The University of Washington announced last Thursday that former point guard and Huskies star Will Conroy had been named the new Head Assistant Coach of the Huskies Men's Basketball team. The hire came nearly two months after T. J. Otzelberger decided to return to Iowa State after a two year stint with the Huskies. It also comes after an unsuccessful attempt to hire Romar's long time friend and Missouri Women's Assistant Coach Michael Porter Sr., who just happens to be the father of Michael Porter Jr., currently the number three player in the class of 2017 (Romar also happens to be Porter Jr.'s Godfather).
Now, the Huskies seemed to have found "their guy" so to speak, going with Conroy nearly a month after Porter Sr. turned down the same job offer. Conroy will hopefully bring a fire to the team that seems to have been missing from the program since the departure of long time Assistant Coach Cameron Dollar. Conroy is incredibly passionate about the University of Washington, and will hopefully instill some of that passion into the incoming freshman class.
In an interview with the Seattle Times Percy Allen last month, Romar stressed that he was looking to fill the position with someone who can will be able to recruit. and who can emphasize the West Coast.
What type of person are you looking for?
"When you hire an assistant coach you want them to be competent in all areas. That’s what I want. But I think whenever you talk about coaching here especially as an assistant you want somebody to be a really solid recruiter. You want to be good in the Xs and Os, but you really want somebody to be able to recruit."
Does that person need to know Washington, the Northwest or the West Coast in general?
It depends on what they’re bringing to the table. There’s some guys out there that you feel that this is our backyard and we want to be thorough, then maybe it’s just the West Coast you need. It’s probably not a thing where we want someone to know the whole South or East or Midwest, because that’s not our niche."
After seeming to lose his edge with in state recruiting, Romar and his staff rebounded in a major way this year, landing four in-state four-stars, building a fence around the state of Washington that Don James would be proud of. Conroy should be able to help continue that trend, as he has many connections to local kids around the Seattle and Tacoma area, and also has relationships with many of the local recruits' families as well. It may take Conroy some time to be able to survey California and Oregon for talent and make connections with out of state recruits, but Huskies fans should expect Conroy to make an immediate impact with in state in recruits.
One aspect of this hire that may be slightly overlooked is Conroy's potential to to develop talent. Though he has never been a coach, Conroy has had a long, successful pro career. He played for what amounted to four years in the NBA playing for the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, the Houston Rockets, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and also had brief stints with the Tulsa 66ers and the Rio Grande Vipers of the D-League. He also played for seven years overseas. Just because someone has success as a player doesn't necessarily mean they will be able to translate that success into effective coaching, but Conroy's professional pedigree is impressive, and I expect him to be able to play a big role in the development of the young talent that will be flooding into the program next fall.
The concern regarding Conroy is a simple, yet legitimate one: this is his first coaching job. It is pretty rare to see a high-school hire a head coach who has no prior coaching experience, let alone a Pac-12 school. This concern over lack of coaching experience is certainly warranted. With that said, Conroy is joining a staff that has plenty of coaching experience to go around. This coming season will mark Romar's 15th as the Huskies' head coach, and it goes without saying that he will be able to show Conroy the ropes, as will Assistant Coach Raphael Chillious, who is entering his sixth season on the Huskies coaching staff. While assistant coach Brad Jackson is only entering his fourth season with the Huskies, he is a basketball lifer, having spent the last 27 years coaching Division II powerhouse Western Washington University prior to joining the Romar's staff in 2012. Conroy explained the approach he plans on taking in order to quickly learn on the job when he sat down with the Seattle Times Percy Allen shortly after being hired on to the staff:
What parts of the job do you think you might struggle with?
"All of it. I’m not coming in thinking I know it. I’m a sponge. I’m going to soak it up. I’m that kind of guy and if I see something that I think might give us an opportunity to help us win I’ll probably say something about it. But everything. I’m going to be a sponge to Coach Chill. I’m going to be a sponge to Coach Brad and obviously to Coach Romar. They’ve coached longer than I played."
The early teams of the Romar era were known for their defensive prowess above all else, and Will Conroy was one of the players at the forefront of those teams. Over the last few years it seems that the edge and the defensive toughness that were once staples of Huskies basketball have slipped. Here's hoping that the addition of Will Conroy can reignite some of that fire.