Top Seattle sports stories of 2017: UW ends the Lorenzo Romar era, hires Mike Hopkins as men’s hoops coach
The 12 hosts of 710 ESPN Seattle have voted on the top Seattle sports stories of 2017. Each day we will count down to the top story of the year with an article by a different host. Today, Danny O’Neil of Danny, Dave and Moore covers the eighth biggest story, Washington parting ways with longtime men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar and hiring Mike Hopkins as his replacement.
I loved Lorenzo Romar, and loathe zone defense.
I couldn’t wait to see what Romar’s 2018 recruiting class would look like for the Huskies, and I hadn’t been less excited for a Huskies hoops season in more than 20 years than I was once he was fired.
But the firing of Romar and the hiring of zone-loving Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins was the right move. Heck, it has already paid off with the Huskies’ upset of No. 2-ranked Kansas, the first time since 1951 that the Huskies had beaten a top-five opponent on the road. Not bad for a season I expected to be Washington’s worst since 1993-94 when Bob Bender arrived on campus and the Huskies were 5-22.
Taking a step back was OK, though, if it allowed Washington to take a step forward. As much as I relished Romar’s tenure – and he brought the school its most sustained hoops success since Marv Harshman – things had run their course. Not only had the Huskies missed the NCAA Tournament in six straight seasons, but they had five different players who were drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft in that time. The futility culminated last season when Washington won two conference games despite having Markelle Fultz, who was the first overall pick in this year’s draft.
The lure of what was billed as the best recruiting class in school history couldn’t outweigh the recent futility, so the Huskies made the correct decision: they didn’t just reboot the program, they reset the entire system. The Huskies may not be as talented this season, but they’re already a better team under Hopkins.
A closer look at the Huskies’ coaching change