Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar says "Bring back the Sonics!"
Without the Sonics, the Huskies have been taking center stage when football season ends and before the Mariners start spring training. Would the NBA cut into interest in Washington basketball?
Seattle Times staff reporter
Arizona St. @ UW, 8 p.m., ROOT Sports
You might expect Lorenzo Romar to be apprehensive at the idea of the NBA returning to Seattle considering the Huskies moved to the top of the basketball food chain when the Sonics left town four years ago.
However, the UW coach is an avid hoops fan and staunchly supports efforts to build a downtown arena that might attract a professional team.
"That would be awesome if that happens," Romar said. "Our guys would love it. I think the city would love it.
"I always felt like that was temporary when the Sonics were gone. I always felt this town supports the NBA too much and loves basketball too much."
Romar has been monitoring the events involving the Sacramento Kings, which is a candidate to relocate and has been targeted by an investor who wants to move the team to Seattle.
When news first broke in December, Romar thought about former UW star Isaiah Thomas, a Kings rookie, returning to Seattle. Five former Huskies (Nate Robinson, Spencer Hawes, Jon Brockman, Quincy Pondexter and Thomas) currently play in the NBA.
"The guys that played for us, they'd get a chance to come back home every once in awhile," Romar said. "We miss that. It's too bad we can't go see them. That's the main reason I'd love it."
Romar acknowledged the return of the NBA means more competition for media, sponsors, advertising and fans.
Without the Sonics, Washington takes center stage when the college football and NFL season ends and before the Mariners start spring training.
"There probably has been more attention on our team," Romar said. "But I think we can share."
Washington enjoyed a slight increase in attendance at Edmundson Pavilion without the NBA as competition.
During the three seasons following the Sonics' departure, attendance averaged 9,302, which is up from the 9,174 in the previous three seasons.
Still, Romar is more of a fan than a businessman.
The season the Sonics won the 1979 NBA title, he attended games at the Kingdome with Warren Moon while Romar was at Washington.
"Warren and I used to go to almost every Sonics home game when I was a student here," Romar said. "We'd go to Seattle U games too. Warren loves basketball. We'd go to Sonics games, then we'd go to the locker room after the game and hang out with the guys.
"That's when I first met Lenny (Wilkens) and Fred Brown and all of those guys. That's when they won the championship. I was having a ball going to those games."
When Romar returned in 2002 as Washington coach, he forged a friendship with Nate McMillan, who coached the Sonics.
"I'd go to their practices," Romar said. "Sometimes they bring guys in to work them out. I'd get to go by and learn. Whether it was Nate or Bob Weiss who was the coach, their door was always open for you go and sit down and talk basketball with them. We had a great relationship with the Sonics."
Visiting NBA teams often practiced at Washington, which allowed Romar, who spent five years in the NBA as a guard with three different teams, to reconnect with friends and teammates.
"You're always learning," he said. "They're the best coaches in the world so you learn so much just going to watch their practices. Even though I played in the league, you learn even more what it takes to get there.
"You can help your own players. You can tell them, 'We've gone to NBA practices and we've talked to them about what they look for.' You're better connected. It's just helpful all the way around."
Romar and his wife Leona were frequent visitors during the Sonics' final season in Seattle in 2008. When the team left, he said: "It left a void for me."
"I don't know if I have any juice to do anything and even if I had this great plan, I don't know if anybody would listen to me," Romar joked. "But I do hope they come back.
"Put me firmly in that category. Bring back the Sonics! That would be awesome."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen.