The questions about Lorenzo Romar’s status seem fair.
What had been a recent downward trending of his University of Washington men’s basketball fortunes hit terminal velocity in the second half of this season, when the Huskies won only five of their last 20 games.
But a coach who averages 20 wins a season, has had just two losing seasons in 13 years, follows the rules, and is an unwaveringly solid representative for the program and university deserves every chance to get it turned around.
Moving on would not only be unfair — and foolish without a sure-thing replacement in the works — it would be expensive, as his contract calls for a multimillion-dollar buyout at this point.
So, Romar is here and he’s going to stay here for a while.
And I’d argue that he has earned every bit of patience. Even if some message boards are filling with critics and crowds are thinning with apathy.
As reported by staff writer Christian Caple in February, UW athletic director Scott Woodward cited Romar’s impressive body of work over the years. He’s had the Huskies in six NCAA tournaments (three times to the Sweet 16) and won two conference championships.
Before Romar and UW pulled it off in 2009, the Huskies hadn’t won an outright conference title since 1953.
Romar set himself up for this, leading UW to 24 or more wins six times in eight seasons between 2004-05 and 2011-12. Wins have slipped from 24 to 18 to 17 to 16 this season, as conference standings have dived from first to sixth to eighth to 11th.
So, yes, he has a strong body of work, but there’s no disputing which direction that body is heading.
He had some misses on recruits and was unable to sustain the rapid-replacement mandate of having early-entry NBA talents on the roster. And some of his recent teams have been inconsistent in performance and effort and have sometimes lost games that appeared in hand.
Those are failings for which the head coach is held accountable.
The need for front-court strength caused Romar to take a chance on Robert Upshaw, who had been booted off Fresno State’s team after his freshman season.
Upshaw led the nation with 4.5 blocked shots a game as the Huskies won their first 11 games and were ranked No. 13 in the country.
In late January, though, Romar dismissed the key player for violations of team rules. The Huskies’ decline without the dominating 7-footer was predictable. The downside of the disciplinary action was obvious.
The upside of the discipline is the message that it sends to everyone else, from now until Romar is finished coaching, that team rules apply everybody on the team, even if you lead the nation in blocked shots.
There is the strength of Romar, and it’s the sort of thing that makes it easier for Woodward to focus on the long-term good of the program under him.
Another of Romar’s strengths is of more practical application. His recruiting class for next season is rated as one of the top 10 in the country.
We should assume this shows that Romar still has the crucial recruiting chops to lure a gifted group to a program that otherwise appears on the downslope.
Such an infusion of talent can generate energy, interest and renewed success.
Romar’s previous clubs had a dip of a couple of seasons, 2006 through 2008, but they bounced back to three straight NCAA tournament seasons thereafter.
Maybe this recruiting class is the development that will trigger that kind of reversal.
If not, the questions will become increasingly more valid this time next season.