Dollar's hoops sense

When you're asking a young team to step up and play beyond their years, it's nice to have someone on board with expertise. The Washington Huskies are fortunate in that one of their coaches - Cameron Dollar - has been there and done that. sat down with Dollar to talk about what it's going to take to build a championship program and where the hoop dawgs are at in the process.

In the 1995 NCAA championship game - in Seattle, ironically enough, a young sophomore point guard was asked to play more minutes than he had all season. Dollar rose to the occasion, and while his six points in UCLA's 89-78 win over Arkansas isn't overwhelming, his eight assists and on-court maturity went a long ways toward the Bruins capturing their eleventh NCAA title, their last to date.

Lorenzo Romar was an assistant coach to Jim Harrick that year, one of three Bruin assistants (along with Steve Lavin and Mark Gottfried) to eventually land Division-1 coaching stints. When Romar decided to leave Pepperdine for Saint Louis, he had his eye on one of his former players to help teach his blueprint for success.

Who better than to get a guy that helped him get to one of the early pinnacles in his young coaching career? And so it was that Cameron went to Saint Louis to help build championships with Romar.

And in their first year it happened. The Billikens won their first conference (Conference USA) title in the program's history and Romar became the first SLU head man to take his team to the NCAA tournament in his debut season.

It came awfully easy, but Dollar insists that the Billikens' run from the get-go was a bit of an aberration, especially when dealing with a team that is short on leaders or experience. "I just think it's time," Cameron said simply, when asked for the main ingredient to a winning formula. "It takes time. I know people don't want to hear that, or want to wait for it or see it, but it takes time. That's just how it is.

"For something to grow and develop, it doesn't happen overnight. The roughest patches are when you are in those close games and you're not pulling them out. But the greatest patches are like the situations we're in now, where you can see guys develop before our eyes. You have to start with a talented base, and from there you have to be patient and stick to the details. A lot of times, as they have success, they buy even more into the details. Success breeds success.

But persistence is probably the main ingredient. And that's something that Coach (Lorenzo) Romar is the best at - projecting to his team and understanding that things are going to be OK. Guys want it now and guys get antsy, they want to make it happen right now. Fans want it to happen right now. But he's the best at saying, 'Hey, it's OK. It's going to happen'. Through all of the ups and downs, he's been the constant. He's been the guy to say, 'Relax, it takes time'."

When Washington's players look to Romar's record at SLU and see that the Billikens were the number-nine seed in his first C-USA tournament, they have to smile. They know that he's done it with underdogs before. And as youngsters, said Dollar, they need to see the results. They want to get the 'W's. They need to get to a tourney to feel the payoff. But is it the same for those on the teaching end of things?

"For coaches, it's a little different," he said. "I'm not saying the NCAA or NIT wouldn't be fun for us, but I think for us it's more important to develop as a team. And I know that's a phrase you hear all the time, but what does that mean? Well, offensively and defensively - are we moving the ball better than we did two weeks ago? Or have we digressed? Defensively, are we rotating better? Are we taking more charges? How is our activity level in the phases of the game in terms of execution? Because we know if we do that, the other stuff will take care of itself.

"And at the same time there's really two goals going on - we need to continue to develop so that when next year comes we'll be even more ready to go. So our deal is really all about daily improvement and focus and mentality, continuing to build an attitude of being a champion and practicing and playing in that way."

Cameron Dollar Scout Profile

In part two, Dollar talks about what he feels is the secret behind the Huskies' recent success and also his take on the season and expectations. Top Stories