After firing Washington men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar, athletic director Jen Cohen held a press conference Wednesday to discuss the decision.
Here’s what she said.
(Opening statement) “First of all thank you so much for being here tonight and for getting her on short notice. We really wanted to get in front of the team and the staff today before we had you in so I appreciate you accommodating. As you know earlier today we notified Lorenzo that he was not going to be retained as our head men’s basketball coach. As you can imagine, today has been extremely difficult and very emotional for a lot of people. And that’s because of who Lorenzo is. He’s a special person. He’s been a wonderful colleague and he’s just meant so much to this university community – and meant so much to so many people through the 15 years that he’s been here. And also before that as a student athlete.
Most Read Sports Stories
- What UW's College Football Playoff rankings snub means for Rose Bowl hopes
- Pac-12 bowl projections: UW football left to wonder a giant 'what if'
- Florida QB Kitna arrested on child pornography charges
- In record-setting game, Kraken win 6th straight, 9-8, in OT
- Seahawks 'miss everything' about Bobby Wagner, whose Rams are Seattle's next opponent
“Coach Romar represented our university in so many positive ways. As an alum. As an ambassador. As a mentor to so many student-athletes, which he still is now. And he led the teams with integrity and class. Unfortunately though, despite some of these strength we were not able to achieve the results that we needed on the court. When we recruit student-athletes here we offer them an extraordinary education at a world-class institution. But we also offer them the opportunity to be the most competitive athletes that they can be. And we offer them the opportunity to compete for championships. That’s who we are. That’s a big part of our mission. And so in the end after a thorough evaluation, we felt like a leadership change was necessary for us to create a championship culture that we think Washington deserves. We wish Lorenzo and Leona and his family that absolute best. There’s never going to to be any words that I can say or we can say that could give all the thanks the he deserves for his 15 years of service here.
“I also want to thank Will Conroy who has agreed to serve as the program’s point person during this interim time. Will is a fabulous Husky and his No. 1 priority is to focus on our current student-athletes and our incoming freshmen during this difficult transition.
“Our focus now turns to an immediate national search for the next Huskies men’s basketball coach. This program has remarkable fans. It has remarkable donors. We have an unbelievable university and we’re in a fabulous city that has a talent-rich basketball history. We feel confident that we’re going to be able to attract a coach that shares our vision and passion for developing young men on and off the court. That has a high standard for excellence and that has energy, a passion and a plan for inspiring a winning culture. With that I’ll pause and take any questions that you might have.”
(On when she made the decision?) “I made the decision a couple of days ago.”
(On UW’s incoming recruiting class) “We can’t speculate yet on what is going to happen with the recruiting class but this was a comprehensive evaluation of the program so you look at all the factors that are involved and really think about what is the long-term vision for Husky basketball. How do we build a sustainable model? When you have that commitment, when you decide that is how you’re going to build your model, you’re not really able to think about just one person or one recruiting class. You have to think about something a little bit longer term than that.
(On releasing recruits from their NLIs?) “At this point, what we’ll do is we will wait until we get our next coach named. And we ask that all of our recruits wait to meet with that next coach, that their families get to meet with that next coach, here his vision, here his plan, and then we want student athletes that want to be here. So if after that process is concluded and we have student athletes that don’t want to be Huskies anymore, we’ll release them from their NLIs.”
(On timeline for hiring a coach?) “We’re starting the search immediately. In these cases you have to be really urgent but he diligent. As soon as I can find the right coach with the right fit at Washington, that is the timeline I’m working on.”
(On last week’s reports about retaining Romar) “I’m so happy you asked me that question. That’s ridiculous. This decision was just made. This was such an important decision, it impacted so many different people’s lives. There was no decision made until a couple of days ago. I think this is a great example of sources being reported that aren’t accurate. It wasn’t factual. I don’t know where it came from and that’s disappointing. It creates a lot of different information that’s out there that confuses people.”
(More on the decision and perhaps leaning to keep Romar) “This has been an ongoing process every day. We’ve been thinking about it for a long time. Started the evaluation process as the season started so every day you get more information and you collect it and you stay objective and eventually when you have enough information to make the decision, you do it.”
(On factors that led to the decision) “Obviously the performance on the court is an issue, right, but it’s more how are we going to get better? How are we going to keep moving forward? I think what I was looking for this year was a trajectory that was maybe trending up and a little bit more improvement than what I saw. Ultimately I just weighed a lot of different factors and then decided that it just made sense to me and I feel very confident about this that a leadership change was necessary for us to build the culture that is the championship culture that we’re looking for.”
(On approaching job search like football) “I’m going to collect a lot of information from people that care about this program – former athletes and others – get information from them on what they’re looking for, and then I’m going to go out and get the best coach for Washington that’s the right fit. There will not be a big search committee.”
(On potential candidates) “ADs always have lists. That’s my job. I need to be prepared. And I’ve done my homework.”
(On what she’s looking for in a new coach?) “Just like I said before, I’m looking for somebody that absolutely has a passion for developing young men on and off the court. That’s who we are at the University of Washington. That’s really important. Somebody that has a high standard for excellence. And somebody that has a vision and a plan and understanding of what Washington’s all about, and they know they can build a championship culture here.”
(On if candidates need head-coaching experience) “I’m just looking for the best fit for Washington.”
(On if she’s talked to candidates?) “No.”
(On today’s meeting with UW players) “Really hard. It was awful. What are you going to do? I’ve seen a lot of coaching transitions – we went through this with football – there is no way you can do anything to make the student athletes feel better. I’ve also seen student athletes come out on the other end of these things in a better place, and sometimes they don’t know that or see that at the time. I think that just speaks to the quality of the human being that Lorenzo is, and the loyalty they have to him. I wouldn’t have expected anything different.”
(On today’s meeting with Romar?) “I don’t want to talk a lot about our meetings. If Lorenzo wants to share that. But the one thing I will say is that Lorenzo handled the situation in typical Lorenzo fashion, with absolute first-class and dignity.”
(On how she was evaluating UW) “Kind of just the overall program, all aspects. There’s a lot of things that go into a program that aren’t necessarily what you see on the court, not just necessarily wins and losses. But I didn’t have a quantitative number. Lorenzo and I never talked about that. I just wanted to see some things improving, and I wanted to see the program improving, and that unfortunately just didn’t happen.”
(More on evaluating UW) “I think there’s been a lot of years where he’s been putting this thing together and we’ve had a lot of years where we haven’t had the performance that we wanted. I just wanted to see a plan that was going to get us there. When you look at cultures of programs, you look at all these different factors it involves. You look at player development, you look at recruiting, you look at the personnel, you look at all these different factors. It was kind of the overall comprehensive feel that I had. Total gut feeling, by the way. In these situations, you get as much situation as you can and then you pull the trigger on what you think is best. So it was just the overall comprehensive approach to building something that was more long term, which is really important for us here. We’re all here to have a great program long-term and we have excellence as a high standard, and so that model of being in the process every day and churning it out every day to get better, that’s what all of our programs are all about.”
(On if it was difficult to fire Romar because he’s been here 15 years?) “This decision was going to be difficult no matter what. Any time you make a decision about somebody they care about, it’s tough. But it’s just part of the job.”
(On taking time after final game to UW) “That’s the reason why we’re announcing it today, is because we gave it a week and we were still collecting information. There was a certain time where I felt like I had enough information, and I had enough feeling about the situation that I was ready to make the decision.”
(On if she talked to current players before making the decision?) “I didn’t talk to any of our current players. I’ve talked with players that have been in the program before. My philosophy on that is, that’s a lot of pressure that is being put on the student-athletes and this year, for the entire season, I really felt for them and knew the pressure and all the noise and all the media and everything that’s being said about their coach was a lot for them to carry. I don’t want to give them that burden.”
(On Romar’s buyout of $3.2 million) “It’s per the terms of the contract.”
(On assistants Raphael Chillious and Michael Porter Sr.?) “So all of the coaches are all – the determination on the coaches will be made by the next head coach. So we won’t have any decisions made on (assistant) coaches until the new head coach gets hired, and then they can decide whether or not they’re going to be keeping them or those folks want to stay. That’s as of today.”
(On if Romar’s buyout factored into the decision?) “It’s always a factor. Finances are always a factor. But whenever you have a coaching change in a revenue sport, you’re going to have a financial impact. That’s just the reality. This year we had been so fortunate because we launched a fundraising campaign in the fall, we had great ticket sales this year, so we were able to absorb that impact through ICA revenues and it was an investment that I felt was right, long term, for the department.”
(On the potential of the UW men’s basketball program) “Every program at Washington can win a national championship. Ask Mary Lou (Mulflur, the women’s golf coach, who was in attendance). Ask Greg (Metcalf, the cross country and track and field coach). They know how to do it. I think this program can win a championship, and I think this program can have sold-out arenas. This is a basketball town and I think there’s a ton of potential here. I think this is a special city. I think it’s a special school, and we’re excited to get somebody in here that’s going to build off that.”