Is It Time We Start Holding Lorenzo Romar Accountable? A Series of Reflection


I should preface this article by saying I have been one of the biggest Lorenzo Romar supporters since he came to Washington. He deserves credit for turning a Washington program that had floundered in mediocrity or worse for the better part of two decades and turned them into a perennial NCAA tournament team. I have appreciated his code of ethics, his mentorship of young men, his high academic demands that they earn a college degree, and just how he carries himself.

In 2009, Lorenzo Romar led the Huskies to their first outright Pac-10 championship in 55 years. In 2005, 2010, and 2011 Romar led the Huskies to the Pac-12 tournament championship. He has led the Huskies to the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament 5 times in the last 7 years. There is a lot to celebrate since he came to Montlake.

But, with sustained success comes heightened expectations. Romar should be prepared for some criticism when the team is not performing to those higher expectations that fans have. But, this series of articles goes beyond just a frustrated fan wanting a Final Four appearance. These articles are addressing some bigger issues including

overall offensive and defensive strategies, in-game decision making, and overall recruiting that Romar may need to look at if he wants to take this program to the next level. We do have to start wondering if Romar will be able to get this program over the top or if he is infact losing his edge. I am starting to wonder if we may be watching the beginnings of the gradual decline of the entire basketball program. While this may sound both apocalyptic and apostasy, I should emphasize that I am not saying it WILL be the end of the program or that I think Romar is a bad coach and should be fired. I am just saying that I think we need to start examining why these teams have such trouble winning on the road, losing games against teams they should beat, and seem to not be living up to the potential we think they are capable of.

So, this series is all about doing a little analysis about HOW these Romar teams plays their games and whether they can continue to have sustained success or if its effectiveness has wained as other teams figure out how to counter it.

First a little background. I am not going to claim that I know more about the game of basketball than a coach like Lorenzo Romar who played in the NBA, won a national championship as an assistant coach, and has led his teams to 7 NCAA tournaments. But, I was a varsity basketball head coach when I taught for Department of Defense Schools over in Italy. In addition, I have played and watched basketball almost my entire life. I grew up in Tacoma with a basketball in my hands. Unfortunately for me, I ended up being short white guy with no hops who was too slow to play at a higher level (although the highlight of my high school career was blocking a shot by Lawyer Milloy)…But, I digress.

When Lorenzo Romar first came to Washington and the team started winning games, I honestly did not pay very close attention to his game planning, half court offense, defensive schemes, or player rotations. After all those years of losing (I remember as a student getting into non-conference games for free under Lynn Nance), I was just happy to see the Huskies finally winning again. When that amazing crew of Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, Will Conroy, Tre Simmons, Bobby Jones, and Hakeem Rollins was rolling to the Pac-10 tournament championship and a #1 seed, I was not examining how this team was playing, I was just enjoying the ride…

But, here we stand some 6+ years later, and the Washington Huskies have most definitely taken a step backwards. And, I say this not just talking about this 4-4 early season, but really the past couple seasons as well. It’s easy to forget about all the struggles we’ve seen the past two-plus seasons since Jon Brockman left. It’s easy to forget about the non-conference road losses, the embarrassing losses to Stanford, Oregon State, and Oregon (when did the Huskies last win in Eugene?) or that the Huskies might not have even made the NCAA tournament in 2010 had Elston Turner not stripped the ball from California in the Pac-10 championship game. But, when the team gets to a Sweet 16 or Isaiah Thomas hits a dagger shot to beat Arizona in the Pac-12 title game, suddenly all that frustration goes away and anticipation for all that could be builds as we approach the next season.

While losing Isaiah Thomas, MBA, and Justin Holiday certainly is a difficult thing to adjust to, there was much to be optimistic about going into this season. Terrance Ross seemed to be emerging as a true superstar, CJ Wilcox appeared to be the full package, 5-star guard Tony Wroten was coming and a healthy Abdul Gaddy seemed to bode well for the backcourt. There was a lot of reason to believe this could be one of the best Husky teams since 2005. While there was some obvious concern about the front court, we had Aziz coming back, Gant back for his 5th year, and the much-hyped Desmond Simmons that seemed like a decent foundation up front. In fact, the main question was simply how could Romar deal with the rotation being blessed with so many good guards.

But, here we are. The team is 4-4, has lost all four games away from Hec Ed, and even in the 4 wins at home, only two were really easy wins. In fact, if the Pac-12 was not in so much turmoil elsewhere, our pessimism would probably be even higher. So, why is this team that appears to have so much talent, so much athleticism, so much potential struggling so much?

Some might say the impact of having 7 freshmen on the team could be the reason. Yeah, there certainly is a degree of truth to that, as it is clear that Shawn Kemp Jr., Martin Breunig, and Desmond Simmons are having trouble adjusting the pace of college basketball and their defensive assignments. Tony Wroten has also been going through some freshmen struggles with his turnovers and missed free throws. But, in all honesty, Tony Wroten is the least of the troubles facing the Huskies right now. In fact, watching his game develop, he is a reason for optimism that this season can be turned around in conference play.

So, why have the Huskies been struggling so much in the first 2/3rds of the season the past few seasons? Why do we seem to just have to accept that the Huskies will just lose all their non-conference road games? They are just 4-16 in non-conference games away from Hec Ed since Romar took over afterall. Why do we always have to hope that they make a late season run or win the conference tournament to make the Big Dance?

Maybe it isn’t so much the players, but the coaching…

Or maybe it IS the players… that the coaching staff brings onto the team…

This series of articles will examine how Lorenzo Romar teams play offense, how they play defense, the decisions that are made in critical situations, and the type of players Romar has recruited to see if we can figure out why this team is so dang frustrating (and sometimes very exciting) to watch.