Lorenzo Romar was named coach of the year — his third such award, including 2005 and 2009 — and Tony Wroten freshman of the year, the league announced Monday afternoon. In a mild surprise, Cal senior Jorge Gutierrez was named player of the year despite a late-season falloff, including a poor game in the final content of the regular season Sunday, a loss that cost the Bears a share of the title with Washington.
Honors were voted upon by conference coaches, who included sophomore Terrence Ross as well as Wroten on the 10-member all-conference team. Ross was considered a top candidate for POY, but Gutierrez, a senior guard, took the award, perhaps was given the edge with a four-year career that celebrated the sacrifice and effort coaches crave. Gutierrez was also on the all-conference defensive team and was named defensive player of the year.
In a down year for the conference when several programs have been hurt by coaching changes, sanctions, controversies, early departures for pro ball and injuries, Romar and Washington have endured little turmoil.
“I would just say that there is some stability and consistency,” he was quoted as saying in a university statement. “It helps when you recruit good kids with good talent. I can’t say enough about my coaching staff, because they share this too. It should be ‘Coaching Staff of the Year,’ because they have done a good job as well.”
Picked to finish fourth in the media preseason poll mostly because of seven freshmen on the roster missing top player Isaiah Thomas, the Huskies started 8-6 before Romar’s pleas for patience, among players as well as fans, started to pay off.
Washington won 13 of its final 16 to finish 14-4 and 21-9. The regular-season title was Romar’s second (first in 2009) and the 20-win season was the fourth in a row, a school record. Washington has won the last two conference tournaments, and is the top seed for the tourney this week.
He’s the third Washington coach to receive league honors, joining two-time honoree Marv Harshman (1982, 1984), for whom Romar played, and Bob Bender (1996). Romar has a career record of 309-199 (.608), while his Washington record stands at 216-111 (.661).
Romar campaigned late for the POY candidacies of Ross and Wroten, and seemed a little disappointed neither was selected.
“A few years ago we felt Quincy Pondexter should have won it, but he didnt,” Romar said. “Jerome Randle (Cal), who was a heckuva player, won it. The thought was that (Randle won because Cal) won the league.
“This time, that wasnt the case and I applaud Jorge (Gutierrez). Not only him, but Allen Crabbe. He could have won it too. He is a heckuva player. I would have liked to have seen one of our guys win player of the year more than me get coach of the year. But, that is no knock on Jorge, because I and our whole team respects Jorge Gutierrez.”
Wroten is the fifth Washington player to earn the frosh award, joining Chris Welp (1984), Mike Hayward (1988), Mark Pope (1992) and Isaiah Thomas (2009).
“Tony came in with a lot of accolades and a lot of anticipation and people were very critical of him early,” Romar said. “I think he has lived up to and maybe exceeded some of the expectations. I just thought he was a hands-down choice for freshman of the year and the fact that he was all-conference and a player of the year candidate as a freshman speaks volumes as to what kind of basketball player he is.”
Wroten, from Seattle’s Garfield High, took only nine games before he made the starting lineup. He led the Huskies in scoring (16.3 ppg/4th in Pac-12) and steals (59 total, 2.0 spg/2nd in Pac-12), and was second in assists (3.7 apg/8th in Pac-12). He had nine 20-point games this season, second behind the 10 of Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham. Wroten was the only freshman to be named Player of the Week this season, and the first freshman to earn that honor since USC’s O.J. Mayo in February 2008.
He is one of five finalists for the national freshman of the year award.
“It definitely was (a goal),” Wroten said of the award. “I wanted to be one of the top freshmen in the country and my goal was to get Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. It’s a tough conference with a lot of good freshmen, so for me to get it is a great reward.”
Wroten said missing out on the POY honor should provide useful motivation when the Pac-12 tourney starts Wednesday in Los Angeles.
“Definitely we can use it as motivation,” he said. “I for sure thought Terrence was going to get player of the year. Gutierrez is a good player and has been here for a long time, but I felt like Terrence did enough to where he was player of the year. To top it off, we won the conference so I thought Terrence would get it. It is what it is, and our goal is to win the conference championship.”
Ross, one of two players in the top 10 in points and rebounds, and was also among the leaders in blocks, steals and three-point shooting, admitted being disappointed.
“I feel a little snubbed, but you cant really think about that stuff,” he said. “I am a little surprised, but congratulations to Gutierrez. He is a great player and has helped Cal out a lot.”