Lorenzo Romar has traded the clouds and rain for the clear blue sky and sun. And, oh yeah, purple and gold for red and blue.
How do the colors feel, I asked him, referring to his new Arizona T-shirt?
“Pretty sweet,” he said in his first meeting with the local media on Thursday afternoon. “Yup, yup.”
It undoubtedly feels better now than when he’d come into McKale Center to face the Wildcats as the University of Washington’s head coach, his former position for 15 years.
He’s now Arizona’s associate head coach to Sean Miller, who made the savvy move earlier this month of gauging Romar’s interest via a phone call.
“When you get off the bus (as an opponent) and you see all the red and you see the buzz that’s amongst the people, you know right then you are about to go on the big stage right here,” Romar said. “I’ve always noted that the Arizona fans are very knowledgeable. They appreciate good basketball and have been trained to appreciate because there has been so much here. But there is a feel and sense that this is a pretty special place to play.”
So to be on Arizona’s side, he said, “It should be a lot of fun.”
His job of helping make Arizona better started this week, spending time with the guards, although his role has yet to be defined.
“I’m here to help, not here to run things,” he said. “There is someone here that does a fantastic job of running things and that’s Sean Miller.”
He does know how to be an assistant. He was one at UCLA under Jim Harrick and part of UCLA’s national title in 1995. He then became the head coach at Pepperdine, then Washington.
“I’m sure there will be times I’ll be on the bench when I’ll want to jump up, but I know my role and I know my place,” he said.
As for being a head coach again one day, well, he said he’d like pursue that one day but there is no set time.
“I am not coming here thinking ‘Ok I’ll put up with this for a few months so that I can get my head job,’” he said. “No, that’s not my train of thought. I’m here, I’m locked in and just going to see what happens.
“But I’m not in a hurry to get away from this situation.”
Longtime Arizona fans – and recently joined ones – have embraced his hiring with enthusiasm, given his success at Washington and his recruiting coups. Undoubtedly, Miller saw the same things when he made the call in reaching out.
“I wasn’t sure what he wanted to talk about but he brought it out,” Romar said, in describing how it all started. “(Miller said) ‘I’m not putting any pressure on you right now, but I’d like you to consider joining us over here at University of Arizona.’”
It caught Romar off guard. He didn’t think he’d be an assistant college coach.
“But, I got really excited about the opportunity,” he said.
As he said, “it was right in my wheelhouse.”
And that’s from a guy who could have sat and waited a year to become a head coach elsewhere or jumped into the head coaching world right away. But he sat around for three weeks and didn’t want to sit around anymore. He wanted to be part of a team; he has been for more than four decades. He’d miss the teaching, the coaching and the camaraderie. And, well, competitors compete. Romar is a competitor.
“If you’re going to get into another situation and take another job, you want to be, if possible, where you want to compete at the highest level,” he said. “Arizona basketball does that. Arizona competes at the highest level.”