This is the final installment in our four-part series with Lorenzo Romar (pictured right).
In Part I, he talked about Washington’s newcomers, the importance of charity and his foundation, which seeks to help families dealing with domestic violence.
In this segment, the Huskies coach hits on a variety of topics including Washington’s plans for a basketball-only facility, the fallout from the UW Alumni Game and NCAA’s controversial transfer rule.
Romar, who turns 55 in November, also talks about entering his 12th season at Washington and how much longer he plans to coach.
On UW’s two-year NCAA tournament drought, he said: “I can’t stand it. We went through it in 2007 and ’08 and I couldn’t stand it. (Last Wednesday) we practice at 3 o’clock it’s been a day I’ve been waiting for for a long time ever since we lost to BYU. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. You talk about in basketball how you lose on Thursday and can’t wait to play again on Saturday. In football you can’t wait until the next Saturday. We had to wait a whole doggone spring and summer. So for me internally it hasn’t been fun in that regard.”
Here’s the interview.
(What’s going on with what you may want to do with the basketball facilities?) “I think it’s out there now that we’re working on getting an operations building slash practice facility.”
(I heard about that. I’m hearing a $60-85 million price tag.) “I don’t know what the cost is going to be, but I know there’s a commitment to getting it done.”
(What would it look like?) “Sorry for this answer and I’m not trying to avoid the question, but nice. State of the art.”
(Would it be built off-campus?) “Nah. It would be on campus. It would be close to where we play our games.”
(How far down the line are we talking?) “We’re still trying to nail that down. We’re not talking 5-10 years. Hopefully sooner than that.”
(Do you need those state-of-the art facilities to remain competitive or is that just the way college basketball is?) “Some of it is that and some of it is there’s such a high-level commitment to being the best. Now you have access in the summer to kids. So to be able to have your own facility where you don’t have to wait until camps with another sport are going on or a graduation is going on. Whatever the reason, when you have your own facility where you can go in at any time and become a better basketball player, it’s great.”
(I hear you. I’m anxious to go down to Oregon State and see what theirs looks like.) “Yeah.”
(Switching gears to the UW Alumni Game this summer. What happened with that in terms of not being sanctioned by the NBA. Did you not get the proper information you needed.) “I think there were a number of things. All of that stuff is hopefully getting resolved right now. We’re finding out what’s going to come from all of that real soon.”
(So who is going to pay the NBA fines given to the players?) “We don’t know yet.”
(You have two new assistants and one new strength and conditioning coach. How’s it going?) “I think the guys have adjusted really well. I think our players have adjusted to them. Being able to work with the kids in the summer, I think that’s helped a lot. I think it’s moving along pretty nicely.”
(Two more things and I’ll let you go. You’re entering your 12th season, how does it feel?) “My first thought is like home. Second thought is you go through life, so often things happen and you don’t take time to reflect. I don’t. You bring this up, but just in this day and age it’s hard to do. It’s hard to stay at one place five years let alone double-digit years. There’s not many around the country that’s been able to do that. I consider it a real, real blessing. And when I say blessing, I don’t say it in a cliche way either. Humbled.”
(And it’s not like I’m trying to push you out the door, but how much longer do you plan to coach?) “Oh I don’t know. Let’s put it like this, I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I really enjoy what I’m doing. I love it here. I like the direction we’re headed. Obviously I’m not 20-years-old. If I was 30-year-old and you’d say how much longer, I’d give you the same answer that I would right now.”
(What haven’t you accomplished that you really want to get?) “I would like us to, the goal when I got here was to try to get to a Final Four and win a national championship. Ultimately that’s what we’d like to do. And when I say that I don’t diminish what has happened. I don’t say we haven’t done anything because we haven’t been to a Final Four. That’s not how I look at it. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, but as a competitor you want to reach the highest level.”
(Two years since you’ve been in the NCAA tournament. How does that hit you?) “I can’t stand it. We went through it in 2007 and ’08 and I couldn’t stand it. (Last Wednesday) we practice at 3 o’clock it’s been a day I’ve been waiting for for a long time ever since we lost to BYU. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. You talk about in basketball how you lose on Thursday and can’t wait to play again on Saturday. In football you can’t wait until the next Saturday. We had to wait a whole doggone spring and summer. So for me internally it hasn’t been fun in that regard.”
(Having gone through that once how did you fix things then and what can you take from that experience that you can apply now?) “It’s interesting. Jon Brockman was a senior in 2009 when we won the conference. I believe Quincy Pondexter was a junior and he came into his own. We had a young freshman who was really dynamic in Isaiah Thomas. I just think some pieces came together along with some maturation of some guys. It all came together. We lost Nate (Robinson), Tre (Simmons), Will (Conroy), Brandon (Roy), Bobby (Jones), Jamaal (Williams) and Mike Jensen. That’s seven studs that we lost in two years. And although we had some good freshmen coming in, they were freshmen. We took a step back. The last couple of years you’re talking about Isaiah (Thomas), Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten. Those are three pros. So hopefully some guys have matured and we have some dynamic players coming in, some new faces and we’ll do the same thing. We didn’t have to change anything for the most part from 2007 and ’08 to ’09.”
(We’re basically done, but I want to throw a few things at you. Brandon Roy is arguably the best player you’ve coached and he’s unemployed. What do you think he’s going to do?) “I don’t know. He’s not sitting on his hands. I think he’s active in the community. I think Brandon can coach. I think Brandon could be a general manager in the NBA. He has a terrific mind. Very analytical in his thinking. Very, very bright. He’s a guy that when he believes something, he is very committed. He has all the makings of a leader like a general manager. But I also think he’d be a terrific coach.”
(Has he expressed any ideas to you?) “We’ve talked about it. What it would take to get involved and all of that. He’s still sorting everything through right now.”
(The NCAA transfer rule. Do you have an opinion? I ask because Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has said the rule needs to be more consistent. Basically he’s saying do away with the exceptions. Either make every player sit out one year or allow them to become immediately eligible.) “May, April and even June has become college’s version of free agency. No. 1 you have kids that declare for the NBA that are underclassmen. No. 2 you have transfers. Transfers have been happening forever, but not at this rate. So you have transfers that are sometimes eligible right away. And then thirdly you have the fifth-year senior who graduates and can go somewhere and attempt to get his Masters degree. So you have all three of those situations so that at the end of the year, you don’t know who your team is going to be and who’s coming back. You really don’t. I have yet to hear about someone who has gone to their fifth year and got their Masters. I have yet. And the whole point was to go let these kids get their Masters let them become graduate students. None of them have done it. And if it’s really that important, let the fifth-year kid transfer, but make them sit out like everyone else. Now he really does get his Masters because he’s there two years. If it’s really that big of deal, they have to sit out like a regular transfer.”
(But they would lose their eligibility?) “Well then change that and give them a sixth year. If it’s that big of a deal, give them the sixth year.”
(OK hold on. How would you fix all of this?) “That’s the first thing I would do. I would give a sixth year to those that have graduated and they really want to play at another school and they really want to get their Masters. Now you almost guarantee they can do that if they want because they’re there their fifth year and they’re sitting out and their sixth year they’re right there getting their Masters. If that’s what this is intended for. But if all you want to do is … just because you don’t like what your role was or the way you were being used at this school and so you want to leave your fifth year and be eligible right away because it gives you a better chance to go to the NBA, then that’s not what the rule is supposed to be for. You shouldn’t be able to do it period if that’s your reason. But if the reason is to get your Masters, then let them get it.
“The second part would be the transfers because there’s an illness in the family, the hangnail is really severe or whatever they come up with. And I don’t mean to make light of that because some really have sick loved ones who are even terminal. But if that’s the case, there would be rare exceptions where they’re eligible right away. If I’m going to transfer back to Los Angeles because my mother is sick or my grandmother is sick, I don’t need to be on the road that first year anyway. I need to be around her. That’s why I’m transferring back. I’m around her. So they still out.”
(They sit out too?) “Yes.”
(Do they get a sixth year?) “No. It’s just a regular redshirt. Like it’s supposed to be. I transfer from Washington to New Mexico State, I got to sit out a year even if my grandmother is ill. Or if my dad is ill. That gives me more time to be with them. And we will see that transfer thing cut way down. But what has happened is what’s happened with AAU basketball. I’m a 6-11 guy that can’t dribble or shoot, but you won’t play me at the 2. My future is the 2 so I’m going to play with a travel team that will let me play the 2 even though I can’t dribble or shoot. I’m trying to get to the league so I’m going to transfer. That has now infiltrated college basketball to where if it’s not a quick fix, I don’t play as much as I can, then I’m just gone. And we’re giving them ways out to do it.”
(Let me see if I got this straight. If Lorenzo Romar were Mark Emmert for a day and you presided over the NCAA, then all transfers would sit out one year and graduate students would be given a sixth year to play basketball.) “If you’re a fifth-year student and you have graduated and you wanted to really pursue a Masters, you’d have to sit out and I’d grant you your sixth year in the name of education. I think it’s great because now kids would be getting their Masters degrees. That’s great.”
(I promise this is my last question. What bugs you about college basketball?) “That does to a degree. I would say not just college basketball, but unrealistic parents bug me. Little League all the way through, but that’s another issue. I don’t know if anything else just straight bugs me.”
(And then, what excites you about college basketball?) “The purity of it. The enthusiasm behind it. The rallying behind your school, that whole thing where the culmination of it all is March Madness. For me, coaching and dealing with young people. Watching them go through the struggles and the ups and downs. See them experience success. All of that stuff is great.”