It would be fair for Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar to go into his bad-call tantrum arsenal in response to postseason rumblings.
He could hear, Why dont they run more plays? and respond with hands on his hips, suit coat blasted back, and indignant visage.
He could hear, When are they going to get past the Sweet 16? and go to the fist throw, half twirl that usually doesnt show until a dubious call during Pac-10 play.
He could hear, When will these guys win something? and go to the double-foot stomp, the pinnacle of Romars demonstrative disagreements with a referee.
Or simply, he could respond by asking the depth of memory belonging to the questioner.
That person must not recall the womens team giving the mens a run in attendance numbers not long ago. The lack of recruits. The lack of buzz. The losing.
From 2000-2003, the Huskies were an abomination. Bob Benders final three years combined with Romars first produced 41 wins. Washington won 48 games total the following two years. Things were fixed, and fixed fast.
To dismiss what Romar has already done by lamenting what he has not is short-sighted and lacks comprehensive thought, though thats how discussion often operates.
The construction of mystique is an ongoing process that does not come without high-end and prolonged winning. Few, like Kentucky, Indiana, UCLA and last Sundays opponent, North Carolina, can claim that prominent position that comes with winning legacy in college basketball.
This is Washington. It has just one Final Four appearance that came almost 60 years ago. Just two retired jerseys. Just now a program developing panache.
The criticism that the program has peaked under this coach, this good recruiter who cant drag his charges past the mid-level of success, is another indicator of success. The selfish immediacy demanded in sports only escalates when something is actually being done.
Hopefully, what were doing, is building blocks, Romar said. Get to the next step. We hadnt won a Pac-10 championship in 50 years. We just won one a couple years ago. It takes a little time.
Were looking to have that breakthrough. That will at that point, put you on another (tier). I do understand this about sports: When were on that breakthrough and were on that next tier, whatever that is, there will come a point when, Why cant you get to this next tier? Whats wrong? Then if you do that, if you ever get to a point that youre on that tier with those biggies, well see if you can stay there. Its all relative; (a) never-ending quest to become the best that you can be.
Hell hear your criticism, too, though he wont listen much to it. Cant really. If Romar or any other coach spent his time tallying fan grousing or reporter sideswipes then program progress would be hindered.
“I understand the criticism, but what the criticism is basically saying is, ‘It doesn’t matter you won a Pac-10 championship and (three) conference (tournament) championships and been to three Sweet 16s, Romar said. That means nothing because we have higher aspirations. Well, we had higher aspirations this year, and everyone in the country has higher aspirations. But I don’t know if it’s fair if what you’re talking about, the criticism, is that we blow our program up because we haven’t done that yet. I think we’ve made a lot of progress here.
At this point, Washington is just missing the secondary tier. The Michigan State, Georgetown, Syracuse, UConn pack that settles just below the graybeard programs that have been pulling rank since the peach basket. Last years recruiting was indicative of that. Enes Kanter, so close. Terrence Jones, so close. Other theoretical cant-miss kids gave Washington strong consideration this year, then chose otherwise.
This season also exemplified the almost. The 11 losses came by the minuscule total of 55 points. Not once was Washington blown out. A punishing duality that proves the depth and talent of that roster, yet also its inability to manage the game during its most crucial moments.
But Romar is a congenial operator. Even when the team is somewhere other than campus, Hawaii or Charlotte, hes shaking hands and kissing babies. Random people call to him from the stands. He can barely make it back to private areas without numerous sidetracks, and even that trek isnt solo.
His grit from Compton is buoyed by his gameday tailored threads. Its a range that helps him recruit funds and fleet feet, plus manage voluminous player egos. That ability is a reason to expect more from Washington basketball in coming years. It’s time for the next step.
“I think, when we first got here, my press conference, the first thing I said was, ‘Don’t tell me we can’t get to the Final Four.’ And I think people viewed those comments as, ‘That sounds good, but come on, man. Washington doesn’t get there,’ ” Romar said. I would guess from 10 years ago, we probably would’ve exceeded the expectations then for what people would’ve had for us.”