If you ask Lorenzo Romar, his staff overhaul last week was not a reaction to losses, be they on the floor or in recruiting.
Longtime assistants Jim Shaw and Paul Fortier — who spent a combined 17 seasons on Washington’s staff — were officially replaced. Raphael Chillious, who was with the Huskies from 2010-12, and T.J. Otzelberger joined Romar’s staff.
“Sometimes you’re here 11 years, and I think when Lamont Smith left, it just kind of opened the doors,” Romar said. “I think the staff dynamics changed a little bit.”
Smith, hired prior to last season, stayed just one season before moving on to New Mexico. Brad Jackson also was hired last season from Western Washington. He remains with the team.
The big moves change the face of recruiting under Romar. Though Washington has missed on some big-name recruits – while also landing some – Romar said bringing in new coaches was not a response to that.
“It’s just like a certain player, you don’t know who’s a better player, but some players are different,” Romar said.
He dismissed any suggestion that the departures of Shaw and Fortier were strictly because the Huskies have missed the NCAA tournament the past two seasons. He argued if that was the reasoning, he would have made changes after the 2008 season.
“We missed the tournament two consecutive seasons then, too,” Romar said. “The only difference is we won the league two years ago. We finished eighth or ninth in those two years. We also went to the NIT both years and we were worse, did worse, in ’07-08. There would be more reason, if that logic were true, to make a decision then.”
When Romar knew he had an open spot on his staff, he inquired about Chillious. Romar explained that Chillious went to the East Coast to join Villanova’s staff partly to be closer to his sick grandmother, who raised him.
“It wasn’t like he just wanted to desperately leave in the first place,” Romar said.
The new staff members will have mixed duties, as all of Romar’s assistants have had. The priority for all staff members will be recruiting.
Romar put together an approach the past two seasons where he tried to land several big-name recruits heading into the next season. Touted players such as Aaron Gordon (committed to Arizona) and Jabari Bird (Cal), plus others, were among Washington’s targets along with McDonald’s All-American point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who maintained his commitment to the Huskies.
Washington could not close on Gordon or Bird, who considered the Huskies among their final school choices. The Huskies now have an unused scholarship that may or may not be filled for next season.
“The 2012, 2013 class was all me trying to take a risk to try to get those that were the so-called five stars,” Romar said. “When I say we took that risk, we didn’t take a wild risk. It was a calculated risk. It was a risk on about half a dozen kids that said, ‘Washington is my leader. I love Washington. That’s where I may go. If we all go to the same school, we can win a championship.’
“And, in doing that, we didn’t feel like we could tell them no. We felt we needed to wait and see what they decided to do. It was a risk, a calculated risk, that just didn’t happen.”
One player the new staff will coach is leading scorer C.J. Wilcox. He had toe surgery on his left foot and is three weeks into his recovery. He is expected to be out of a walking boot next week, which will allow him to begin his email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas