The University of Washington made headlines in December of 2004 when it hired Tyrone Willingham. The hiring of Willingham signified only the second time in NCAA history, that a Division I-A university had it's football and basketball program coached by black men. Willingham joined Lorenzo Romar, who was hired as Washington's basketball coach in April of 2002.
However, earlier this week, Willingham announced that he would resign as coach of the Huskies effective at the end of the season. Willingham entered the season on the hot seat, and the Huskies' seventh loss in seven games was the final nail in the coffin. Romar gave his thoughts on the situation and his opinion of Willingham.
"It's something that is very unfortunate. Coach [Willingham] is someone that from day one, I had a lot of respect for and immediately trusted. He's done so many things right for this program, so many things right, and it's unfortunate in this profession when these decisions have to be made," expressed Romar. "If there's anyone I know that's going to do just fine after this, it's Tyrone Willingham. He is one incredible person. I would hope no one would lose sight of what his intentions have always been, and how much he's done for this program and this university since he's been here."
However, Romar understands the business of college athletics, the importance of winning and winning consistently, and the what have you done for me lately mentality of fans.
"Absolutely, no question," replied Romar promptly when asked if his popularity can decrease if the Huskies don't make the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year this season. "You're judged on your wins and losses, period. You go too long without very many wins, people start looking at you cross-eyed. If you go too long without many losses and you don't win by enough points, they start looking at you cross-eyed. It's win, win, win, win, and I understand that, I totally understand that."
Romar also addressed the retirement of Lute Olson, who stepped down as the Head Coach at the University of Arizona. Olson, 74, was entering his 26th season with the Wildcats, but resigned due to health concerns.
"We have lost a superstar in Coach Olson. With the controversy centering around the program - the pride that he's had and how hard he's worked to get that program where it is - I'm sure wouldn't be his choice for it to end like this," said Romar. "Coach Olson is one of the greatest coaches to ever coach this game, and I would hope no one would lose sight of that. If you look over the many years that he's coached, wherever he's coached, you go back to high school and you try to find controversy, there's very little. He's done a lot, a lot well."
While Olson's departure will certainly change things down in the desert, Romar feels the success of the Wildcat program won't suffer.
"They've got some good ball payers. That first five or six they have are outstanding players," said Romar. "Coach [Russ] Pennell, Coach [Mike] Dunlap, Coach [Reggie] Geary - those guys aren't chop liver as coaches. Those guys are good and they're going to have their team ready to play."
Switching gears to the Husky program, Romar discussed how hard it's been to settle on a starting lineup, suggesting that only Jon Brockman and Quincy Pondexter have solidified themselves as starters.
"Our guys have really done a nice job, and it's probably the toughest race for a starting lineup in terms of rotation, that we've had," explained Romar. "This year we've got several guys stepping up for the same position, so it's making it pretty heated in practice. There's probably nine or 10 players [vying for a starting position]."
Romar discussed the probability of playing a three-guard rotation, with the possibility of playing a four-guard rotation.
"We're definitely three guards, two bigs. At times, you could downsize them and go four guards, but it will be primarily three guards and two bigs, occasionally going four guards," explained Romar. "If it got to where those guards are our best players, then we would go more with four guards."
And the injury situation?
"Artem Wallace is practicing full speed, not missing any drills. Darnell Gant will practice fully on Friday. He's doing everything half court. There's nothing he can't do half court. In terms of full court, he can do anything that is without contact. The thing with Darnell, is for him not to be in a position where he has to make a movement where his abdomen area has to react. We try to keep him in a certain area," explained Romar. "Tyreese Breshers practiced yesterday [Monday] for just a little bit, but was suppressive in how he moved. We don't anticipate him in our scrimmage Saturday, but by the end of this week, we hope he'll be close to going full court the following week."
Romar further discussed Breshers, who is still recovering from an injury suffered during his senior season of high school, stating that it may not take Breshers long to acclimate himself to the collegiate game.
"With Tyreese's case, we'll just have to see, we'll have to see how he progresses. He's finally able to get out there and do some things. Once he's able to get out there, things could start clicking for him," expressed Romar. "He's surprisingly effective, having not played in six months. He's got some really good instincts, that if you didn't know it and you just watched him play, you would not realize he's been out that long. But it's not going up and down either, it's been half court."
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