On the Ball: They Called Him a Classic Underdog, But Lorenzo Romar's Career as a Basketball Player-and a Coach-Proves that Nice Guys Finish First. By Jon Marmor.

The Secret to Success

The secret to Romar's success is simple: Discipline. Respect. Accountability. He treats his players as he does his wife Leona (whom he met in high school) and his daughters Terra, Tavia and Taylor. "X's and O's mean nothing if players don't respect the coach or each other," he says.

Once again, the impact he has made on his Husky players has opened eyes. "He's upbeat, laid back, but confident," says junior guard C.J. Massengale. "He's calm and respectful. Discipline is very big with him. And we need it."

One player who learned quickly about that was guard Will Conroy, who showed up two minutes late to the players' very first meeting with their new coach. Romar interrupted the meeting to tell Conroy to leave the room. "He won't raise his voice, he won't embarrass you, but he gets his points across," Conroy says.

"We know we have the talent to do better than we have. It's really a matter of team chemistry. Coach Romar knows what it takes to get there, and we are listening."

We can do it. I know it.

Romar explains: "Winning games is not my only job. I need to build character and be a positive influence on the players' lives. I'm in this to nurture players so there can be a trust. They have to know I'm here for them. I don't believe you can't be someone's friend and their mentor, too."

By emphasizing discipline, Romar isn't saying he will come down hard on someone who breaks a rule. "Discipline simply is doing what you should at the right time," he explains.

"As a coach, you can't always be sure. If a player takes a bad shot, do I get on him for taking the bad shot? Maybe he will clam up and not say much, or not want to take a chance again. You have to find the right balance."

His approach has impressed everyone he has come across. "He has the type of moral character that we need in basketball today," says John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach.

As was the case everywhere else he has been, Romar had an immediate impact at the UW. He convinced forward Doug Wrenn, the UW's best player, to return for his junior season instead of applying for the NBA draft. He scored a recruiting coup, signing Bobby Jones, a talented 6-foot-7 forward from Long Beach Poly High School in California. He went down to the wire against UCLA with highly touted high school center Ryan Hollins before losing the Los Angeles native to the Bruins.

While he plans to recruit players from California, his primary goal is to get the city's and state's best players to come to the UW. "It will take a while, but we are going to establish the Washington program as a contender," Romar says.

On Washington being a football school, Romar isn't fazed in the least. "I think it is a great combination that we have both football and basketball. It is not an insult to be here at Washington. I don't think there is any question with the commitment and resources we have that we can be successful here at Washington.

"I have been told many times, especially in NBA camps, 'You can't do this,' so that doesn't really faze me. We can do it. I know it." —Jon Marmor, '94, is associate editor of Columns

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