Washington's Lorenzo Romar closes in on milestones against his mentor
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar can reach win No. 100 in conference and 300 overall Thursday night against California's Mike Montgomery.
Seattle Times staff reporter
California @ Washington, 5:30 p.m., ROOT Sports
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Somewhere in his mother's home in Los Angeles, Lorenzo Romar stashed a letter from Mike Montgomery.
Montgomery, then a coach at Montana, recruited a guard from Cerritos Community College to play for him. Romar ended up at Washington, and the rest is history.
"But it could have happened," Romar said. "I think I still have that letter somewhere. True story."
Four years ago, Romar recounted the story to an audience that included Montgomery.
"I've always been a lousy recruiter, Lorenzo," he shouted from the back of the room.
Twenty-two years after their initial meeting, their paths reconnect Thursday when Montgomery leads California into Edmundson Pavilion for a 5:30 p.m. battle of Pac-12 men's basketball leaders.
The Golden Bears (15-4, 5-1) are tied with Stanford atop the conference while the Huskies (11-6, 4-1) are a half-game behind.
Romar also has a chance to achieve two significant coaching milestones.
He's gunning for his 300th career victory and 100th conference win, which would move him past former UW coach Tippy Dye into sole possession of 19th place on the league's all-time list for conference wins.
Only two current Pac-12 men's coaches have more conference wins than Romar — Montgomery (252) and UCLA's Ben Howland (100).
It has been 48 years since the conference had three active coaches with at least 100 wins at the same time — Oregon State's Slats Gill (276), UCLA's John Wooden (171) and USC's Forrest Twogood (121).
When asked the significance of reaching 100 conference wins, Romar said he has given little thought about his record — 299-196 overall and 208-108 at UW — and is thrilled he has been able to coach so long at the school he loves.
"The fact that we've been able to be here for 10 years blows me away all the time because it just doesn't happen in today's age," said Romar, who is the longest-tenured coach in the Pac-12. "You don't get that opportunity to be in one place that long."
Winning No. 100 is little more than a nice, round number. Ben Braun won 110 games at California and George Raveling collected 140 wins at Washington State and USC, but hardly anyone remembers.
"In college basketball, you make your mark by what you do in that NCAA tournament," said former FSN analyst Ernie Kent, who won 109 Pac-10 games in 13 seasons at Oregon. "Lorenzo may not get the credit he's deserved for what he's done with this program. The value of winning isn't what it used to be."
Romar, 51, signed a 10-year contract extension in 2010. He isn't worried about his legacy or climbing the all-time win charts.
His Mount Rushmore of Pac-12 coaches: John Wooden, Lute Olson, Ralph Miller and Montgomery.
"Those are the four that really stand out to me when you start talking about Pac-8, Pac-10 and now Pac-12 coaching greats," Romar said. "Coach Montgomery teaches the fundamentals of the game as well as any coach in America."
Montgomery is considered the Godfather of Pac-12 basketball. He has compiled a 626-285 record that includes an eight-year stint at Montana (154-77), 18 years at Stanford (393-167) and three at Cal (79-41).
In 12 meetings against Montgomery, Romar is 6-6. Washington has a three-game winning streak in the series and has taken four of the past five games, including a 109-77 win last February in Seattle.
When asked this week if there's anything to be learned from the last UW-Cal encounter with the Huskies, Montgomery said: "No."
Romar begs to differ.
"Every time we play them, I learn a lot from Coach," he said. "He's just an outstanding teacher. He teaches team basketball and how the game should be played. He's one of the best in our business. Not just in the Pac-12, but in college basketball."
• Freshman forward Desmond Simmons will start Thursday.
• Cal sophomore forward Richard Solomon has been ruled academically ineligible for the rest of the season. He was averaging 6 points and 6.2 rebounds.
• Cal junior guard Brandon Smith is expected to return Thursday after missing the past three games with a concussion.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Make room for three|
|With his next win, Lorenzo Romero is about to become the third active Pac-12 men's coach with 100 conference wins:|
|Mike Montgomery, left||Stanford (1986-2004), Cal (2009-present)||252-132||.656|
|Ben Howland, right||UCLA (2003-present)||100-46||.685|
|Lorenzo Romar||Washington (2003-present)||99-68||.593|
|Pac-12 career leaders (conference wins only)|
|1||Lute Olson||Arizona (1983-2007)||327-101||.764|
|2||John Wooden||UCLA (1949-1975)||304-74||.810|
|3||Slats Gill||Oregon State (1929-1964)||276-241||.534|
|4||Hec Edmundson||Washington (1921-1947)||266-146||.646|
|5||Mike Montgomery||Stanford (1986-2004), Cal (2009-present)||252-132||.656|
|6||Jack Friel||Washington State (1929-1958)||232-257||.474|
|7||Ralph Miller||Oregon State (1971-1989)||204-106||.658|
|8||Nibs Price||California (1925-1954)||192-138||.582|
|9||Marv Harshman||WSU (1959-1971), Washington (1972-1985)||176-177||.499|
|10||George Raveling||WSU (1973-1983), USC (1987-1994)||140-178||.440|
|20||Lorenzo Romar||Washington (2003-present)||99-68||.593|
|20||Tippy Dye||Washington (1951-1959)||99-52||.656|
Information in this article, originally published Jan. 18, 2012, was corrected Jan. 19, 2012. A previous version of this story had UCLA men's basketball coach Ben Howland win percentage in conference games list incorrectly as .570. His win percentage is actually .685.