Assistants hope to lift UW back to prominence

Staff writerJune 25, 2013 

When the University of Washington did not renew the contracts of men’s basketball assistants Paul Fortier and Jim Shaw this spring, it lost 17 combined years of experience under Lorenzo Romar.

Assistant coaches are often viewed through the same lens as baseball prospects or backup quarterbacks. If a team is less successful after they leave, fans will point to their departure as the reason. Around modern Washington men’s basketball, this is known as Bone-Dollar Syndrome.

Ken Bone (Washington State) and Cameron Dollar (Seattle U) were assistants to Romar at UW and now coach their own NCAA Division I teams.

Washington has two (sort of) new assistants hoping to quiet that conversation.

Raphael Chillious is back after a year at Villanova. He’s more of a known quantity here than his new colleague T.J. Otzelberger, who came from Iowa State.

They replace Fortier, who will be associate head coach at Cal Poly, and Shaw, whose future is unclear.

Both Fortier and Shaw attended Sunday’s alumni event, so acrimony seems unlikely in their departures. One recent Washington player said he was surprised by the departure of each, noting that there was no indication during last season that something negative was happening with the staff.

Chillious is talkative and demonstrative, even referring to himself as “boisterous.” He returns to the Washington staff after spending a year recruiting for a Big East team. He said what coaches wanted there and in the Pacific-12 Conference are different. Chillious said Big East coaches want extra tough kids who will beat each other up in games where the score hardly reaches 50 points. Pac-12 teams prefer skilled players.

The toughness factor, in part, is what Chillious wants to recruit at Washington. One knock against last season’s 18-16 Huskies squad was that it lacked the grit of previous Washington teams under Romar.

Chillious watched from afar last season and saw a team trying to figure out one thing and lacking another.

“They were running the high-post offense, but they were running it because it was a pattern, it looked like,” Chillious said. “By the end of the season, you could see the guys had a feel for what they were doing. When you put something in new, you usually don’t see the fruits of it the first year. You’re looking at two years, three years down the road.

“Obviously, I also noticed we weren’t really getting up the court and pressuring on defense like we were in the past … that’s changing.”

Otzelberger has a good relationship with basketball statistics guru Ken Pomeroy, who created the popular college basketball statistical website kenpom.com. In fact, Iowa State, Otzelberger’s former employer, paid Pomeroy for scouting reports on each opponent.

Otzelberger said he will remain in contact with Pomeroy while with the Huskies. Washington does not as yet have a similar deal or entrenchment in the advanced analytics of basketball as Iowa State.

Though there is one trump card for all analytics and strategy. That’s talent.

Washington was able to display much of the talent it has had since Romar took over in 2002 when it put together Sunday’s alumni event.

Also, numerous high-end recruits have put Washington among their final schools, only to spurn the Huskies at the end. Part of Otzelberger’s job will be to stop that trend.

“I think more than anything, when you’re talking about the highest-end guys, what’s important to them is playing at the next level,” Otzelberger said. “As college coaches, we like to think everybody’s No. 1 priority is to win college games, but I think a lot of times when you’re dealing with those high-end guys, they’re looking at the NBA and (thinking), ‘How quickly can you get me there?’ ”

Otzelberger arrived quickly at Washington once word was out the Huskies were making changes. He met Romar about 10 years ago. They had crossed paths during recruiting. Mutual friends put them together to discuss the staff opening. Soon after, Otzelberger was off to the Pacific Northwest.

Now, the duo is expected to help Washington get back to the NCAA tournament.

Todd Dybas todd.dybas@ thenewstribune.com @Todd_Dybas blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports

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