By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The University of Washington’s Tia Jackson didn’t have to spend a single dime out of her program’s budget to add two well-qualified coaches to Hec Edmundson Pavilion for women’s basketball games this season.
Lorenzo Romar and Paul Fortier are there purely out of love.
UW’s head men’s basketball coach and his longest-tenured assistant have been fixtures at Husky women’s games this season — not just to enjoy watching from a different part of the arena but also because they’ve each got a lot invested in one of the participants. Kassia Fortier is a freshman walk-on for the UW women’s basketball team while junior Taylor Romar is a member of the Huskies’ dance team that performs at the women’s games.
“It’s a great family atmosphere,” said Jackson, who is close friends with the wives of both men’s coaches.
For both fathers, it has been a unique experience having their daughters in such close proximity. Both Kassia Fortier and Taylor Romar have been known to stop by the men’s basketball office unannounced, whether it be to kill time between classes or to invite their fathers out to lunch.
“I think it’s the best of both worlds, as far as I’m concerned — maybe for her, it’s not,” said Paul Fortier, who is in his sixth year as Romar’s assistant. “But for me, it’s great knowing that she’s close. Even when I hit the road recruiting and I miss seeing her for four or five days, I’ll come back and bump into her, and it’s great.”
For Lorenzo Romar, the experience of having a daughter on campus is nothing new. After oldest child Terra went off to the University of North Carolina — she’s currently attending law school in Florida — middle daughter Tavia attended UW and now works at the school as a human resource specialist.
Taylor, the youngest Romar child, is in her third year at the school and is the biggest reason why the UW men’s coach attends women’s games whenever the schedule allows.
“I watch the game, but I watch her too,” Lorenzo Romar said. “She’s been doing this dancing a long time. So, we don’t take it for granted at all, but we’ve seen her. She’s real good.”
Taylor Romar used to get nervous dancing in front of her father, but she’s gotten used to it over the years. Now she even dances at some of the men’s games.
“It’s fun,” the junior dance team member said of performing during UW men’s basketball games. “I’ll look at him before the game, and he’ll look at me. But most of the time, he’s focused. We definitely exchange some expressions before the game.”
Being the daughter of one of the most well-known coaches on campus comes with a sense of responsibility, and Taylor Romar said people often notice her last name or her striking resemblance to her father.
“I am who I am,” she said. “I do try to do things a little different, I guess, as the coach’s daughter, because people’s eyes are on me and they know who I am.”
Even though Taylor has never been an athlete, she’s always had a sporting bond with her father.
While the Romar girls were growing up, Lorenzo would come home from games and watch the videotape with his family while joking and rewinding the most entertaining plays. The coach would then put his wife and two oldest daughters to bed before turning the tape back on and viewing it with a coaching eye.
“And (Taylor) would sit up with me and fall asleep while watching it again,” he said. “So she’s always had this interest in sports anyway.”
Taylor said she’s always used sports to bond with her father, even if she never played them.
“I didn’t have time,” she said. “I love to dance. That took up so much of my time, and I didn’t have time for anything else.”
For the Fortiers, basketball has been an obvious bond for most of their lives together. Paul played at UW in the mid-1980s, and he helped develop Kassia’s game.
Kassia Fortier came to UW despite having to walk on to the basketball team. She turned down scholarship offers from smaller schools for a chance to compete at the Pac-10 level.
And, of course, there was the allure of being close to dear old dad. Kassia visits his office often and loves having him close by, but there are the typical constrictions that come with having a father on campus.
“He always knows everything that’s going on,” she said, “so that can be kind of annoying.”
For the father, the experience is one that he cherishes. Paul Fortier tries not to smother his daughter — at UW women’s games, he’s been known to sit in one of the corners on the concourse level so as not to be seen — but certainly loves having her nearby.
“She’s my daughter and my first child, so it’s great just to be close like that,” he said. “I try not to get all in her business or anything like that, but it’s good to see her.”
Both Fortiers have been surprised by how much playing time Kassia has gotten as a freshman. Injuries have forced the walk-on into action, and she has responded with solid minutes off the UW bench.
Jackson, the UW women’s coach, said she can tell Kassia Fortier has coaching bloodlines.
“She’s smart — smart as a whip,” Jackson said. “You tell her something and she gets it. She understands the basketball game very, very well, which makes throwing her out there (into a game) even more fun.”
Part of Kassia Fortier’s basketball success comes from knowing her role.
It’s a description that might not always be used for the youngest Romar daughter. Apparently, Lorenzo Romar, Paul Fortier and Tia Jackson aren’t the only coaches at women’s basketball games these days.
“She always has her opinion,” Lorenzo Romar said of Taylor. “Every now and then, she’ll try to draw up a play and try to tell us: ‘Would this work?’
“We haven’t used any of them yet. But we might.”