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UW coach Romar to address Youth for Christ gathering

Lorenzo Romar needs to look no further than last season for a parallel between basketball and human struggles.

It's a message the University of Washington men's basketball head coach will present tonight during a speaking engagement at Eagle Point Golf Course, site of the Youth for Christ Lithia Motors Challenge.

The 6 p.m. dinner and speech, which follow a benefit golf tournament, are open to the public. Tickets cost &


Romar was in his second season this past winter, coming off a 10-17 debut campaign.

Despite signs the Huskies were improved, they lost their first five Pac-10 Conference games.

— Then the tables turned: a five-game winning streak, then a six-gamer; victories over Stanford, Oregon and Arizona (thrice); 14 triumphs in the last 18 games; an NCAA tournament berth.

You hit rock bottom at a point, says Romar. It's a little like people do spiritually. You think you have the answers and a way of doing what you think is right, then you hit rock bottom and start looking for answers.

The answer for us was right there: stick together as a team.

Washington lost its last two games, but the setbacks came in the Pac-10 tournament against Stanford, 77-66, and in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Alabama-Birmingham, 102-100.

The program's emergence further elevated the platform Romar has at his disposal.

He's hard pressed to put a number on how many speaking gigs he has in the offseason, only that it's a lot.

Right now, Lorenzo is a very sought-after guy, says Kelly Rasmussen, a Youth for Christ board member for nearly 18 years. We're lucky, we're blessed to have him. He's a great guy.

The Rogue Valley is hardly foreign to Romar.

He began coming here about 15 years ago as a player-coach for the Athletes in Action basketball team that played against a collection of local players.

During that time, he developed friendships, notably with Mark Winans, who died of cancer 10 years ago, Joe Pedrojetti, Kirk Daley and Rasmussen.

He also spoke at the Youth for Christ dinner 10 years ago.

A large part of what the organization does, says Rasmussen, is devoted to mentoring troubled kids. Romar is a prime example of a mentor, he says, falling in line with others who have addressed the group: quarterback Jim Zorn, decathlete Dave Johnson, running back Christian Okoye, coach Jerry Pettibone and, last year, punter Josh Bidwell.

The clout is that they are in the media and people know them that way, says Rasmussen. They're also local enough that they're relatable and relevant.

Romar has a career record of 122-117 in eight years as a Division I head coach. He was at Pepperdine for three years and St. Louis for three years before returning to Washington, his alma mater.

Romar, 45, became a Christian 20 years ago and revels in the opportunity to share his faith and speak to the importance of guiding others.

He honed his public speaking and witnessing while with AIA and had plenty of mentors himself, including former UCLA coach John Wooden. Romar, an assistant at the school long after Wooden retired, often had breakfast with the legend.

We all have people we remember who are older and took time to help guide us and impart their wisdom on us, says Romar. Whether it's by action or verbally, there are things you never forget that make you what you are.

He takes seriously his stance as a role model, recalling Charles Barkley's quote of years ago that he wasn't a role model.

Whether you like it or not, says Romar, when you're in the public eye, you're a role model. You might not be a good one, you might be a poor one, but you still send a message by how you live your life. Being a Division I coach at a high-profile program, I see that as a platform that shows how I live my life, what it looks like if you're living the way God wants you to live.

That's a challenge, he adds.

Lorenzo Romar is imperfect, he says. We all have flaws. It's how we handle those and how we deal with those and how we move forward. It's about attitude.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail