Lorenzo Romar

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Given Washington’s struggles, just how hot is Lorenzo Romar’s seat?

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We tried to warn you what was coming on Wednesday night.

We tried to tell you just how bad things were for Washington right now, that, according to a coach that had faced the Huskies this season, “they were so ******* bad defensively” that “they looked like they hadn’t been coached.”

That’s not a good look for anyone, let alone a head coach that has missed the NCAA tournament the last five seasons despite having five first round picks come through his program during that time.

Which is why you shouldn’t have been surprised that the Huskies were gutted by No. 8 Gonzaga, losing 98-71 in a game that was never competitive at any point. And, given that Markelle Fultz, the potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, is on the Washington roster, it’s the nightmare scenario.

So.

We need to start talking about the elephant in the room, because there’s a lot to unpack here:

Just how hot is Lorenzo Romar’s seat?

RELATED: What has gone wrong with Washington this season?

The simple answer? Scalding. Romar is one of just three Power 5 head coaches that have missed the NCAA tournament for five straight seasons without having to find new employment. You don’t get six tournament-less years and survive, not at this level.

But there’s more to the conversation that simply relaying the number of first round picks he’s failed to get to the Big Dance.

Four of those five first round picks played in two different seasons, meaning that in the other three seasons, Washington was led by C.J. Wilcox, the No. 28 pick in 2014, and Nigel Williams-Goss. In 2011-12, Washington had Terrence Ross, then a sophomore, and freshman Tony Wroten on the roster. They started slowly out of the gate, going 7-6 in non-conference play, before winning the Pac-12 regular season title outright. They missed out on the NCAA tournament in large part due to the fact that the conference as a whole went 1-29 against the RPI top 50; only two Pac-12 teams earned bids that season. Ross and Wroten both left after the season.

The other year that Washington had two first round picks was in 2015-16, which both Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray shocked everyone by becoming one-and-done talents. Both were drafted almost entirely on potential; Chriss was clueless defensively, fouling out of 15 of the 34 games he played, while Murray’s jumper left him a long way away from impacting an NBA game. The conversation about this Washington team would be totally different right now if Fultz had those two on the floor with him.

Part of the reason those two were able to leave early was because of Romar’s coaching style – he lets his most talented players play regardless of whether or not they’re making mistakes – and in part because the 2016 draft was bad.

Romar is, in part, a victim of circumstance, even if he dug himself into this whole in the first place.

RELATED: For Michael Porter Jr., Washington was all about family first

Washington is still paying Romar a relatively small amount. After the 2010 season, when he led the Huskies to his third Sweet 16, Romar got a 10-year contract extension worth $1.7 million annually. It runs three more years after this season and comes with a $3.2 million buyout, which isn’t massive but is expensive for an athletic department that projected to operate at a $15 million deficit in 2016. Then you have to consider what it would cost to hire an upgrade on Romar.

For comparison’s sake, Tubby Smith made $1.8 million in 2015-16 at Texas Tech and got a raise to more than $3 million-a-year for the next five years at Memphis despite the fact that he wasn’t the guy the school initially targeted. But Brad Underwood will make $1.2 million a year for five years at Oklahoma State, which makes him the lowest-paid coach in the conference.

If new Washington AD Jennifer Cohen wants to hire a new coach, she’d certainly be able to afford a replacement that we be, at the least, a respectable name, but there’s no guarantee that a replacement is going to have any kind of success there. Romar is far and away the most successful coach Washington has ever had. He’s been to six NCAA tournament and three Sweet 16s in his 15 seasons. The Huskies reached the Final Four in 1953, and in the nearly 50 years between that day and the day that Romar was hired, Washington reached just six NCAA tournaments and two Sweet 16s.

Romar is not having the same level of success that he had when guys like Brandon Roy and Isaiah Thomas were on his roster, but Washington is still somewhat relevant due to the pros that are coming through Seattle. There’s no guarantee that any replacement will make Washington more likely to get to the NCAA tournament, but at least Husky fans get Markelle Fultz this season and Michael Porter Jr., a top five prospect and the son of current U-Dub assistant coach Michael Porter Sr., next season.

That’s certainly more enjoyable than rooting for, say, Washington State.

And it’s certainly a factor that Cohen has to consider. Porter clearly picked Washington because Romar, his godfather, is part of the family.

“As we continue to look where we’re going and where we think we can go and what our plan is, then I’ll have more information about it,” Cohen said at her introductory press conference. “But absolutely, I’m 100 percent behind him right now.”

And if Washington can’t get back to the Big Dance?

“We haven’t gotten to that point yet,” she said. “So we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Washington’s one season with Markelle Fultz looks destined to end in obscurity

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The hardest thing to do at a Power 5 school is to lose consistently, to put together an extended run of underwhelming, disappointing seasons without having to find new employment.

Only three of the 65 head coaches employed at Power 5 schools have missed five straight NCAA tournaments at their current job. Two of those three are basketball coaches at football schools, Penn State’s Pat Chambers and Clemson’s Brad Brownell. Chambers has built enough recruiting momentum in Philly that the argument can be made that his program is trending up; at least that’s the pitch that earned him a sixth-year. Brownell made the tournament his first season with the Tigers, and with Jaron Blossomgame back this season and Elijah Thomas coming eligible in December, this group will be the best team he’s had since then.

The third member of that ignominious group isn’t like the others.

Both Chambers and Brownell have coached a single NBA player at their current gig – Tim Frazier and K.J. McDaniels, respectively – and neither of them were first round picks.

Washington’s Lorenzo Romar has had five first round picks in the last five years.

None of them have played in the NCAA tournament, and without a win over No. 8 Gonzaga on Wednesday night, there’s a very real chance that Markelle Fultz, the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, will find himself watching the NCAA tournament on television as well.


As of today, Washington is 4-3 this season. They lost to Yale at home in their season-opener. They lost a pair of games to TCU – one on a neutral court, one on the road – and while the Horned Frogs are currently undefeated this season, they haven’t really landed a win that would let us know just how good they actually are.

After Wednesday, the Huskies won’t get another chance against a real team until Pac-12 play, and that could end up being a real problem.

A loss tonight puts them at 4-4 on the season and ensures that they will not have a quality non-conference win on their résumé, which wouldn’t be a huge issue if we could ensure that neither Yale nor TCU would eventually show up as a bad loss. But the other side of it is that the Pac-12 isn’t quite as loaded as we expected it to be. Oregon has fizzled out of the gate, failing to impress during non-conference play, while Arizona’s one relevant win – Michigan State – looks like it is anything but a marquee victory. UCLA is carrying the torch for the league.

Put another way, we’re looking at a situation where, for the second straight season, the best NBA prospect in college basketball will end up missing the NCAA tournament. Last year, the Ben Simmons-to-LSU experiment started slowly and ended as a train wreck, with the team opting not to accept a bid to the NIT.

How did this go so wrong?

RELATEDHow ‘keeping it in the family’ led Michael Porter Jr. to Washington

TUCSON, AZ - JANUARY 14: Head coach Lorenzo Romar of the Washington Huskies gestures during the first half of the college basketball game at McKale Center on January 14, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona. The Arizona Wildcats beat the Washington Huskies 99-67. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Lorenzo Romar (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

There are a couple reasons:

1. Washington just does not have the talent around Markelle Fultz that Romar needed, and it’s not entirely his fault. Marquese Chriss and DeJounte Murray, who both ended up being first round picks in the 2016 NBA Draft, were one-and-done players that no one expected to head to the NBA when they did. Chriss was a borderline top 50 recruit coming out of high school. Murray was closer to the top 30, but you’d be lying if you said you thought he was going to be able to leave school after one season with a guaranteed contract.

What’s left is a crop of players that are just OK. David Crisp is a fine player but isn’t necessarily a guy you want as your second option at the Pac-12 level. Malik Dime and Noah Dickerson are, at worst, serviceable high-major bigs. Matisse Thybulle hasn’t quite lived up to the hype that he had entering the season. Part of the reason that Romar is left with a roster bereft of high-level talent is a result of the way that he coaches.

Romar is going to play his most talented guys right away, said a person with knowledge of the way that Washington’s staff operates. It doesn’t matter if they are freshmen or seniors, he’s going to let his best players do what they can do. If that comes with a learning curve – Fultz isn’t going to get pulled for turnovers the same way that Chriss and Murray were allowed to play through their freshmen mistakes – then so be it. Compare that with a program like Wisconsin, where guys like Devin Harris and Frank Kaminsky, eventual top ten picks, were buried on the bench until they learned the system and earned the playing time. Even Bill Self has struggled with when to let his one-and-done stars play through their issues and when to hold them accountable.

Romar gives his talent a chance to showcase what they’re capable of, for better or worse. And, of late, it’s been the latter.

2. His teams don’t defend. “They were so ******* bad on defense. It was like they had never been coached,” a coach who has played the Huskies this season told NBCSports.com. “They had no plan.” The Huskies are entertaining to watch offensively because of how fast they play – they’re currently sixth in KenPom in tempo – but there isn’t much structure on that end and it comes at the expense of any kind of discipline on the defensive end.

That’s a by-product of giving his young guys freedom that they wouldn’t necessarily experience at other programs. It’s also a result of how he wants to play defensively. His best teams would get out and play a pressuring, half-court man-to-man defense, and with the new freedom of movement rules, that just doesn’t work. All Washington does is foul. They’ve been in the bottom 25% nationally in free throw rate the last two seasons. Chriss fouled out of 15 of the 34 games he played in college.

3. That environment isn’t necessarily the best for getting the most out of a guy like Fultz. For as talented as he is, Fultz still has some warts. He’s a slow-starter, a guy with a sleepy demeanor that has a habit of slowly growing into games. He’s a talented defender that doesn’t always play with the kind of effort on that end of the floor that he needs to. If he was from the west coast, he’d get criticized for having the same kind of “Cali-cool” that Lonzo Ball gets knocked for.

And it’s a shame, because Fultz really is an unbelievable talent.

But, at this point, it looks like he’ll be the unknown in this NBA Draft.

With the exception of Washington’s only game against Oregon and their second matchup with Arizona, every quality opponent that Washington plays will tip after 10:30 p.m. ET.

How many people are going to stay up that late to watch what could very well end up being a series of blowouts?


Lorenzo Romar is in a decidedly unique situation at Washington.

On the one hand, in the last five years, his teams have underperformed given the amount of talent that has come through Seattle. In 2011-2012, Washington won the Pac-12 regular season title but failed to get an at-large bid to the Big Dance with Terrence Ross, the No. 8 pick, and Tony Wroten, the No. 25 pick, on the roster. C.J. Wilcox, the No. 28 pick in the 2014 Draft, couldn’t get Washington into the dance either of the next two seasons, and this past year, Romar was NIT-bound despite having Marquese Chriss, the No. 8 pick, and DeJounte Murray, the No. 29 pick, on his roster. The only time in his Washington coaching tenure that he didn’t have a future first round pick on the roster was the 2014-15 season, and, in theory, that fact could change if current Gonzaga point guard and Washington transfer Nigel Williams-Goss gets drafted.

In 15 years with the Huskies, Romar has reached the tournament just six times, the Sweet 16 just three times and finished with fewer than 10 losses just three times despite a nine-year run where U-Dub finished top three in the Pac-12 seven times and won two regular season titles.

But he’s also been by far the best coach in the history of the program. The Huskies reached the Final Four in 1953, and in the nearly 50 years between that day and the day that Romar was hired, Washington reached just six NCAA tournaments and two Sweet 16s.

Washington fans have a right to be frustrated with the way his tenure has gone, but that frustration stems from the fact that Romar carried Washington to an unprecedented level of success.

But that’s in the past. Brandon Roy’s college career ended a decade ago. Isaiah Thomas was drafted in 2011.

So while there’s an outside chance that both Fultz and Michael Porter Jr., the star that Romar has committed in the Class of 2017, could end up being the No. 1 pick in their respective NBA Drafts, it may be more likely that, without a win on Wednesday night, Romar may never end up coaching the latter.

Point guard Harris becomes Washington’s second 2017 commit

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With four-star shooting guard Jaylen Nowell having already committed and elite forward Michael Porter Jr. viewed by many as a player well within reach, Washington is off to a good start when it comes to the 2017 recruiting class. Things got even better for Lorenzo Romar’s program late Monday night, as point guard Blake Harris announced via his Twitter account that he will attend Washington.

A native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the 6-foot-3 Harris attends Word of God Academy in Raleigh, North Carolina and plays for the CP3 All Stars team on the Nike EYBL grassroots circuit. The addition of Harris gives Washington additional depth on the perimeter, something they’ll need if highly regarded freshman Markelle Fultz is as good as advertised, and he’s a good distributor of the basketball as well.

Among his highlights this spring/summer was a poster dunk over five-star 2017 forward Billy Preston, with Preston suffering a broken finger in attempting to block the shot.

Washington likes to play an uptempo style in which their players get into the opposition defensively, resulting in turnovers and open-court opportunities for their perimeter options, and Harris should fit in well given his skill set.

Washington announces addition of former Utah commit

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Monday afternoon the Washington basketball program announced the addition of a 6-foot-6 guard who at one point in time was poised to play against the Huskies in the Pac-12.

Harold Baruti, who committed to Utah in mid-May, has joined Lorenzo Romar’s program. Baruti’s addition gives Washington another option on the perimeter, which is a positive for a team that uses a lot of players in their uptempo system. A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Baruti attended Mountain Mission School in Grundy, Virginia.

Baruti de-committed from Utah just over two weeks ago, with the Salt Lake Tribune reporting at the time that his application for admission was submitted after the school’s deadline for international students.

As a result Utah loses a perimeter newcomer and Washington gains one, moving the Huskies’ 2016 recruiting class up to four. McDonald’s All-American guard Markelle Fultz leads the class, with Baruti, wing Carlos Johnson and center Sam Timmins being the other new arrivals in Seattle.

Former UNLV signee commits to Washington

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With McDonald’s All-American Markelle Fultz and center Sam Timmins having signed, Washington added a third player to its 2016 recruiting class Thursday evening in the form of guard Carlos Johnson. News of Johnson’s signing with Washington was announced by the school.

As he’d already signed a National Letter of Intent with UNLV, Johnson only signed the grant-in-aid with Washington. The rule is that prospects are only allowed to sign one NLI during the recruiting process (there’s no such rule for the grant-in-aid agreement).

Johnson attended Findlay Prep, and with his skill and athleticism should make for a good fit for the uptempo style that Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar prefers. His addition gives the Huskies another piece on the perimeter, with the team having lost guards Andrew Andrews (graduation) and Dejounte Murray (NBA Draft early entrant) at the end of last season.

Johnson joins a backcourt that’s expected to be led by Fultz, with sophomore David Crisp also in line for minutes. On the wing the Huskies welcome back three options from a season ago, including rising sophomore Mathysse Thybulle. With Johnson’s ability to play either the two or the three, Washington has another versatile option to call upon on the perimeter.

In addition to the three freshmen, Washington will also add Auburn transfer Matthew Atewe to the mix next season. The 6-foot-8 power forward sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules.

No. 8 Oregon holds off Washington 83-77 at Pac-12

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LAS VEGAS (AP) Chris Boucher had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and No. 8 Oregon withstood a late flurry to hold off Washington 83-77 in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals Thursday.

Top-seeded Oregon (26-6) built an 11-point lead midway through the second half, but Andrew Andrews brought the Huskies back with a quick scoring flurry. The senior guard scored 10 of his 19 points during the run, helping eighth-seeded Washington (18-14) pull within two late.

The Ducks held, though, hitting four free throws in the final 33 seconds to earn a spot in Friday night’s semifinals against No. 15 Arizona or Colorado.

Elgin Cook scored 19 points, Tyler Dorsey 17 and Dillon Brooks added 15 for the Ducks.

Marques Chriss scored 19 points for the Huskies.

The Ducks closed the regular season strong, winning their final five games for their first conference title since 2002. One of those finishing wins was against Washington on Feb. 28, when Cook scored 26 points in the 86-73 victory.

The Huskies put a dent in their NCAA Tournament hopes by limping to the finish, but kept a glimmer of hope alive with a rout over Stanford in the tournament’s opening round.

Washington got off to fast start against the Cardinal and kept rolling against Oregon, hitting 10 of its first 13 shots – four of those 3s – to go up 26-14.

Oregon was ragged early, forcing shots and passes in traffic, riling coach Dana Altman with numerous defensive breakdowns.

The Ducks settled down and started flying, harassing the Huskies into difficult shots, scoring in transition after turnovers and misses during an 11-0 run that helped them take a 39-38 halftime lead.

But after all the 3-pointers and soaring dunks, the second half turned into a defensive wrestling match, with bodies hitting the floor nearly every trip.

The Ducks gained a little separation midway through, when Dorsey hit a 3 and Dwayne Benjamin scored on a three-point play to put Oregon up 64-54.

Andrews brought the Huskies back. He hit a pair of 3-pointers and turned a steal into a pair of free throws that cut Oregon’s lead to 71-69 with 5 minutes left.

Washington kept the Ducks within reach from there, but never could catch them.

TIP INS

Washington: David Crisp, who made just four 3-pointers February, had three in the first half. … Dejounte Murray and Malik Dime had 13 points each.

Oregon: Boucher became the first player in Pac-12 history with 100 blocked shots and 30 3-pointers in a season. … The Ducks had a 46-33 rebounding edge.

WHAT’S NEXT

Washington will have to sweat out Selection Sunday to find out if it will get an NCAA Tournament invite.

Oregon will face No. 15 Arizona or Colorado in the semifinals Friday night.