Arizona State fired coach Herb Sendek on Tuesday after 9 seasons with the Sun Devils. He was second to Lorenzo Romar in tenure among Pac 12 coaches. He also was the only other coach aside from Romar that had gone without an NCAA tournament appearance in four seasons. Now he’s gone. The question that many Husky fans wonder is whether Romar should go too.
The answer should be yes although UW Athletic Director Scott Woodward has given his "vote of confidence" to Romar. And although Woodward described the team as in a "trough" he thinks that Romar (at least for now) is the coach to get the Dawgs out of it. Yet, now would be a good time for the program to seek another direction.
Lorenzo Romar’s tenure as the Huskies’ coach has had great memories. He has been a class individual and affable with the media, alumni and all he comes into contact with making it hard for any to think of the inevitable. But why should Romar go?
Romar has come up "second" in many recruiting battles for top talent. He has not landed a big recruit outside Washington State. Obviously, the most public recruiting loss was Terrence Jones. You recall he made the announcement to go to the University of Washington and then immediately regretted the decision. As we know, he went to Kentucky. The only solace is at the same press conference; Terrence Ross announced his commitment to Romar. Ross turned into an NBA lottery pick and the last impactful out of state recruit to the program. But, there was the "under the radar" loss of Enes Kanter to Kentucky. While we may dismiss Kanter’s commitment since he never played for the Wildcats, it was another loss for Romar. In 2013, Romar lost Aaron Gordon, a sure bet to play for Romar at the beginning of his recruitment, to Arizona. While UW has been on the list of many top recruits, Romar come up short.
Romar teams are no longer playing defense and their offense was inconsistent. Perhaps one of the glaring issues this season after Robert Upshaw left was the lack of defense. Sure, the big man was gone but he never defended the perimeter. A Romar constant, defense, has gone by the wayside. As for the offense, the team lacked a "go to" scorer and in several games went through huge scoring droughts.
Attendance has been down this year due to the lack of winning. We wrote about the declining attendance and it’s clear that another year of mediocre play will keep fans away.
Certainly, one of the administrative hurdles in letting Romar go is the contractual buyout of over $3 million. This is based on the fact he has 5 years remaining on a 10 year contract that ends in 2020. Despite the payout, the UW should bite the bullet and pay him. With the news that a new basketball facility is on the horizon, it’s best to have a fresh start and perhaps a new coach to usher in a new era of Husky basketball.
And for those that argue that Romar leaving means his prized class leaves too, that is unknown. One would have to consider whether a new coach would be able to retain Murray, et al. After all, you are choosing the university, not the coach when you pick a school, right (he wrote winking his eye). Then again, has Romar been able to take his team, with his own recruits, to the tournament in the past 4 seasons?
It would be a difficult decision, but necessary for the program to move forward.
Stay (Jesse Kennemer):
I understand the large number of fans that are ready for a change. They look at Romar and see a great guy, a good recruiter, and a mediocre coach. They attribute his most successful years to his ability to recruit high-level players. They wonder if players like Roy and Thomas won despite Romar's in-game coaching, rather than because of it.
Now that the team has struggled for the last few seasons due to a lack of the aforementioned high-level recruiting, they wonder what the use is in keeping around a coach for sentimental reasons, and roll their eyes at the well-worn "who else could we get?" argument.
I recognize these points and see some truth in them. My main problem with advocating for Romar's immediate termination is timing. If Woodward planned to fire Romar given a disappointing '14-'15 season, he should have done it a year ago.
Entering the '14-'15 season, Dorsey was the only incoming freshman. Technically Upshaw would see the floor for the first time after sitting out a season, but the addition of Dorsey and Upshaw (who, of course, would eventually be dismissed midseason) did not necessarily outweigh the loss of star guard C.J. Wilcox and several other role players.
Fans had every right to find the '13-'14 season unacceptable, and the same goes for '14-'15. But to expect Romar to drastically alter the trajectory of the program in a year in which the team did not receive a major injection of talent was not realistic. If this past year was really to be Romar's make-or-break last chance, you might as well have fired him last March in order to give his replacement an extra year to begin rebuilding.
So, I advocate for keeping Romar in the context of the 2015-2016 season being his last chance to turn things around. This time he will have an injection of talent to work with in the form of a top-10 recruiting class (including both in and out of state talents), meaning it is rational to expect improvement and hold Romar accountable if he fails.
To be clear, I am not saying that Romar should bear no responsibility for the past several years. He absolutely should. But we cannot change those seasons now, so I am thinking purely in terms of maximizing Washington's chances of making the NCAA tournament next season.
Think of a few scenarios:
1.) Romar coaches next season and the team disappoints again. He is fired, and his replacement loses a year in the effort to rebuild the program that he could have had if he were hired a year earlier.
2.) Romar coaches next season and, based on contributions from the incoming class, the team secures an NCAA tournament berth. Romar secures at least one more year on the job.
3.) Romar is fired immediately, allowing a replacement to coach 2015-16. Several players transfer preseason (which I believe is realistic given how many commits list Romar as their primary reason for signing), the team likely struggles and misses the NCAAs, but the replacement at least gets a head start on rebuilding.
I understand that some fans have fully given up on Romar as a long term solution, and would really rather give his replacement an extra year.
I would argue that the chances of UW securing a tourney berth next year are far higher if Romar is retained, and that this additional chance of success in the next 12 months outweighs the possible negative consequences of his eventual replacement losing those extra 12 months to rebuild.
Give Romar one more year to work with this class. If we never planned to, we shouldn't have wasted the last year expecting change from a situation that remained stagnant. If the gamble fails to pay off, let him go and start the clock on the rebuild, which will likely take a few years either way. The payoff could be large and, to my eyes, the cost is relatively low.