Romar downplays UCLA intrigue

Huskies coach has ties to Bruins, LA but says he’s staying if UW ‘wants me’

todd.dybas@thenewstribune.comMarch 26, 2013 

SEATTLE — The media work room in Hec Edmundson Pavilion is a cramped, nondescript place that fills quickly when there are just a few television cameras and reporters.

So, when a metaphorical elephant squeezes into the space, it’s quite noticeable.

Swathed in a gray tracksuit with Washington logos on it, Huskies basketball coach Lorenzo Romar talked about Washington’s 18-16 season Monday. But the main thing to be discussed was UCLA.

The Bruins fired coach Ben Howland on Sunday, opening up a job with logical and multiple ties to Romar.

Despite his Los Angeles upbringing, five years as an assistant at UCLA and general good standing in the city, Romar said Monday that he has not heard from the Bruins. He also said he has not instructed anyone to reach out to UCLA on his behalf.

“When the UCLA situation comes up, the fact that I worked there and am from there, I think it’s a natural (thing) for it to come up,” Romar said. “Anyone who’s worked for (the Bruins), I think it comes up. In years past, I’ve just been truthful.

“I’ve said, I don’t know how many times, if Washington wants me, I’m here at Washington. I’ve said that a bunch of times, but I’ll say it again.”

This is not Romar’s first dalliance with other programs. He’s been contacted over the years by East Coast schools, other Pacific-12 Conference schools and even the NBA.

After Romar left UCLA for Pepperdine in 1996, UCLA fired coach Jim Harrick, and then-athletic director Peter Dalis contacted Romar. The Bruins were giving Romar immediate and heavy consideration, but he declined to go forward with the hiring process because of his commitment to Pepperdine.

When the UCLA job opened again in 2003, UCLA hired Howland as the replacement for Steve Lavin. Romar did not receive a call from new athletic director Dan Guerrero, who is still in charge of the Bruins, during that search.

In 2011, Romar was linked to the NBA opening for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Last year, he was mentioned as a candidate for the opening at Illinois. Also during the course of the 2012 season, even though the UCLA job was not open, Romar was asked about the possibility of going to UCLA since it appeared Howland’s time there was coming to an end.

Thus far, everything has been rumor. Romar will take calls but has not yet reciprocated to any pursuers.

In 2010, Washington gave Romar a 10-year extension for $1.7 million a year plus bonuses. The contract called for it to be reviewed every two years by athletic director Scott Woodward. This is an off year in the review process. Both sides will still assess their standing, however, which includes the school’s level of disappointment with consecutive NIT appearances.

Each time he’s linked to an opening, Romar receives questions from recruits about his future. He hasn’t spoken to the current roster about it.

“I’ve had many of these conversations with teams in the past and schools that talked, and I just didn’t hang the phone up on them,” Romar said. “We talked. I’ve never had a situation where, you know what, we need to sit down and talk and meet on this and talk further. That’s not something I’m looking at.”

Romar said he was not surprised that Howland was dismissed by the Bruins and, like any coach when another gets fired, was disappointed about Howland’s dismissal.

The way it happened speaks to the expectations at UCLA, though it has won just one national title in the past 38 years — back in 1995 when Romar was an assistant. Howland was 230-105 in 10 seasons at UCLA, including taking the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours.

UCLA won the Pac-12 regular-season title this year, yet is reportedly paying Howland $3.5 million as part of his severance package. That’s a staggering cost to make someone who won the league go away, even for a school that has 11 national titles — 10 from the glory days when John Wooden was in charge.

“You can’t do what Wooden did,” Romar said. “That’s not going to happen. I don’t know, some people think maybe it will happen, maybe this will be the coach. … One-and-done (players), the way it is with parity nowadays, it’s not going to happen.

“But, if you talk about expectations across the board, where at least at UCLA you have a chance to meet some of those expectations. At some other places, those expectations might be there, but it’s just to hard to get to them.”

Is Romar the next to deal with those expectations? Not according to him.

FASTBREAKS

Romar said redshirt junior guard and leading scorer C.J. Wilcox has submitted his paperwork to the NBA Draft Advisory Committee to gather information on his possible draft position. Wilcox will need to withdraw his name by April 16 to maintain his college eligibility. Most project him as a mid-second-round pick. … Forward Martin Breunig will transfer. Breunig, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, played in nine games last season.

todd.dybas@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas

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