Interview Conducted 10/27/2008
Lorenzo Romar, entering his seventh season as head coach of the Washington Huskies, has been able to influence many lives through the game of basketball, whether it be through sports ministry or coaching.
Romar and his family grew up in Compton, California, one of the most dangerous cities in America. Street gangs, violent crime, and abject poverty are all prevalent.
Romar and his brother Wayne were able to avoid the allure of street life for teens growing up in Compton.
ROMAR: “Between my parents and sports, those two things kept me from getting involved in anything like that. We just wouldn’t come home if we did something dumb and our parents found out about it. It wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience.”
“Our sports meant too much to my brother and I to get involved in anything that was going to take away from us or not allow us to be as good as we can be.”
After graduating from Cerritos, Romar transferred to the University of Washington in 1978. He started both seasons at the point guard position for the Huskies and was selected team captain for his senior year.
The Golden State Warriors took a seventh round flier on Romar in the 1980 NBA Draft. He was the only pick from that round to play in the NBA.
ROMAR: “By the grace of God, I was able to get an opportunity, and once I was there, they saw I was going to be the hardest worker and had the biggest passion out there.”
“They felt that I had a great attitude. I was happy to have that opportunity. I didn’t feel like they owed me anything and I was a decent ball player.”
“When you put all of that together, I think they felt that I could develop as a player, and while I was developing, give them zero problems. I was a low-maintenance guy.”
Romar had his best season with the Warriors in the 1982-83 season, averaging 7.6 points per game and 5.5 assists. He didn’t miss a game all season, and started 64 of them.
He was waived during the start of the 1983-84 season by the Warriors, and played in 65 games the rest of the year for the Milwaukee Bucks.
He was cut twice in 1984-85, appearing in a combined nine games for the Bucks and Pistons.
Romar received a summer tryout offer the following season by the Indiana Pacers. At the same time, he learned more about Athletes in Action, an evangelical sports ministry whose stated mission is to build spiritual movements everywhere through the platform of sport.
ROMAR: “I wasn’t sure if I was going to make the [Pacers] or not, but Athletes in Action provided me the opportunity to play basketball and use it as a platform to share my faith in Jesus Christ to all who wanted to listen.
Romar became a Christian on Sept. 10, 1983 when he asked Christ to take over his life.
ROMAR: “I grew up thinking if I was a good person, I’d be okay in God’s eyes and that’s what I set out to do. When I was reading the Bible, I realized that was my opinion. I didn’t create myself, so I had to go to the one who created me, and that was God.”
“I realized that being good enough wasn’t going to get me into heaven, because none of us are good enough on our own. That’s why God sent his son Jesus Christ to die for us so we wouldn’t be punished because of the wrong we had done.”
“I had read and begun to understand that and realize that I was separated from God because of this. I may not have been a criminal, but I was going to do what I wanted to do and not the way God wanted me to live. The Bible calls that sin, and there’s a price that had to be paid for that and it was Jesus Christ’s death. So I asked Christ to come into my life.”
Romar was a member of Athletes in Action for seven years. At that time, they generally played 30 exhibition games each fall against Division I schools. During halftime or at the end of games, each player shared their personal stories of coming to Christ.
In addition to playing exhibition games against Division I schools, the Athletes in Action basketball team played in countries throughout the world, ran summer camps in the United States, and played in prisons and jails.
By 1992, Romar was a player-coach for Athletes in Action. He decided to take an assistant job offred by then UCLA Head Coach Jim Harrick. Romar recruited many of the players on the 1995 UCLA National Championship team.
In 1996, Romar accepted the Head Coaching position at Pepperdine. He later moved on to the St. Louis Billikens in 1999.
When his alma mater came calling in 2002, Romar accepted the Head Coaching position.
Romar is 119-72 in six years at Washington and has taken the team to two Sweet Sixteens.
In 2006, Romar received what he deemed one of the most special awards in his life. He was presented with the “Keys to Life Award,” an annual honor given to a member of the college or professional basketball community who lives out Coach Wooden’s seven-point creed, which was given to him as a child by his father.
Coach Wooden’s “Keys to Life” are:
1. Be true to yourself.
2. Help others.
3. Make each day your masterpiece.
4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
5. Make friendship a fine art.
6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
7. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.
ROMAR: “What John Wooden was about was character and obviously, in my opinion, the greatest coach ever. It was more important to him that he possessed character and did things right.”
“For someone to recognize you in that regard is really special. If someone acknowledges you have good character, that transcends every part of your life.”
Lorenzo Romar Links:
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