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Romar Hires Porter: Loyalty, Gamesmanship or a Rabbit Out of a Hat?

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What are we to make of the surprise hiring of Michael Porter to the UW Men's Basektball Staff.

Danny La-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Porter is a future star.  A game-changer.  A champion.  The kind of guy who is going to lift a program to an unbelievably new height.  All he needs is a little time and a little seasoning.  It'll happen.  Just wait and see.

On top of that, it will be interesting to see how his dad does as an assistant coach.

Oh, sorry.  Did you think ....

This is awkward, isn't it?

In a move that was over a year in the making, but still came as a surprise to a lot of us who profess to follow these things closely, Lorenzo Romar hired Michael Porter, formerly an assistant with the University of Missouri's women's program, to take the place of Brad Jackson on his coaching staff.  Jackson, it was announced, will stay with the staff as a special consultant.

Cynics will view this move as yet another example of college basketball selling its collective soul to the devil in the name of scoring points with a major recruit.  Michael Porter is, after all, the father of Michael Porter, Jr. who, by many rankings, is considered the best prospect in the 2017 class.  In addition, Mr. Porter also is the father of 2018 prospect Jontay Porter.  Jontay commited to UW way back in August 2015 and is considered an elite prospect in his own right.  If that isn't enough, there are six other kids in the Porter clan and, apparently, they all play some pretty good basketball.

There is another aspect to this line of reasoning.  Trae Young, one of the top PG prospects in the 2017 class, reportedly would like to join Michael, Jr. as part of a package deal.  Young currently holds an offer from Washington in addition to the ones that he holds from the likes of Kentucky, Kansas and Duke.

Lorenzo Romar at Washington is actually my godfather and he heard about me and Trae and he actually called Trae and offered him on the spot. All of the coaches love the idea.

---Michael Porter, Jr (blog post, Sept 2015)

Oh, how the plot thickens.

One could have a pretty decent intellectual argument about whether or not college basketball is "selling its collective soul".  That is kind of like saying that the Titanic is sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic.  The difference between the past and present tense is somewhat relevant here.  Regardless, the tactic of hiring a surrogate close to a recruit is one that has been around the game of college basketball for decades and one that big time coaches like Coach K, Pitino, Calipari, Self, Miller, etc have all used.  Is it pretty?  No.  But it can be effective.

Idealists will gloss over the relationship between father and recruit and note a few facts that give context to this story.  First, Lorenzo Romar and Michael Porter are not strangers in any sense.  In fact, their relationship goes back decades and spans both personal and professional lives.  They share as many points of view on family principles and scripture as they do on defensive switching and the pick and roll.  In fact, Romar is the godfather to Michael, Jr, the first-born son of the senior Porter's eight children.

One could have a pretty decent intellectual argument about whether or not college basketball is "selling its collective soul". That is kind of like saying that the Titanic is sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic.

That Porter ended up on a Romar staff, these same idealists would argue, should be no surprise at all.  Romar first tried to land Porter over a year ago.  But Porter chose to stay at Missouri where his daughter was enrolled and playing basketball.  The fact that Romar is Porter, Jr.'s godfather and has already earned a commitment from Jontay would seem to support the argument that there isn't much to be gained in terms of increased standing by this move.

It's not like Dana Altman is making this hire out of the blue (although I am sure that he would if he could).

Michael Porter, Jr., in his own words, seemed to give credibility to this point of view.

I'm sure people will want to know if him being my godfather gives Washington an edge, and I'll definitely say that it helps them. I don't know if I would've looked at Washington as close if he wasn't there, but I wouldn't say it gives them a lead.

I mean, I'm not factoring in that my dad is an assistant at Mizzou so I won't factor in my godfather being a head coach.

He and my dad grew up playing together and we're all really, really close. We have a relationship away from basketball and he knows I'll do what's best for me.

--Michael Porter, Jr. (blog post, Sept 2015)

Whichever side of the debate you land on, I'm here to tell you that you are missing the real point.  That is to say that this move isn't really about scoring points with Michael Porter, Jr. or selling your soul or putting a super, high-quality human being on your staff to mentor young kids are who are continuously being pressured by an unforgiving and, often, amoral world.

It isn't about any of that.

The real point here is that the Brad Jackson experiment is finally over and a critical variable in the "Lorenzo Romar: Should He Stay or Go" debate has been removed.

A veritable Washington basketball legend after a ridiculous 27 year run at Western Washington, Jackson was brought onto the Romar staff in August 2012.  His primary goal was to implement a little bit of high-post magic in the place of Romar's trademark motion offense that, at that point, had started to sputter.  Jackson came to UW with fantastic credentials, including a national championship the season before.

You all know how that story has turned out.  The high-post was panned by Husky fans from the moment they saw it.  Whether it was talent or execution (or both), it never produced the kind of efficiency that Romar had predicted it would and has been part of the story in UW's recent run of futility.

The replacement of the 64 year-old legend - and make no mistake, Coach Jackson is a Northwest legend - with a man from Romar's inner circle is yet another sign that the embattled Huskies head coach is ready to go back to the future when it comes to how he builds his roster and how he coaches them up on the floor.  Hustle and effort count for more than technicalities and precision in Romar's view of the world.  A coach like Michael Porter is not only a better recruiter of talent (I mean, seriously, what parent wouldn't be comfortable leaving their kids with a trio like Romar, Chillious and Porter), but he is a coach more intimate in Romar's philosophy than Jackson.  That Romar has been trying to make this change happen for over a year supports the notion that culture change is his primary objective.

This move, to me, is yet another rabbit out of the hat by a coach who is clearly sensing his once frigid stool starting to toast his buns.  He gets to further emphasize the makeover case that he has been making to the fanbase over the past season, he locks in on some promising potential recruits over a two year horizon, and he adds a coach to the staff that just about every fan is going to appreciate as a mentor and a person.

The Romar Survivor Pool just got a little more interesting.