Court Marshal

Lorenzo Romar, UW Basketball’s Alpha Dawg

By Matthew Halverson November 15, 2010 Published in the December 2010 issue of Seattle Met

Makeup by Cara Aeschliman. Pictured: UW mascot Harry the Husky, students Kyle Acheson, John Chase, Ted Copeland, Janet Dahl, Ashlimarie Dong, James Jorgensen, Lisa Ly, Shannon Murphy, Sierra Rivers, Ashley Russell, Ameen Tabatabai, Eamaan Tabatabai, Sp

LORENZO ROMAR once asked famed hoops coach Lute Olson how he whipped the University of Arizona Wildcats into winning shape. “We did two things,” Olson told him. “We instilled discipline, and we were fortunate enough to get a few good players.” Good fortune will only get you so far in the NCAA, so since taking the reins as UW’s head coach in 2002, Romar has made discipline his b-ball buzzword and driven the Dawgs to one regular-season Pac-10 championship, two Pac-10 tournament championships, and five trips to the NCAA Tournament. And this year, he’s shooting to become the first coach in UW history to notch his 
fifth 25-win season. To which we say: Thanks for the assist, Lute.

Discipline doesn’t mean you’re cracking a whip, beating your team. It’s just making sure that they do what they’re supposed to do, when they’re supposed to do it.

You can threaten, you can do whatever you want, but if someone really gave you their best, how are they going to do any better next time? You can hold a gun to their head, but how are they going to do better? I think as a coach, you have to realize that and acknowledge that they did their best.

If you ask me what makes a good recruiter, I think trust is so important. In sales, if you’re selling anything, someone has to trust you. One dealership is selling Volvos. Across the street, they’re selling Mercedes-Benzes. You may go with the Volvo because you trust the guy, even though the Mercedes may be the better car.

That said, the more you win, the easier it is to recruit.

Growing up in Compton is an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. You had to deal with a lot of adversity. I think that helped prepare me for the rest of my life, as opposed to potentially being sheltered in a suburban area where everything was right there for me. When I came up here to play at Washington, they would announce that I was from Los Angeles sometimes, and I’d say, “No, I’m from Compton. There’s a difference.”

How you handle losing is everything. When you fall, how do you get up? Are you blaming others, or are you finding something that you could have done better? Do you throw a tirade and just point the finger at everyone else?

Coach Jim Shaw, one of my assistants, always says, “You don’t have a bad attitude. You just have the wrong attitude.” So they’re not talking back, they’re not rebelling, they’re just going through the motions. They’re loafing. They’ve got the wrong attitude.

Because someone has a poor attitude right now, that doesn’t mean they’re going to have a poor attitude later. Maybe the person has just been allowed to do whatever they want to do in the past and never been held accountable. There’s a young man right now on our team who people said, “I can’t believe you’re taking him. You’re going to ruin your program.” And on the outside it might look like that, but we had talked to this young man enough to know that he just wanted a home and just wanted to be held accountable, and once that happened, he’d probably respond. And he’s been great.

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I trust God 100 percent. But man, including myself, we’re all imperfect. So if I put someone on a pedestal and say this person can do no wrong, I’m setting myself up for a fall. As long as I can keep someone at arm’s distance, I’ll trust them to a degree. But to really let them in, it’s very difficult for me.

Before I was a Christian, I had a filthy mouth and I’d fly off the handle. Although people would consider me a nice guy, I still know what I can do and what I was capable of. Sometimes I have an anger management problem, where I just want to snap and go off on people. The only reason I don’t is because of my faith.

There are over 300 Division I basketball teams. Go through each of those teams and see how many of the players’ families are intact—the original, biological mother and father are together, they’ve been together, and it’s a pretty functional family. There’s not a lot of those. If all families were functional, you’d solve a lot of problems in this world.

I try to give my players life’s scouting report. “If you do it this way, this is usually the outcome. So you might want to try it this way, because it’ll give you a better outcome.”

The real mark of success is being on The Muppet Show.

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