pondexter 6’7 (SF), 2006-2010
  • Jon Brockman 6’7 (PF), 2005-2009
  • Matthew Bryan-Amaning 6’9 (PF), 2007-2011
  • Aziz N’Diaye 7’0 (C), 2010 – Present

Now, if I’m picking a true Starting Five, to compete against actual teams, it’s looking something like this:

  1. Nate Robinson (PG)
  2. Brandon Roy (SG)
  3. Quincy Pondexter (SF)
  4. Jon Brockman (PF)
  5. Aziz N’Diaye (C)

You get Aziz in there to be a load in the paint.  You’ve got lots of great scoring in our guards and small forward, and you’ve got stellar defense & rebounding out of our forwards.

Now, if you want to play matchups, you’ve got a whole world to play with.  Need to go small and run up the score?  Try this lineup:

  1. Will Conroy
  2. Isaiah Thomas
  3. Tré Simmons
  4. Terrence Ross
  5. Bobby Jones

Want to clamp down defensively?

  1. Isaiah Thomas
  2. Justin Holiday
  3. Bobby Jones
  4. Quincy Pondexter
  5. Aziz N’Diaye

Anyway, that’s it.  These are the Lorenzo Romar All Stars.  I’ll update it accordingly in the years to come.

To close things out, for your information, is Lorenzo Romar’s career record with the Washington Huskies:

2002/200310-17 (5-13), 9th in Pac-10
2003/200419-12 (12-6), 2nd in Pac-10, lost NCAA first round to UAB 102-100
2004/200529-6 (14-4), 2nd in Pac-10*, lost NCAA Sweet 16 to Louisville 93-79
2005/200626-7 (13-5), 2nd in Pac-10, lost NCAA Sweet 16 to Connecticut 98-92 (OT)
2006/200719-13 (8-10), 7th in Pac-10
2007/200816-17 (7-11), 8th in Pac-10, lost CBI first round to Valparaiso 72-71
2008/200926-9 (14-4), 1st in Pac-10, lost NCAA second round to Purdue 76-74
2009/201026-10 (11-7), 3rd in Pac-10*, lost NCAA Sweet 16 to West Virginia 69-56
2010/201124-11 (11-7), 3rd in Pac-10*, lost NCAA second round to North Carolina 86-83
2011/201224-11 (14-4), 1st in Pac-12, lost NIT Final Four to Minnesota 68-67 (OT)

* – won Pac-10 Conference Tournament