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Two Guys, Coffee and Lorenzo Romar’s Hot Seat

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Overheard in a coffee shop: two men on the plight of the UW Men’s Basketball Coach

Wshington v Utah Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Mitch: Hey, Clem. How’s it hanging?

Clem: Mitchy, my boy. Same as it ever was: black and strong, just like how I like my coffee.

M: heh-heh. That never get’s old, my friend. Mind if I join you?

C: Just don’t expect me to buy the coffee.

M: You know I’m a tea guy.

C: There’s still hope for you. Anybody can make a comeback. Even from tea.

M: You think so?

C: Sure, look at my boy LoRo.

M: You mean Lorenzo Romar? I read in the Times that he’s on the hot seat. The Huskies haven’t been able to make it into the tournament in five years. The program is really sputtering in a heap of mediocrity right now. It’s kind of like Starbucks.

C: Mitch, my man. You’ve been reading too many of those Oregon and Cal sports blogs. I admit that my boy hasn’t had the greatest stretch when it comes to the on the court appearances the last few years, but that’s my point. The man is on the come back.

M: How do you figure? He hasn’t had a winning PAC 12 record since 2011-12, he’s got a track record of underperforming with NBA talent on his roster and, now, he’s got a new AD - one who didn’t hire him. It looks like it is tournament or bust for him in 2017.

C: Look at the big brain on Mitchy!

M: I’m just saying, Clem. That man is one foot in the pyre already.

C: I’m not arguing that the man is facing scrutiny, Mitch. But let’s give the man his due here. You say he hasn’t had a winning record since 11-12. I presume you are talking about the year that UW went 14-4 and won the PAC, but still got excluded from the Tournament? You do realize in the subsequent four years that UW only had a losing conference record once in that span, right? Even with a roster that was blown up and essentially put back together with freshman and transfers, UW still managed to 9-9 in the PAC last year.

M: But, that’s my point, Clem. How can UW have two first round NBA draft picks in Maquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray and not have found more success?

C: I hear you, my friend. Hell, I’d almost agree with you. However, did you know that one of those players set the PAC 12 record for fouls per minute and the other led the league in turnovers? It is actually kind of remarkable that UW got to 9 wins in spite of those NBA draft picks.

M: Yeah. I knew that Clem. But, still, c’mon! This is the second time that Romar has produced two NBA first round draft picks off of a team that failed to make the tournament. How can that be?

C: It’s painful, man. I’m with you on that. But what are we talking about here? It’s not like the man is a stranger to the NCAA tournament. No coach in UW history had ever gotten a Husky team into the NCAA’s in three straight seasons. Romar has done it twice. Three of his six tournament teams have gone on to the Sweet 16. Also, you know that 2012 team should have been in the tournament. Don’t try to deny it Mitch. If you do, it’s only Starbucks for you from now on.

M: Hey, no reason to get nasty, Clem. I’m not saying Romar hasn’t had a good run. Hell, the man has been coach for ... what? ... 16 years or something?

C: That’s right, Mitch. His first year was 2002. Coach is six years into a 10-year contract extension. Incidentally, he has already said that he intends to retire as a Husky. He’ll be 62 when that contract expires. Just saying.

M: But do you really want to wait four more years until UW gets back to the tournament?

C: Mitch, I know of tropical storms that are more pleasant than you. C’mon man, have you been watching what Romar has been doing on the recruiting trail? Since he hit the “reset button” on that roster that had gotten so imbalanced after some big-time misses on recruits, he’s been on a tear. Markelle Fulz just joined the team as, probably, the highest rated recruit Romar has ever landed. Just this weekend, we learned that Michael Porter Jr., also a national top 5 kind of recruit, committed to UW. Beyond those guys, he’s gone to various channels - transfers, international and local markets - to round out his roster. Sam Timmins is one of the top international big men - he’s a Dawg. Wing Bitumba Baruti from the Congo is a mega-athlete perfectly suited for LoRo’s full court philosophy - he’s a Dawg. Matthew Atewe was the biggest big man on the transfer market a year ago - he’s a Dawg. Garfield’s Jaylen Nowell is the highest rated combo guard in the state - he’s a Dawg. Add to all of that a young roster including really talented young players like Noah Dickerson, Matisse Thybulle and David Crisp and you’ve got an exciting nucleus. This team is putting it all together.

M: Great, but where was all of that the last few years?

C: Romar, himself, has admitted that the recruiting got off track as the team went away from it’s roots and tried to work in national-name recruits such as Abdul Gaddy and Nigel Williams-Goss into a system that they did not fit well into. Remember when Romar went hard after Terrence Jones only to have him ripped away by Kentucky at the last second? That set the program back a couple of years. The point is that LoRo recognized the problem, set his pride aside, and went back to what works. We are just now seeing it come to fruition.

M: Alright, Clem. I can see that you are all about Romar.

C: It’s not just that I like the man - I do. On top of that, he runs the kind of a program we ought to be proud of. Clean and made up of quality kids. We’ve seen it a lot worse around here. Don’t you remember Lynn Nance? Bob Bender?

M: I like a clean program, for sure. But there are other coaches that can do that, don’t you think?

C: Sure. But think about what Romar means to the program. UW was in bad shape before Romar. He’s made them a national name. He’s linked inextricably to its greatest personalities and to the Seattle basketball culture that has been born through him. Think about the Nate Robinsons, Will Conroys, Brandon Roys and Isaiah Thomases of the world. Think about where those guys are now and what they are doing to help support the program. They are Romar acolytes and their loyalty to the program comes from their loyalty to him. Does that translate to a new coach if they fired LoRo? I’m guessing not.

M: You might be right about that.

C: That’s the smartest you’ve been all morning.

M: No, the smartest I’ve been was getting you to buy my coffee.

C: Touche, my friend.

M: Go Dawgs