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January 19, 2010 at 9:48 PM

Tippy Dye on Lorenzo Romar: “He’s a fine coach”

Photo credit: Seattle Times Archive
Talked to legendary UW coach Tippy Dye (above, far left) this week. Turns out, he’s a fan of Lorenzo Romar, who passed Dye and moved into third place on the school’s all-time coaching wins list. Here’s our story.
Thought I’d pass along excerpts from my interviews with the 94-year-old Dye, Romar, and a couple of Dye’s former players Bob Houbregs and Doug Smart. It’s a little lengthy.
(What do you think of Romar moving past you for third place?)
“That’s wonderful. The more he wins, the better everybody will be. I know I’ll be happier. I’d like to see him win all of his games. I think he’s a fine coach and a real fine man as well as I know him.
(Have you met him?) “He came into the meeting when I was up there and I talked to him for a short while.”
(What were your impressions of Romar?) “From what I understood, I thought he was going to be a great coach there and I think he is. He’s a good man for that job and will do a good job for all of our followers up there.”
(I heard you were a bit of pioneer when you coached here. Can you tell me about that?) “We had the first black people and they were good players. They were both from Seattle. Most of our players came from Seattle. The recruiting then was different. We couldn’t even leave the campus to recruit. That was true for the whole conference. The recruiting had to be done from home. That was the rule at that time. It’s surely changed.”
(How did you make Bob Houbregs a better player?) “I don’t know I helped him a great deal. I taught him the hook shot. He was a good shooter prior to that. No matter what kind of shot he had, he was going to be a good scorer and a good shooter. This just happened to be something I liked to do with my centers, having a good hook shot.
“It fit into our offense. In fact, it was our offense and it worked well for us.”
(What happened in the 1953 semis against Kansas?)

“We were very tired in that particular game. We played against the only team that I knew that might stop us with the type of defense they used was Kansas. I knew it was going to be difficult for us and it was.
“Our team prior to that would have not only made it to the Final Four, but would have won it. That was the team when Houbregs and his group were juniors. …
(Do you watch college basketball these days?) “I watch some but not too much. Up until a couple of years ago, I watched more. Then it got to a point where I can’t watch it too often.”
(What do you think of how the game has changed?) “It’s completely different. Now it’s played above the basket where it used to below the basket. You’re scoring a great deal comes from up above and that wasn’t true in our day. You had to shoot from outside. … That’s all changed and it will probably never be the same.”
(Was it difficult to leave Ohio State for Washington?) “It was kind of difficult. We just won the Big 10 championship. … You always hate to leave your alma mater, but I wanted a new challenge. I really didn’t know what type of players I was going to inherit when I came to Washington, but they were outstanding. They were a great group my first year. We had so many older and senior players. I inherited that group Houbregs and (Joe) Cipriano and a lot of gook kids so there was no reason I shouldn’t have had a good team.”
(Why did you pick UW?) “I don’t know. I had a chance to take UCLA prior to that. It was just the way I felt at the time and I’m glad I did. … John (Wooden) took that job after I turned it down.”
(Why did you leave UW?) “I wanted to be an athletic director. … I had nine letters at Ohio State. I could play all the sports. I knew the coaches. I wanted to be a director. I wanted to do it at WAshingotn, but I didn’t get the job there. When I went to Wichita, I was only there a 1½ years before I went up to Nebraska.”
(What do you do these days?) “As little as possible. I don’t do much of anything. I exercise quite a bit. I walk a couple of times a day. A mile each time just to keep my legs in shape. I’m using a hand thing now to be sure I don’t fell down.
“I do quite a few exercises. I sleep quite a bit. I read. I enjoy Westerns.”
Smart ((1957-59):
(Tell me about Coach Dye.)
“He always wanted his team to be gentlemen. We had to be properly dressed. We weren’t allowed to swear. We had to have good manners at the table. Those were how he presented himself and how he wanted his kids to present themselves.
“He was not quick to anger. He could get angry, but he would do so in a quiet sort of way. He didn’t have to raise his voice for you to know he was telling you something that you’d better listen to. He was a family man with a couple of kids. He’s (94) and living with his daughter.
(How was he as a coach?) “He coached the old style of ball where everything was around the center from Houbregs to Parsons to Blaine and I. When I watch the old movies, it’s like it’s in slow motion. Even the good teams. The great teams at the time were in slow motion compared to today’s kids.
“I liked him very much. He was a good coach to play for. He wanted to win. He instilled a lot of the right values. You ended up wanting to win for the coach as well as the team and that can’t be said for all the coaches out there.
(I read where coach Dye said he didn’t use his post players the right way.) “I think what he was indicating was he didn’t turn the athleticism loose. We could do things that weren’t being utilized like run the court. Bruno and I were both good jumpers. Touch the rim kind of stuff. And none of that was taken advantage of. I always felt that was what he was saying.”
(Obviously, the game was played differently back then.) “A couple of years later John Wooden decided to get his kids in real good shape and be able to run the court for an entire ball game and steal the ball. We never pressed anybody. We never did anything. We ran down. Set up and tried to score and then went back and tried to play good, solid defense. Nobody was in shape in the way they are today.”
(Any similarities between Dye and Romar?)
“Tippy ran a strict program. He’s only 5-6. He was a three-year starter as a quarterback in football, a three-year starter at point guard in basketball and three-year starter shortstop in baseball. When he came out here, you had to do things his way which was good. He was a good coach. He knew what he wanted to do. He stressed defense. He stressed playing team ball. I woiuld say that’s similar to Lorenzo.
(What was he like as a coach?) “He was a strict coach. He was a teacher. He had a very simple offense, but it worked for us with everybody that we had. … He kind of let us have our head a little bit, but he wanted us to play his way and it was successful.
“He was a true gentleman and he wanted us to be that way. He wanted us to play hard and he wanted us to win. And if we lost, he wanted us to behave like we knew how to win and we just happened to lose.
(You were a sophomore when he was hired, right?) “The first time we saw him – he was hired in the spring – and they told us to go up to a room. In the old days, they had a room up above the floor. And they said get in there and be there at that time because coach Tippy Dye is going to be introduced to you. We had no idea what to expect. When he walked in, we just kind of looked at one another. Here he was at 5-6. His presence was astounding right from the start. He controlled things. He told you what he was going to do and what we were going to do and he just took over the meeting. From there on things went that way.
(I heard he taught you the hook shot.) “I had never shot a hook shot until he showed me. He worked like crazy with me. Made me shoot 300 a day. He would make the passes into me and tell me what I was doing right and tell me what I was doing wrong. That was my main move. I shot it everywhere. I used to take them above the free throw line and sometimes I’d be a little bit further out than that. I’ve had people tell me I took shots and landed with my feet on the sideline out of bounds. I just shot them.
(How long did it take you to learn it?) “Almost immediately. He showed me the action. We just concentrated on that. The first year, I shot both left and right handed. Then my junior year he wanted me to pick one hand. Of course being right handed, I picked the right.”
(What will his legacy be?) “I think what he’ll be remembered for is being the only coach to take a team to the Final Four. Our sophomore year we got to what would now be called the Elite Eight and got beat what was then Oklahoma A&M. Our junior year, we had a great year and had a great team and got beat by UCLA in the playoffs. That hurt because the Final Four was in Seattle that year.”
(What do you think about passing Dye for third place?)
“There’s something about records and achievements for me they’re so much bigger when someone else goes through it. Some coach across the country got his 300th win and you’re like wow. When you’re going through it because you’re living it, it’s hard for me to just sit down because I might miss the next train. You’re continually trying to get better. Right now we’re in the midst of our season and we’re trying to break out of this slump that we have been in. All of that stuff that you’re focusing on.
“What it does make me think of is I’m really blessed to have been here eight years. That doesn’t happen. You don’t get that many wins if you’re not given a chance to be there that long.
“The administration, the athletic director and the president believing in you to give you a chance to be here. That’s really special. You realize you had players come through here and do well. Players graduate. Players go to the pros. We had coaches come through here and move on. Those are the things that hit me when something like that happens as opposed to just the ranking and the number.
(Any thoughts on Tippy?) “He left an unbelievable legacy with this program, but moreso with his players. Talking to his players and those that watched the program, they might say: “Tippy would never let that fly.” Or “Tippy would do it this way.” This is 50 years later and they still have the utmost respect for him and the little time that I spent with him, I can see why.”

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