I promised a few weeks ago, in the comments on my Lorenzo Romar manifesto, that I would follow up with more data. I apologize that other projects have gotten in the way, but there’s good news. During the interim, Dan Hanner of RealGM.com (who joins me in contributing to the annual College Basketball Prospectus series) ran some of the numbers for me.
If there’s one common semi-criticism of Romar, it’s that he can attract marquee talent but struggles when it comes to Xs and Os and does less with these players than he should. If not untrue, I tend to find this argument somewhat overstated. So compiling recruiting data was a key pillar of my follow-up piece. Fortunately, Hanner has done the work for me. In a fascinating post this morning, he evaluates tenured major-conference coaches based on two factors: their recruiting (as measured using RSCI rankings of the players they sign) and how those recruits subsequently develop offensively over the course of their college careers.
Romar ranks 19th in recruiting, which is reasonably impressive. That’s second among Pac-12 coaches behind Ben Howland, with Sean Miller likely to leapfrog Romar after next season’s star-studded incoming class. Where Romar really shines by this measure, however, is in terms of developing players. He ranks fourth out of the 49 major-conference coaches, behind Matt Fox, Bo Ryan and Craig Robinson.
Granted, that’s not a who’s who of names, with the exception of Ryan. One of the shortcomings of this approach is that coaches who land top-10 recruiting chances have less ability to develop talent, both because the players are already that good and because they head to the NBA early. Still, coaches like Ryan and California’s Mike Montgomery (fifth) are renowned for their ability to produce good offenses because of complex systems, and Romar’s players are developing a similar amount. In fact, those two coaches probably have the most similar combination of recruiting/developing to Romar. (Fox and Robinson have much lower recruiting scores.)
This shouldn’t really be a surprise. While Romar has gotten his share of top-10 recruits, especially as compared to his predecessors at Washington, some of his best players have been relatively unheralded. By RSCI, Isaiah Thomas–averaging nearly 20 points over four starts for the Sacramento Kings during the last week–was the nation’s 85th-best recruit. Bobby Jones, a key contributor to Romar’s first three tournament teams who got multiple chances in the league, ranked 97th. Justin Holiday was unranked. Will Conroy came to UW (under Bob Bender, initially) as a walk-on. Even Brandon Roy (45th) was far from considered a sure thing nationally coming out of high school.
Now maybe these players were just misjudged by recruiters. The success enjoyed by Roy and Thomas in the NBA suggests they truly were elite talents, and academic concerns were a factor in why they dropped in the rankings. Still, Romar and his staff have managed to develop and utilize these players to reach potential no one else saw.