By Brent Stecker
Lorenzo Romar to UCLA. Could it happen? Should it happen? Is Romar even intrigued? And why exactly are the Bruins interested?
Those are questions “Bob and Groz” address in the video below in response to reports that UCLA is interested in the Huskies coach to replace the recently fired Ben Howland.
Romar isn’t coming off his greatest season — the Huskies finished 18-16 and lost in the first round of the NIT — but UCLA certainly has taken notes on his career at Washington, which includes a No. 1 seed in the 2005 NCAA Tournament, two Pac-10 titles, and a strong list of players that have gone on to the NBA.
Romar’s already said he isn’t interested. He’s under contract through 2020 with Washington, his alma mater, so he’s firmly entrenched at Montlake as long as he wants to be.
“I’ve said I don’t know how many times, Washington wants me and I want to be here,” Romar said Monday.
But the other side of the story is how far UCLA has fallen, which is something it seems the school hasn’t recognized.
In the last 37 years, the Bruins have made just five Final Fours, a far cry from their legendary run in the 1960s and 1970s under John Wooden. Now they’ve cut loose Howland, who had his share of troubles after a 2012 piece in Sports Illustrated painted a picture of a program in disarray but is also responsible for three of those Final Four appearances.
The reality of the situation is UCLA doesn’t realize its head coaching job is no longer considered among the NCAA’s elite.
“I don’t think UCLA is a great job,” ESPN’s Dick Vitale said on “Mike and Mike” Tuesday. “Why? Lakers, Clippers, entertainment, Hollywood. They still live in the John Wooden era. If you don’t cut the nets done, you’re a failure.”
An anonymous high-major NCAA coach was even more to the point with his quote in a CBSSports.com blog post.
“I’d rather have the USC job than the UCLA job,” the coach said. “You still get paid, you still get LA, you still get LA recruits and a nice arena, and you get all that without the possibility of getting fired for only winning conference titles.”
710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob Stelton also believes the school is operating outside of reality.
“UCLA fancies themselves one of the elite programs in this country when it comes to college basketball. Why? I’m not sure,” Stelton said. “Based on their recent track record of success, it really hasn’t been there. You have the Wooden era … but it hasn’t been that way for a very long time. … I would say that UCLA does not have realistic expectations.”
Because of those expectations, Romar doesn’t seem like the right guy for the job, even though he was an assistant coach for the 1995 national championship Bruins team.
“He’s a guy I don’t think they look at as high-profile enough,” Stelton said of Romar. “I think they feel like they deserve an elite-level coach. … (And) I don’t think they would look at him as a step up from Ben Howland. He’s coming off an NIT loss. What makes him so attractive there? This was not a great year. It’s not like he’s (VCU’s) Shaka Smart or any of these coaches that have really built up this momentum and now they’re the flavor of the month.”