Lorenzo Romar’s historic moment passed without fanfare.
Hardly anyone noticed the Washington men’s basketball coach slip past Marv Harshman, his mentor, and claim possession of second place on UW’s all-time coaching wins list.
After Wednesday’s 59-57 win over Utah, Romar didn’t say a peep about the milestone. Not to anyone — his players, assistants, the media or his wife Leona.
“He’s not the type to bring that sort of stuff up,” said senior co-captain C.J. Wilcox. “Just the kind of guy he is, it’s all about team for him. As long as the team is doing well, that’s his main focus. That’s all he really cares about.”
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When asked Friday about the milestone, Romar was momentarily and at a loss for words. After a few minutes, he explained how “blessed” he felt to coach at Washington.
He acknowledged his 12-year coaching career with the Huskies has been a climb and a joy. He thanked former assistants and players.
And when talking about Harshman, Romar had to fight back tears.
“I almost felt like coming here and coaching was almost like in the back of my mind, I got your back, Marv,” Romar said. “I’m going to try to pick up where you left off.
“I remembered I looked and he was here 14 years and I thought, ‘Man, if I could be here eight years and just hold the fort down and do a job similar to what he did, it would be great.’ To now be here 12, for this to happen, I just wish he was here.”
Harshman died last April 12. Romar, who played two seasons (1978-80) with the Huskies under Harshman, returned to Washington in 2002 to resurrect a program that had fallen into irrelevancy.
And it’s why this season, which looked as if it were over before the Pac-12 season began, has been such a grind.
The injuries, defections and disappointments were the headlines during the first two months of the season. Worse yet, fan apathy has sapped the enthusiasm from a once vibrant UW following.
However, less than two weeks into the Pac-12 season, everything has changed. Washington is 2-1 in the conference and 10-6 overall.
If the Huskies upset No. 15 Colorado (14-2, 3-0) at noon Sunday at Alaska Airlines Arena, then maybe UW fans can begin to seriously ponder a return to the NCAA tournament after a two-year absence.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity this year and he’s done a good job of adjusting and changing defenses in the middle of the season,” Wilcox said. “That was a big move, and I guess you say it was kind of risky.
“It’s definitely a tough job and it’s a challenge, but I think he’s doing a good job as well as our guys are doing a good job of adjusting and trying to execute what he’s got planned for us.”
Wilcox arrived at Washington at the start of the school’s four-year run (2009-12) that included either a regular-season title or a conference-tournament championship in each season.
“We had a lot of weapons and a lot of guys that had experience in those years,” Wilcox said.
Losing underclassmen to the NBA, coupled with a few down years in recruiting, has depleted the talent compared to previous teams.
And yet, the Huskies have seemingly discovered a winning formula lately.
They’ve fully embraced Romar’s new defense, which requires constant communication and switching. They’ve committed to the four-guard lineup, knowing they have to work harder to overcome their lack of size.
The defensive change is another bold move for Romar, who overhauled the offense last season, switching to a high-post attack.
“Lorenzo’s attitude is how can we do the very best job,” UW assistant Brad Jackson said. “It’s not so much ‘my way,’ but what’s going to be the best way. That to me is his biggest strength.
“He’s always looking for ways to improve. … A lot of people especially after they’ve done something for a while, are pretty reticent to change or be flexible. He does that very, very well.”
Jackson, who played for Harshman and also considered him a mentor and lifelong friend, believes the legendary coach would have liked these Huskies.
“The fact that we’ve made continual improvement is important, but I think he would appreciate it more for the kids’ focus and work ethic,” Jackson said. “That’s one thing to me that certainly stands out with these guys and something coach Harshman would have liked.”
|Move over, Marv|
|Lorenzo Romar moved past Marv Harshman, his former coach and mentor, and took over second place on Washington’s all-time men’s basketball wins list. In his 12th season at UW, Romar needs 241 wins to catch Clarence “Hec” Edmundson.|
|Clarence “Hec” Edmundson||488-195 (.714)||258-130 (.664)||1920-47|
|Lorenzo Romar||247-134 (.648)||120-81 (.597)||2002-present|
|Marv Harshman||246-146 (.628)||122-102 (.544)||1971-85|
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @percyallen