UW

Is Lorenzo Romar running out of time with under-performing Washington Huskies?

Dec 9, 2016, 6:00 AM
Brock Huard says UW won't stay patient forever with basketball coach Lorenzo Romar. (AP)...
Brock Huard says UW won't stay patient forever with basketball coach Lorenzo Romar. (AP)
(AP)

The first test for the Husky men’s basketball team on a major stage didn’t go well, being routed Wednesday by No. 8 Gonzaga. Neither did the responses from national media members.

ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla sent a series of tweets, including one that read “Feel bad for Washington. This looks like one of those 100K guarantee games for Zags,” and another that said, “A smart NBA team will track Markelle Fultz’s ‘virtual assists.’ Those are passes to bad players that would normally be an assist.” Eamonn Brennan, meanwhile, wrote that UW will likely follow LSU’s footsteps to the NIT.

Locally, the reaction is the same. “Brock and Salk” called the team – and that performance in particular – a “disaster,” and Brock Huard said it needs to be remedied sooner rather than later.

“For the program’s sake, for head coach Lorenzo Romar’s sake, for the Huskies’ sake, you’d better see some level of development,” Huard said Thursday. “And none of these sophomores look any better (than last year).”

The Huskies entered the season with high hopes despite failing to make the NCAA tournament and losing a pair of freshmen to the first round of the NBA Draft. Most of the excitement revolved around Fultz, the nation’s top recruit, but despite the point guard’s transcendent play thus far, the team has stumbled to a 4-4 start and losing its last three.

After reaching the NCAA tourney in six of his first nine seasons at UW, Romar’s squad hasn’t reached the Big Dance since the 2010-11 season. Mike Salk thought Romar’s job might be in danger last year and said it’s in even bigger jeopardy now.

“They didn’t make the tournament, they didn’t make a change and the argument back was, ‘Yeah, but they got Markelle Fultz, this great recruit coming in,’” Salk said. “And then the year after that they’re going to have a couple of more great recruits, so you’ve got to stick with Romar. What’s the use of having great recruits if your team stinks?

“(Gonzaga head coach) Mark Few is one of the best coaches in college basketball,” Salk added. “Lorenzo Romar is a great recruiter, an unbelievable human being who has a pretty good resume – and things are trending steeply in the wrong direction.”

Huard said he doesn’t think UW athletic director Jennifer Cohen will make an in-season coaching change but believes she will look at the full breadth of improvement over the season. Still, he can’t help but see similarities with the Seattle Sounders, who dropped longtime head coach Sigi Schmid after the team’s early struggles this year and will now play for the MLS Cup on Saturday.

“You do have to have some level of patience, but I do think there is some parallel with Sigi Schmid, who has an unquestioned resume, who is a tremendous human being, who treats people well … but the program right now is in a downward trajectory,” Huard said.

Huard added that the Huskies are expected to be beaten by more veteran teams but that, at some point, that needs to end.

“Problem is, over the last now six years there has been too many of those kinds of conversations, whereas (UW football coach) Chris Petersen … can take a true freshman out of Bellingham and make him better by year’s end,” Huard said. “Unfortunately, what has been the resume the last four, five, six years of some of these players and the growth and development in the (basketball) program?”

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Is Lorenzo Romar running out of time with under-performing Washington Huskies?