Last year’s college basketball season in Pullman became sponsored by Bob Marley. The season in Montlake ran into injuries and ignorance.
Forget standard complaints from hounding parents or petulant youngsters about playing time. There were more serious fiascoes. Washington coach Lorenzo Romar and Washington State coach Ken Bone judged and were judged.
Injuries that claimed a players career (Tyreese Breshers) and season (Abdul Gaddy) stacked up with Venoy Overtons rape charge caused Romar to call it his toughest year. Once he ditched the emotions that cloud assessment just after the season, he looked again. He still feels, despite saying much was accomplished, the season was trying.
It wasnt tough, in terms we lost three in a row to Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Romar told Sportspress Northwest last week. You go through those periods sometimes. But all in all, those other things is just what made it a tougher year.
Those types things have never happened to us here. Wed gone through adversity on the floor. But some other things, that are beyond your control, those things just hadnt happened.
They did last year. Enough so that the core of what many feel about Romar was challenged. Had a coach with a lesser history — and fewer scruples — dealt with the Overton the same way, he would have been trampled worse.
Romar took an unprecedented amount of chiding from fans and media. He’ll always dismiss it as something that goes with the job. Yet this year’s disdain had extra power because of the stomach-churning charges against Overton.
The calendar also seemed to indicate Overtons drama had a direct effect on the team. He was explaining his side to police Jan. 12, a Wednesday morning. Thursday night Washington lost by two to Stanford, the first head-scratcher of the season. At the end of the month and during the first week of February was three-game losing streak to which Romar referred.
But one of Washingtons captains from last season said the swirl around Overton had little influence on the Huskies play.
Him not playing made it harder on our team because we could have used him. But as far as all the stuff that happened on the outside, I dont think it bothered our team, Justin Holiday said. It was hard obviously on him. As a team I dont think it broke us down. We still knew what we had to do, go out compete and try to win.”
In Pullman, the marijuana charges against Reggie Moore, Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto left the Cougars feeling derailed each time they got going.
If youre in the business long enough, it seems you have issues one way or another almost every single year, Bone said. It could be injuries, it could be academics, quite often it can be attitudes. One way or another you have to learn to deal with those issues and keep your team intact to try to peak at the right time, which is March.
The Cougars finished by getting smacked upside the head, as Bone put it, by Wichita State in the NIT semifinals. The three off-court problems from last year should be warning enough to other Cougars. But Bone isnt taking the silent tact.
You would hope that you wouldnt have to say anything at all, but there will be a lot said, Bone said.
Its already started. It has already started.
Romar and Bone each pointed out their teams improved after being socked with trouble.
You dont want to sit on a bunch of moral victories, but the way we played against UCLA without Reggie and Klay was impressive, and competing with a team the caliber of Washington in the Pac-10 Tournament that was a great, great game, Bone said.
Romar could make the same claim. Despite problems at the start, the middle and toward the end, Washington still progressed.
If were talking when it happened, Im sure it was stressful, Romar said of Overton’s sexual assault charge. But if were talking how the team responded ultimately, I think we did a great job of responding. There are a lot of teams that would not have even made the NCAA tournament.
Next year each coach will have new headaches. For Romar, it’s managing incoming star Tony Wroten and replacing Matthew Bryan-Amanings post scoring.
Bone has to figure out how much scoring Reggie Moore can provide in the absence of Thompson and Casto. He also needs to get Faisal Aden to move out of Chuckerville.
Northwest basketball fans need a season free of a fool dancing on the Cougars emblem pre-game in Pullman as fans give him the finger and scream about molestation.
Fans need to know things are under control with the Cougars, and that two total games of suspension for three minor arrests, along with Bone’s current instruction, is message enough.
We saw what the coaches felt was proper punishment for last year’s interaction with the law. Four arrests, five games missed. Overton missed the Pac-10 tournament, which could have been just a single game. Thompson and Moore each missed a game. The marijuana charge against Casto was dropped because a judge suppresed evidence.
Prosecutors dropped the charges against Overton two days prior to the start of the Pac-10 tournament. Romar could have chosen to end Overton’s career despite that, but opted to make the maximum penalty three games, saying Overton was internally disciplined prior.
This year will show if the player’s mistakes are trend or anomaly under each coach. Based on head men’s pasts, the latter is likely.
Everyone wants the opportunity next year to discuss what happened on the court. Everyone can do without the rest. Especially Bone and Romar. It’s up to them to be sure that happens.
Follow Todd Dybas on Twitter at @Todd_Dybas