By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
Washington lost 17 combined years of coaching experience when it did not renew the contracts of assistant coaches Paul Fortier and Jim Shaw this spring.
Head coach Lorenzo Romar has two new assistants to fill that void on his staff — one fresh face, the other a familiar one.
Former Washington assistant Raphael Chillious is back after a year away at Villanova and his new colleague, T.J. Otzelberger, arrives from Iowa State.
They replace Fortier, who will be associate head coach at Cal Poly, and Jim Shaw, whose future is unclear. Fortier and Shaw were both at Sunday’s alumni event. One recent Washington player said he was surprised by the departure of each coach, 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 comes back to the Washington staff after spending a year recruiting in the Big East. He said what the coaches there wanted to recruit toughness, kids who would beat each other up in games where the score stays under 50. Pac-12 teams are more often after skill-based players.
The toughness, in part, is what Chillious wants to recruit back to Washington. One knock against last year’s 18-16 Huskies squad was that it lacked the grit and guts of past 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. In fact, Iowa State, Otzelberger’s former employer, paid Pomeroy for a scouting report on each opponent. The Cyclones did their own and used Pomeroy’s, as well.
Otzelberger said he will remain in contact with Pomeroy while with the Huskies.
Still, talent usually trumps analytics and strategy.
Washington was able to display much of the talent that has come through the program since Romar took over in 2002 when it put together Sunday’s alumni event.
There are also numerous highly-rated recruits who 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 from happening whenever possible.
“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 how quickly can you get me there?”
Otzelberger arrived quickly to Washington once word was out the Huskies were making changes. He first met Romar in Los Angeles about 10 years ago, where they crossed paths recruiting. Mutual friends put them together to discuss the staff opening. Soon after, Otzelberger was off to the Pacific Northwest joining Chillious as a new face on staff.
Now, the duo is expected to help Washington get back to the NCAA Tournament.