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Originally published Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 9:53 PM

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Steve Kelley

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar let Venoy Overton off too easy

Steve Kelley says UW coach Lorenzo Romar should have kicked Venoy Overton off the team after Overton was charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Venoy Overton got off easy. Way too easy.

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar suspended his senior point guard from this week's Pac-10 Conference tournament Tuesday afternoon after the news reached him that Overton was charged with furnishing alcohol to underaged girls, a gross misdemeanor.

In February, King County prosecutors declined to charge Overton with sexual assault, but the investigation, the whispers and Overton's uncertain future with the team hovered menacingly over the Huskies' season for the past two months.

Overton's suspension will begin with Thursday's game against Washington State, a game that, at the very least, will help decide whether the Huskies even get into next week's NCAA tournament.

Overton is done for the weekend, but he should be done for good.

He should be reminded that he isn't bigger than the program. He should be told that it is one thing to embarrass himself, but it is even more grievous to embarrass his teammates, his university and the coaching staff that has always been there for him and always treated him like a son.

In January, when the news first broke and Romar talked in general terms about the investigation into one of his (unnamed) players, I wrote that Romar would do the right thing.

"He will handle this properly," I said on Jan. 12. "He will discipline the player if it fits."

Romar is one of the most honor-bound people in his profession. He is a father-teacher-coach to his players. He cares about his guys, but in this case, I think his caring clouded his judgment.

Overton is suspended, but he still will practice with the team. And he will make the trip to Los Angeles. An all-expense paid trip to sunny L.A. in March doesn't feel like much of a punishment.

Even worse, if he is allowed to sit on the team's bench Thursday night, imagine how many times the Fox Sports television cameras will be focused on him.

His transgressions will be hashed and rehashed all game long. It will be unfair to the rest of the team.

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This is how I think Romar should have addressed Overton:

"Don't get too comfortable," he could have said as Overton sat down. "This isn't going to take long and it's going to be a one-way conversation.

"I know we've talked about all of this before. You know how I feel, but I want to make sure you know how serious this is.

"You've ruined your reputation here. You've ruined your legacy. Few people are going to remember you for what you did on the floor. All of those steals. All of that toughness. All of that defense that caused opposing point guards' knees to knock. That's not what people will remember.

"They'll remember that you cared so little about your team, you were willing to gamble the season on a little Saturday night fever.

"You know how our former players come back to Hec Ed, guys like Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson and Will Conroy, and their faces are shown on the big screen and fans stand and cheer their appreciation? Those guys are family. Fans are proud of those players. Proud that they were Huskies.

"You think they'll be proud of you? Think they'll stand and cheer you? Your lasting legacy as a Husky is going to be the portions of the police report that are running in the newspapers and on the websites for everyone to see. Words like sex and alcohol. The mention of two 16-year-old girls.

"OK, now let's talk about what you've done to this team. You're a senior. You should have been one of our leaders. I counted on you. Your teammates counted on you to get us through the inevitable tough times; to respond to adversity, to do the right thing.

"Instead, you chose the ultimate act of selfishness. You were willing to gamble this precious time in your life, these days as a college athlete, on the hope you wouldn't get caught. We gave you a scholarship, and this is what you did with it?

"Think about it Venoy, since the news broke that one of our players was in trouble with the law, you've been this 6-foot elephant in every meeting room we've used, at every practice we've conducted, in every game we've played.

"We were 4-0 and in first place in the conference when the news broke, including those two wins in Los Angeles. We finished 11-7 and in third place. Do the math.

"Sure, losing Abdul Gaddy hurt our depth at guard, but we both know that this neon distraction you caused has affected, has infected, our team.

"I can't even put my disappointment into words. I'd like you to feel the sorrow that I feel. But I also want you to know, Venoy, that you're done as a Husky."

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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