June 5, 2013
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
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SEATTLE - Lorenzo Romar has made a job with Husky basketball so attractive that coaches from the East Coast, the Midwest - heck, even the NBA -- want one.
In three revitalizing weeks Romar crammed the Huskies full of leadership and experience renowned across college and pro hoops.
Assistant coach and ace recruiter T.J. Otzelberger has arrived after being the top assistant at Iowa State.
Now comes the newest addition, a strength and conditioning coach straight out of the NBA.
Daniel Shapiro has agreed to move back to his native Seattle and join Washington's staff after eight years as the strength and conditioning coach of the Sacramento Kings. The 35-year-old Shapiro has worked tirelessly the last two seasons with former Husky Isaiah Thomas, now the Kings' point guard. He's also worked in Sacramento with Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman.
Shapiro signed his memorandum of agreement with UW on a three-year contract. He calls Thomas hard-working, professional and full of pride.
The admiration is mutual.
"I love that guy," Thomas told me recently, after days of filling Shapiro in on the Huskies' program. "He and I have worked together a lot. I've put hard work in with that guy.
"I'm sorry to see him go - but I'm glad he's a Husky."
Otzelberger essentially replaces Lamont Smith, the assistant who left last month after one season at UW to become the associate head coach under a new regime at New Mexico.
Chillious replaces Jim Shaw. A nine-year veteran of Romar's staff who came to UW from Oklahoma, Shaw has decided to leave the Huskies to pursue other opportunities within college coaching.
Shaw's contributions continued through last month. He was directly responsible for Washington signing Mike Anderson, the long, 6-foot-4½ guard from Moberly Area Community College in Missouri.
"Jim was a big part of our success," Romar said. "He was instrumental in recruiting and coaching during some of our best years ever of Husky basketball. I wish him the best."
Assistant Paul Fortier is expected to leave to accept a position at another program, completing the transition of Romar's new staff.
Counting last year's hiring of Brad Jackson from Western Washington, this is the biggest staff upheaval in Romar's 11 years, UW's most sustained stretch of basketball excellence.
The changes have created new roles, new dynamics and new chemistry among the assistants.
They have the potential to be some of the most impacting moves Romar has made here.
"We've been blessed over the last decade-plus to have had success in recruiting, and that's allowed us to win conference championships and make runs in NCAA tournaments," said the Pac-12's longest-tenured coach, who has five league regular-season and tournament titles at Washington, plus six NCAA tournaments and three appearances in the Sweet 16.
The deciding thing was that this is my guy, Lorenzo Romar. I would like to help him get back to where it was - and where it could go."After being able to add Coach `Chills,' T.J. and now Coach Shapiro, we are expecting to continue and even attempt to add to that success."
-Chillious on returning to UW
Jackson will continue to direct and coordinate each game's scouting report and will work with UW's big men. The head coach at Western Washington for 27 years, who won a Division-II national title two years ago, will also oversee the administration of the program from letters of intent and communications through compliance reporting.
"All coaches share game-scouting responsibilities, but it all goes through Brad," Romar said.
Otzelberger is UW's new recruiting coordinator. The 35-year-old Wisconsin native will also help Romar install the Huskies' trademark, in-your-shirt defense while working primarily with the Huskies' guards.
Chillious will also work with the guards on the court, and will also be heavily into recruiting off it. His added roles in his second stint at UW include more player development - such as planning in-season and offseason workouts, and details such as coordinating player housing.
Yes, his staff is stacked. And it is full of ties to Seattle.
Chillious is back after leaving for Philadelphia last August, partly for family reasons. He has deep connections with top talent through experience with elite, summer teams and East Coast prep schools.
He has been a favorite of Huskies from Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning through C.J. Wilcox, Abdul Gaddy and Nigel Williams-Goss. Those links came while he was an assistant at UW from 2009 through last summer.
"You are always into where you are," Chillious said of his short stint with Villanova in the Big East Conference.
"But sometimes your heart is back where you left it."
The return last month of the former coach at South Kent prep school in Connecticut and business manager for Nike Elite Youth Basketball in Oregon came a week after Romar hired Otzelberger.
Otzelberger was so renowned as Fred Hoiberg's top assistant at Iowa State that Iowa's largest newspaper did a huge takeout story and video montage -- not on him diagramming floor spacing on the fast break, but on how Otzelberger's proposed to his fiancée, a former player for the WNBA's Seattle Storm.
Romar calls the native of Milwaukee a "tenacious recruiter." But the head man says it goes beyond that.
"He is not limited to only recruiting," Romar says. "He has the whole package."
Otzelberger and Chillious each get two-year deals at Washington through March 31, 2015.
"I WAS BORN TO RECRUIT"
There is a large reason for this remodeling: Recruiting.
These hires follow an approach Steve Sarkisian has championed in recent offseasons while revitalizing Husky football: Find the best recruiters you can (Tosh Lupoi, Justin Wilcox, et al) and hire those go-getters to stockpile talent and depth.
"I was born to recruit, whether it's sports, college basketball, even if a company hires me or a school wants me to be a fund-raiser. I am a recruiter," Chillious told his alma mater, Lafayette College, in 2010.
Romar says he is "very happy" Chillious is back.
"He is obviously very familiar with our program, and our players are very familiar with how he teaches and leads," Washington's head man said.
As dogged as Otzelberger is in recruiting, Romar sought him for his proven experience in every aspect of coaching.
"He was presenting the scout (report for each game) to the players at Iowa State. His on-the-floor coaching and leadership is just tremendous. He relates so well to players," Romar said.
"He gets it."
Romar first noticed Otzelberger when he lost a recruiting battle to him a few years ago over California high school big man Craig Brackins. After Otzelberger took the Iowa State assistant's job in 2006 he persuaded Brackins, who by that time was in prep school in New England, to move to Ames with him.
"That impressed me, that Craig would follow him to Iowa State," Romar said.
"T.J., he's so well respected around the country."
So is Chillious.
There is a primary reason he decided to sign back on with Washington.
"The deciding thing was that this is my guy, Lorenzo Romar. I would like to help him get back to where it was - and where it could go," he said.
Washington battled inconsistency, especially on defense, last season before losing in overtime to eventual conference tournament champion Oregon in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament. The Huskies lost the following week in the first round of March's National Invitation Tournament at Brigham Young to conclude an unsatisfying, 18-16 season.
"I have 18 years in with him as a friend and a mentor. It just made sense," Chillious said of Romar. "Obviously he's retooled some things now with his staff. But it's his consistency in running the program inside and out. And I know the players that are already there.
"I know what he wants, not just in recruiting but how he wants the program run from top to bottom - at practices, for games, during the spring and summer."
WHY CHILLIOUS LEFT
After he missed out there, Chillious got inundated with offers from across the country. Only one job truly fit: The one he had left behind in Seattle last summer.
He made the move partly to reconnect to his East Coast ties. He grew up in Olney, Md., 20 miles outside Washington, D.C., and played collegiately in eastern Pennsylvania.
He also wanted to be closer to his ailing grandmother, Mary Carter.
"She basically raised me," Chillious said.
Mrs. Carter lives in a nursing home in the D.C. suburbs, near where she raised him. Chillious said he is grateful for the time he, his wife Charlene and their daughter Zaya got to spend with his grandmother these last eight-plus months.
"What we've learned was that it doesn't matter where we live, that can't affect whether she lives longer or passes away," he said. "Whatever day she's not going to be here anymore, we are comfortable as a family with this decision.
"We are at peace."
He said his time at Villanova under the sharp Jay Wright enriched him personally and professionally.
"It was a different perspective playing, coaching and recruiting in the Big East. It's very different from the Pac-12," Chillious said. "But that's given me more tools in my coaching tool box. When you get a chance to be in two very different but top programs you get to see where your philosophies are more closely aligned.
"I like playing faster - like we do at Washington. Lo' does a great job getting his guys to play an aggressive, up-tempo style that his kids really like."
Chillious and Shaw were Romar's recruiters during UW's initial contacts with Williams-Goss. The McDonald's All-American guard from Findlay Prep outside Las Vegas will be making his Huskies' debut this fall.
Chillious also recruited Gilles Dierickx. The 6-11 transfer from Belgium through Florida International will begin playing for Washington as a junior this fall.
"Big G!" Chillious bellowed when I mentioned Dierickx.
Yes, it will be a reunion.
"What's good for Lorenzo, good for the program and good for myself is the familiarity is back," Chillious said. "It was hard leaving those guys last year. But now I'm back."
Shapiro had decided during the Kings' sale to Seattle investors and then the NBA's rejection of that deal that he wanted to move back home. He attended Seattle's O'Dea High School, and during that time knew Andrew Moritz.
Shapiro remained close with the former Huskies walk-on player from Franklin High through Moritz's death in 2011 following his three-year fight with cancer.
Shapiro, who grew up in the Seattle suburb of Newcastle, has beaten throat cancer.
As a college freshman in 1996 he volunteered to assist the Sonics' strength and conditioning staff. After graduating from Seattle Pacific University he spent two seasons as the University of Dayton's strength and conditioning coach. He was the Sonics' assistant strength coach for a half dozen years, and was also the head strength coach for the Storm during that time.
When NBA owners voted this month to keep the Kings in Sacramento, Shapiro stuck with his plan to move home anyway. He noticed the Huskies had an opening created at the start of last season Matt Ludwig left to go into private business. And the Huskies more than noticed an NBA guy wanted to join them
OTZELBERGER, WILCOX AND THE 3
So why did he leave for Seattle? For the same reason Chillious is back.
"Honestly, Coach Romar is the number-one reason, because of what he's done as a coach, for what he stands for, for the character he has as a man," Otzelberger told me over his cell phone recently as he drove from Ames to Minneapolis doing - what else? - recruiting. "For as long as I've known of him I've always looked up to him.
"Kids would tell me they wanted to go to certain schools, but most of them always said they wanted to play for Coach Romar," Otzelberger said. "That's quite a statement of how Washington is a great institution with a great program, great administration and great man who is very consistent in what he wants in his team."
Growing up in Wisconsin Otzelberger attended many basketball camps run by Dick Bennett, a coaching legend in that state. At those camps Otzelberger became friends with Bennett's son Tony, the former Washington State coach who is now the head man at Virginia.
Otzelberger went to Saint Thomas More High School in Milwaukee then was a two-time captain at Wisconsin-Whitewater. He calls Tony Bennett a close friend, and Dick Bennett a primary influence on his coaching.
"I have always loved the game," he said. "I wasn't a great player. I played for a small college and got a business and finance degree (in 2001). I thought I was heading into a business career."
But his high school coach talked him into becoming the junior-varsity coach at Burlington Catholic Central High School outside Milwaukee instead. In 2003, he was promoted to Catholic Central's head varsity coach and athletic director - not bad for a 25-year old.
Greg McDermott gave Otzelberger his break into college coaching in 2006 by hiring him at Iowa State. He quickly proved to be an ace recruiter.
He attracted Cyclones who could shoot from deep. Pushing the ball to get looks before defenses set, Iowa State led the nation last season in 3-point shooting with an average of 9.8 treys made per game. Only a last-second 3 by Ohio State's Aaron Craft late in their third-round NCAA tournament game kept the Cyclones from upsetting the Buckeyes and reaching the Sweet 16 In March.
"What we did there, we really tried to recruit shooting ability," Otzelberger said of ISU. "We wanted to play at a fast pace and spread the floor to create open shots outside.
"Coach Romar talked to me a lot about wanting to get up and down the floor. At Iowa State we didn't try to pressure as much as Washington wants to. But the one thing I've learned in my experiences is how valuable shooting ability is."
So he already values Wilcox.
The Huskies' leading scorer announced last month he is returning to UW as a fifth-year senior. Otzelberger recruited him when Wilcox was at Pleasant Grove High School outside Salt Lake City, while he was signing fellow Utah prep star Justin Hamilton for Iowa State.
"He is, if not the best, one of the best shooters in the country. Obviously, it's extremely exciting to get to work with a guy like C.J.," Otzelberger said.
The tireless "Coach Otz" actually took a rare day off from work last week. Saturday, to be exact.
That day he married Canberra, Australia, native Alison Lacey in Milwaukee. Otzelberger met Lacey, a former basketball player at Iowa State, in April 2010. He proposed to her last May while they were walking along the waterfront under an Australian full moon. The throwback asked Alison's father to lunch first to "ask for his blessing to take her hand in marriage," as he later told The Des Moines Register.
Lacey is leaving her job as head coach at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa. The newlyweds are moving to Seattle this week.
"THE NEXT LEVEL"
I asked Chillious and Otzelberger what the impressions were of Washington basketball on the East Coast and in the Midwest.
"People back there say, `Man, you guys coach pros out there,'" Chillious said of the Huskies.
As of April Washington had nine players in the NBA.
Otzelberger says that "brand" extends to style of play - and even to the essence of the guy running UW's show.
"People look at Washington as a program certainly that's had its moments of national prominence. And Coach Romar has a reputation of having a very aggressive style of play, especially on the defensive end," Otzelberger said.
"You feel Washington has branded itself well, pressure defense and up-tempo offense -- and that Coach Romar has branded himself as one of the great people in coaching, a man with great leadership and character."
The changes Romar has made, the return of Wilcox plus the debuts of Dierickx, Williams-Goss and big-man transfer Perris Blackwell from San Francisco have set a path for the Huskies to return to prominence.
"This should help continue what we've already done here at Washington," Romar said, "and hopefully take us to the next level."
About Gregg Bell Gregg Bell is an award-winning sports writer who joined the University of Washington's staff in September 2010 as the Director of Writing. Previously, Bell served as the senior national sports writer in Seattle for The Associated Press. The native of Steubenville, Ohio, is a 1993 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He received a master's degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 2000.
Gregg Bell Unleashed can be found on GoHuskies.com each Wednesday.