If you carouse the Husky message board circuit, as I do, you are fully aware that there are a handful of University of Washington basketball fans that do not like head coach Lorenzo Romar. A year ago, those misguided souls were an increasingly loud minority, rising from the depths to proclaim their dislike for the Dawgs’ head man. They argued that Romar was a bad playcaller, an inept manipulator of the depth chart, and cited recent player transfers (Phil Nelson, Adrian Oliver) and back-to-back down years as reasons to ditch the coach in favor of a new leader.
Now, just one year later, those critics have all but disappeared. Romar hasn’t done much different than he did before, only now his players have finally put it all together and are winning ballgames. Winning, they say, cures all evils.
The impact of Lorenzo Romar can best be summed up in a quote from Jon Brockman: “You would run through a brick wall for him.” Any man that can inspire that level of trust and loyalty is a man I’d like to play for. Romar believes in his players, inspires his players, trusts his players, and in turn they do the same for him.
That level of dedication can be traced back all the way to 2002, when Romar took over the struggling program from former coach Bob Bender. After head coaching gigs at Pepperdine and St. Louis, the UW alum returned to his alma mater determined to turn the fortunes of the team around. After one rebuilding year, Romar led his Husky ballclubs to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. In the process he dismissed a losing culture, and instilled a winning mentality amongst his ballplayers. Four members of Romar’s inaugural team have logged minutes in the NBA: Will Conroy, Bobby Jones, Brandon Roy, and Nate Robinson. In all, five of Romar’s ex-Husky players have gone on to the highest level of competition, with Spencer Hawes making the leap following the 2006-2007 season.
With an NCAA bid all but ensured this season, Romar will have led the Dawgs to the Big Dance in four of his first seven seasons, and to postseason play of any form in five of those seven years.
Perhaps the level of scrutiny surrounding Romar one year ago was a result of his early successes. In each subsequent year, the coach has seemingly raised the bar higher for himself, the players, and the program, with expectations mounting at a staggering level. It might be a lot to live up to, but I guarantee you that Lorenzo Romar would have it no other way.