When T.J. Otzelberger decided to leave Washington’s coaching staff to return to an assistant coaching job at Iowa State, Will Conroy reached out to coach Lorenzo Romar via text message.
“Keep me in mind,” the former UW point guard told his former coach.
Conroy, the Huskies’ career assists leader, had told Romar before that he wanted to coach when he was done playing. And a position on Romar’s staff at UW, Conroy said, “is like a dream job for me.”
It’s a real job now. UW announced Thursday that the popular Conroy, whose passion and toughness made him a fan favorite during the early years of Romar’s UW tenure, has been hired as the team’s newest assistant.
He joins a staff that also includes assistants Raphael Chillious and Brad Jackson.
Conroy, 32, has no previous coaching experience. But Romar said he believes his familiarity with the program — and his familiarity with what the program is supposed to look like when the Huskies are winning — made him a good fit during an offseason in which Romar has repeatedly emphasized “re-establishing our culture.”
“He is a former player that really embodied that culture,” Romar said in a statement released by the school. “He has always wanted to coach and has a tremendous passion for the game along with great ties to the Seattle community.”
And strong ties, too, to UW’s incoming recruiting class, which features nine players — seven of whom are freshmen, four of whom are from the Seattle area.
Conroy, who starred at Garfield High School, said the 2015-16 team is “maybe the most athletic team that Coach has had here,” and thinks his playing pedigree — his 515 career assists are a school record, and he helped lead UW to the first two NCAA tournament appearances of Romar’s tenure — will give him immediate credibility with UW’s players.
“That’s the most important thing — you bring in guys that it means something to them to be a good team at the University of Washington,” Conroy said.
Following his senior season at UW in 2005 — in which Conroy served as a captain on a Huskies team that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16 — he bounced around the NBA and the developmental league, spending time with the Memphis Grizzles, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves. He also spent a year with the Timberwolves as a scout, and played overseas in Italy, China, Turkey and, most recently, Germany in 2013.
During a four-year career with the Huskies, Conroy totaled a school-record 515 assists and set UW’s single-season assists record with 219 as a senior in 2004-05. He also ranks 29th in school history in scoring with 1,113 points, an average of 9.2 per game.
Conroy said he’s on track to finish his bachelor’s degree in the fall.