In about 95% of NCAA Division I programs missing the NCAA tournament six years in a row, combined with numerous 20+ loss seasons would spell the end for that coach and result in a firing.
But not at the University of Washington.
Lorenzo Romar just finished up his 15th season at his alma mater and as of now there is a great deal of uncertainty involving where his head coaching fate may lead to. Washington was officially eliminated in the first round of this year’s Pac 12 Tournament in Las Vegas, falling to USC which ended its season at 9-22.
Washington AD Jen Cohen is faced with a Hollywood-like dilemma. Washington Basketball has been a clown show for the last 2-3 years, as they’ve been riddled with abysmal team play, work ethic that leaves a lot to be desired and meager attendance rates.
The University of Washington shares a very unique and unsettling relationship with Romar. It’s one that’s similar to that hot girl in your Math class that you became really good friends with and had a lot of memories throughout high school. But now, it’s your Junior year in college and she has made some wrong choices, forgot how to be a good friend and the friendship has become stale. You don’t have the courage to tell her you don’t want to be friends because you’re too kind-hearted.
This is what Washington is facing with. UW is just too kind-hearted to fire Lorenzo Romar, who has collected eight NCAA Tournament wins in the past eight years. Before Romar, the previous eight tourney wins took 51 years to collect. From 2004-2012, Hec Edmundson Pavilion used to be one of the toughest places to play on the West Coast. This hostile atmosphere propelled the Huskies to win two regular season conference championships and appear in a Sweet 16 from 2009-2012.
Since then, it has been all downhill. Attendance has dropped and so has interest. In fact, fans have almost started to root against him just to get him fired. In the past, his excellent recruiting skills have kept his job. Romar has sent 15 Washington players into to the NBA, which on average is one per year and it will soon be 16 once Markelle Fultz presumably gets selected in the Top 3 of the NBA Draft this June.
Romar has also been given the benefit of the doubt with players transferring or significant injuries. However, at what point do you say enough is enough and fire him? Did I mention he has another top recruiting class coming in next year? People think that class will save his job.
For a run-down, here is all the excuses Romar fans have made the past handful of years:
2011: Can’t fire him, they would have gone to the Final Four if Abdul Gaddy didn’t get hurt.
2012: Can’t fire him now, it wasn’t Romar’s fault the Pac 12 was so bad.
2013: Can’t fire him now, the team would have made the NCAA Tournament if Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten would have stayed
2014: Can’t fire him now, he will turn it around. (They would have until Robert Upshaw got dismissed from team.)
2015: Can’t fire him now, Dejonte Murray and Marquese Chriss are part of this amazing recruiting class.
2016: Can’t fire him now, the best incoming recruit in Markelle Fultz has signed.
Finally, the latest round of excuses again came from Romar’s ability to recruit at a high-level, putting together a crown jewel of recruiting classes annually, which hinted some Alumnis involved with the program stating “you can’t fire him or else they will lose those top players.”
Romar’s buyout is a whopping $3.2 million and for a university that has deficits from the previous years makes it a high price. Not to mention, the money it will cost to hire a new coach that will be able to succeed in Seattle won’t be inexpensive either. Despite that, the football team this year went to the College Football Playoffs, so there is money coming in. However, will that be enough to justify firing Romar? That’s the question that will hang over Washington for the next several weeks.
Romar has been a great leader, a strong ambassador and advocate for the University. However, it has gotten to the point where he divided the Huskies’ fan base. The only thing that will get people coming back to Hec Ed is a team that is ranked in the AP Top 25. And that’s something that will only take more time.
The decision either way will upset a large majority of fans and alums within the university and who they hire will be a well documented conversation as well. My opinion is that he will be the coach next year. If not, there will always be the “What if” year of UW basketball. Fans have been waiting to fire Romar for a few years now, so why can’t they wait one more year.