Is It Time To Accept This Just Isn’t a Very Good Team?


Watching that embarrassment of a game against South Dakota State forced me to conclude that we may indeed be in for another season like that of 2007 when the Huskies went 19-13 with a team of Spencer Hawes, Jon Brockman, and Quincy Pondexter. That was a team, not unlike this one, with alot of talent and potential including three future NBA players. Or, even worse it would be 2008 when the team dropped to 16-17 and lost at home to Valparaiso in the 1st round of the CBI tournament. This season has a lot of those same features including inopportune injuries, a lack of team chemistry on the floor, and some bad losses mixed in with some good performances that can drive a fan crazy.

Alot of people are being critical of Lorenzo Romar for how this season is progressing, including myself. But, as a coach I know there are times when you want to change the dynamics of the situation, but feel powerless to do so. There are times where you try every idea you can think of, every psychological trick you can muster, every drill you have in your coaches manual to change how the players are playing and what attitudes they bring to the court. But, no matter what you try, the dynamics do not change and you can just tell how things are going to work out.

Lorenzo Romar gave us some very clear signs about how he thought things were going to go and how they were going in the pre-season, if you were looking for them.

The decisions he made and the words he chose to use gave me pause when I heard or read them. I wrote back in the pre-season that I thought we might need to be prepared for a tough season.

While I was prepared intellectually to accept this might be a tough season, I honestly did not expect to see losses to St. Louis, Nevada, or South Dakota State. I did not expect to see such tough games against Florida Atlantic or UC Santa Barbara. One loss in that bunch? Maybe…but, to be 5-5 at this stage is disasterous.

The first sign that Romar was worried was when the schedule came out. I did a post analyzing the strength of schedule based on last year’s RPI and what I immediately noticed is that Romar backed off to an easier non-conference schedule than the previous three years and in-line with the weak non-conference schedule he played during that tough two year stretch between 2006 and 2008. Lorenzo Romar was clearly worried about the impact of losing three seniors and the influx of having 7 freshmen coming in and wanted to give his team an easier road to start.

The second sign of worry came in training camp when Lorenzo Romar discussed how he was having trouble implementing his defense in time and that the freshmen were “slow” to learn it. Reading between the lines, there also appeared to be a bit of frustration that indicated that he was not pleased with where his team was.

Then, there was the decision to redshirt Jernard Jarreau and Andrew Andrews. Lorenzo Romar had never redshirted two players before at Washington and yet he had already decided to sit two of these freshmen. Based on the fact that Hikeem Stewart has hardly played means another player should have been sitting this year. Stewart is almost like the Scott Suggs of 2009 and we are seeing a year of his eligibility lost. Lastly, the desperate search for a big man to replace MBA has not gone so well, as clearly Martin Bruenig and Shawn Kemp Jr. have some potential, but neither is prepared to play at the Division I level yet.

But, the perhaps THE most telling sign of where this team is right now came after the South Dakota State game when he spoke with Bob Rondeau in the post-game show. He spoke about how he was concerned about the lack of energy and seriousness of the players in the pre-game routine, in the locker room, and in the shoot-around.

“I saw it at 8:30 this morning when we met for our pregame meal,” he said. “You know our team. You know the look in their eyes…We tried to help our team understand how good a basketball player Nate Wolters was, but the bottom line is energy or no energy this unacceptable. It shouldn’t happen.”

Essentially he said he knew this loss was coming…

Having been there as a coach, I can tell you I’ve had that ominous feeling. There are some games you can already see you will lose before stepping on the floor just by watching your players. You can try and insert yourself into it, motivate them, wake them up, but for some reason it just doesn’t seem to matter. There is a team in front of you that you ought to beat, but you get this sinking feeling that you won’t and there is nothing you can do about it.

The biggest concern at this point for me is Romar losing his players.  Being unable to motivate them is one thing. Their sheer physical talent will still lead them to wins this year they may not deserve based on effort, cohesion, or organization. But, if he loses them in the locker room, things could go from bad to worse. There is a lot of learning this young team can go through win or lose. There is a lot of teaching that can occur in the video room and on the floor. There is a lot of chemistry that can still be built.

We don’t know if Tony Wroten or Terrance Ross will jump to the NBA at the end of this season. It is not enough for us to fans and basketball afficionados to say “they aren’t ready”. If they are given lottery-type money to do go and they are not enjoying themselves here in Seattle, why wouldn’t they go? What about CJ Wilcox or Abdul Gaddy? Both may have NBA futures ahead of them…It may be silly for them enter their names into the draft like dozens of players do a year or two ahead of reaching their full potential. But, if they stop having fun, then they may feel its worth going earlier than they planned. But, if they all stayed, what could this team become?

If there is a reason for optimism, it is that following that disasterous 16-17 season in 2008, a team of veteran players lead by Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon, and Quincy Pondexter, as well as, a brash young freshman named Isaiah Thomas went on to win the first outright Pac-10 championship in 54 years. If this core group can stick together, learn from their mistakes, learn how to play more cohesively and use each other more effectively through this season, and then all stay in town for one more season, then next year has the potential to be just as special.