Romar has transformed Washington basketball. He has raised expectations higher than at any time since Marv Harshman left in 1985.
Lorenzo Romar worked the sideline like a sixth man, flexing his knees and assuming a defensive position almost as often as his players.
This was a grind of a game in what has been a grind of an early season and Romar practically played all 40 minutes in Friday’s much-needed 87-80 win over a very good UC Santa Barbara team.
He had to play all 40.
This is a younger, smaller, much different team from most of his recent University of Washington teams. This season, as the team slowly matures into its talent, is going to be hard work for the Washington coach; flashes will be followed by lulls.
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But this was a night to celebrate, at least briefly, before getting back to the job of preparing for a Pac-12 season that is less than two weeks away.
With this victory, Romar became only the third coach in Washington history to win 200 games. He had been sitting on 199 since Nov. 25.
“It’s a blessing that there’s been longevity here,” Romar said of his milestone win. “You don’t have a lot of success unless you have a lot of good people around you. Ken Bone and Cameron Dollar, Paul Fortier, Jim Shaw, Raphael Chillious, Lance LaVetter. Guys who have been around us a long time.
“And the players we’ve had play for us. We’ve had eight pros who’ve played for us. And guys like Tre Simmons and Hakeem Rollins, guys that were really, really good. We’ve had a lot of good people around us and when you talk about something like 200 wins, that’s usually the reason why.”
Romar stopped himself, laughing that he was turning this postgame news conference into something like an Oscar-award winning speech.
“I’ve had a vote of confidence from the administration that’s been great. And the Dawg Pack. We had a 33-game winning streak at home at one time,” Romar said. “The Dawg Pack and this crowd had a lot to do with it. That’s just how it is. You strip all of that away from me and just leave me standing there by myself, just a scrawny little coach, I’ve had a lot of help along the way.”
The pictures on the hallway walls underneath Hec Ed tell the story of Romar’s decade at Washington.
Nate Robinson’s arms in the air after throwing down a dunk. Brandon Roy and Quincy Pondexter arms up, smiles beaming as they run up the floor.
Will Conroy, Jon Brockman and Romar cutting down the nets after winning championships. Isaiah Thomas lifted into the air by his teammates after a game-winning shot. And players posed on the Staples Center floor after winning the 2010 and 2011 Pac-10 tournament championships. Those pictures will be part of Romar’s long legacy at the school.
Romar has transformed Washington basketball. He has raised expectations higher than at any time since Marv Harshman left in 1985. Six times in Romar’s nine seasons, the Huskies have been invited to the NCAA tournament, including three trips to the Sweet 16.
If they make it this year, senior forward Darnell Gant will be the first Husky to go to four consecutive NCAA tournaments.
Romar has recruited long, quick, athletic players and gotten them to buy into his way of doing things. All of Romar’s teams play passionately.
He has incorporated the best parts of the running-game philosophies of coaches like Jerry Tarkanian, Norm Ellenberger, Denny Crum and Paul Westhead. For the past 10 years, playing Washington, especially at the Hec Ed hot house, often has felt like 40 minutes of hell.
This team will get there.
The key will be Abdul Gaddy.
He played his most assertive game of the season, driving the ball to the basket with authority, getting the Gauchos’ defense to collapse on him and getting to the free-throw line.
“I’m tired of losing,” Gaddy said.
A junior point guard, Gaddy has to be the leader of this toddler team, which is 5-4. He can’t defer to sensational freshman Tony Wroten. He has to complement Wroten. He has to be the more in-control version of Wroten. He has to get his teammates more involved.
Think of Wroten as that dramatic jolt of electricity like Robinson and Thomas were. Think of Gaddy as the Rock of Gibraltar guard like Conroy was.
Gaddy finished with 17 points, taking 10 shots and forcing the issue. This is the way he has to play.
“I just tried to come out and be really aggressive,” Gaddy said. “I was trying to get to the foul line.”
He was as aggressive as his coach. The way he has to play. The way Washington has been playing basketball during the 200-win decade of Lorenzo Romar.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org