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Pac-12 Coaching Carousel: Washington’s Romar Fired, Cal’s Martin Leaves For Missouri

It was March Madness of another kind in the Pac-12 on Wednesday.

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

After fifteen seasons as the head coach of the University of Washington’s basketball program, Lorenzo Romar was relieved of his duties by university administrators on Wednesday, following an abysmal 9-22 season. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman was the first to report the news via Twitter.

Romar compiled a 298-195 overall record during his stay in Seattle, guiding the Huskies to six NCAA Tournaments, which included three trips to the Sweet Sixteen. However, Washington hasn’t made the big dance since 2011, the last season they also finished above the .500 mark in conference play. The firing, which can be viewed as the culmination of a gradual decline of the trajectory of the program, comes at a particularly tough time considering Washington had one of the country’s most lauded recruiting classes headed to campus this summer. That recruiting group, which included top prospect Michael Porter Jr. (son of Washington assistant coach Michael Porter Sr.), was being pegged as a “saving grace” for the future of Washington basketball. That potential reality will now never be recognized.

The timing of the Romar’s firing becomes even more complex after news broke later in the day that assistant coach Michael Porter Sr. was headed to join former California head coach Cuonzo Martin’s staff at the University of Missouri. Martin, who resigned from California on Wednesday morning, is headed to Missouri on a seven year, $21 million dollar contract (as reported by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman). Martin left California after just three seasons, in which he guided the Golden Bears to one NCAA Tournament appearance (2015-2016), while also significantly putting the program “on the map” on a potential destination for top level recruits, such as current NBA player Jaylen Brown and likely first-round pick in current sophomore, Ivan Rabb. California wrapped up this past season in an upset loss to Cal State-Bakersfield on Tuesday night in the First Round of the post-season NIT.

All of this coaching movement now leaves Washington’s stellar 2017 recruiting class in flux, as Porter Jr. is rumored to likely follow his father to Missouri. Fellow recruits from the Huskies’ class, such as high school teammates and four-star recruits Daejon Davis and Jaylen Nowell, could potentially join Porter Jr. in Missouri as well, as the trio is said to have a close-knit relationship which made them all choose Washington together in the first place. At the moment however, there has no currently been no official decisions made by any of these recruits pertaining to their future basketball plans.

With two massive jobs now left vacant in the Pac-12, the search to find new program directors for these schools begins immediately. Early candidates expected to be involved for the California job are current Nevada head coach Eric Musselman, Los Angeles Lakers associate head coach Brian Shaw, current Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett, current Xavier head coach Chris Mack and current Florida State assistant coach Dennis Gates. For Washington, the more-unexpected nature of Romar’s firing leaves the Huskies with not much time to do damage control, so it is expected that the school will work quickly to name a replacement. Current Boise State head coach Leon Rice has already been rumored as a likely candidate, as has current UC-Irvine head coach Russell Turner, along with aforementioned candidates such as Eric Musselman and Randy Bennett.

California and Washington will both face competition for potential coaches from other power-conference job openings at Illinois, LSU and North Carolina State, which may sway some “flavor of the week” coaches, such as current Northwestern head coach Chris Collins and current Rhode Island head coach Danny Hurley, away from the Pac-12 Conference. With Romar’s firing, Arizona head coach Sean Miller now becomes the longest-tenured coach in the conference, having led the Wildcats for the past eight seasons, dating back to 2009.