Romar is an elite recruiter, but his record at Washington was … not great.
Lorenzo Romar got his first head coaching opportunity in 1996 when he turned a depleted Pepperdine roster into a winning team. On Monday, the Waves announced they were bringing back the coach who parlayed his success in the West Coast Conference into a 15-year stint at the University of Washington.
— Pepperdine M. Hoops (@PeppBasketball) March 12, 2018
Romar had been fired from Washington after a disastrous 2016-17 season. Despite starting future No. 1-overall pick Markelle Fultz, the Huskies went just 9-22 while extending their NCAA tournament appearance drought to six years. That dismissal led Romar to an assistant role with Arizona, where the Wildcats’ Pac-12 championship performance was enough to successfully rehabilitate his stock as a Division I head coach.
He pointed to his history with the university and his fond memories of a successful rebuild as part of his decision to take the position.
“Pepperdine was my first head coaching job, and I remember us not doing well our first year,” Romar said. “When we took over there had been a couple of losing seasons before that, and in our first year we also had a losing season. Then in our second year, I think we were the second-most improved team in the country. To see the kids on that team experience a little more success was something that was really exciting.”
What does this mean for Pepperdine basketball?
The former NBA point guard has a track record of developing NBA prospects and bringing blue chip talent to campus, even if he’s struggled to translate that into wins. He coached 10 future first-round picks in Seattle, including six in his final six seasons with the team. Despite those talented rosters, he had a penchant for under-performing on the court. Though he advanced to the Sweet Sixteen three times in his 15 years at UW, he also missed the Big Dance in nine of those seasons.
But returning to any semblance of the postseason would be a major step forward for the Waves. Pepperdine hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament or NIT since 2002. According to 247sports, the program hasn’t had a top 250 recruit since 2011. Romar, with his history at the university and track record of developing NBA talent, should be able to create an immediate influx of talent.
That’s important, because the Waves return all five of their top scorers from this winter’s 6-26 team. Colbey Ross, a 6’1 point guard who averaged 14 points and 5.6 assists per game as a freshman, will have three seasons to lead his team to the top of the WCC standings. Kameron Edwards, a budding swing forward who displayed an improved three-point stroke while leading the team in scoring and rebounding, will be a junior next fall. Supplementing that group with some dynamic young athletes would provide a blueprint for success.
Romar’s elite recruiting was what brought him to Arizona despite an uneven record as a head coach, and it’s something on which the Waves will be relying. It won’t be easy to attract talent to a mid-major program in the midst of a 16-year postseason drought, but Romar’s track record and familiarity with the school suggest he’s the right man for the job.