The University of Washington has fired men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar after 15 years leading the program.
Washington announced the move Wednesday afternoon and informed the players of the decision at 3:30 p.m. team meeting.
"We felt like a leadership change was necessary to create the championship culture this program deserves," Washington athletic director Jen Cohen said.
Cohen said the decision to fire Romar was made in the previous couple of days.
"As you can imagine, today has been very difficult and very emotional for a lot of people," Cohen said. "That's because of who Lorenzo is. He's a special person. He's been a wonderful colleague and he's just meant so much to this university community and meant so much to the people through the 15 years he's been here."
"Coach Romar has represented our university in so many positive ways. As an alum, as an ambassador, as a mentor to so many student-athletes, which he still is now, and he led the teams with integrity and class. Unfortunately thought, despite some of those strengths, we were not able to achieve the results that we needed on the court."
The Huskies were coming off a dreadful 9-22 campaign that totaled just two wins in conference play. Despite having a potential top two draft pick on their roster in point guard Markelle Fultz, the Huskies were a scattershot group that made far too many errors on both ends of the court and lacked sufficient depth to complement Fultz.
It's the sixth consecutive season Washington failed to make the NCAA Tournament. Despite winning the conference regular season title with a 24-9 record in 2012, the Huskies were left out of the tournament as an at-large after a first round loss to Oregon State in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Washington made the NCAA Tournament six times under Romar with three trips to the Sweet 16. He's the second-winningest coach in school history, compiling a 298-196 record during his tenure on Montlake. He led the Huskies to a No. 1 seed in 2005 and made back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16. They also won one regular season title and two Pac-12 tournament titles over that span.
Cohen said that assistant coach Will Conroy will be the point person for the school's new search for a head coach. Decisions on whether to retain any members of the current assistant coaching staff (Conroy, Michael Porter Sr. and Raphael Chillious) will be made by the new head coach.
"It just made sense to me and I feel very confident about this that a leadership change was necessary for us to build a culture that is a championship culture that we're looking for," Cohen said.
Additionally, players committed and signed to the school have been asked to wait until a new head coach is hired before deciding on their futures. If they still wish to be released from their commitments, Cohen said they will be allowed to do so at that time.
The decision to fire Romar does leave the program in a precarious position for the near future. Washington had a top 10 recruiting class coming in with Michael Porter Jr., Daejon Davis and Jaylen Nowell leading the way. Jontay Porter, Michael's younger brother, was also committed to the program for 2018. But the firing of Romar almost certainly brings the departure of assistant coach Michael Porter Sr. - a close friend of Romar's.
The Porters expressed their disappointment via Twitter with the news Wednesday afternoon, seemingly making it clear their intention to play at Washington is in serious doubt (below).
Regardless of who the school hires as Romar's replacement, it appears as though the program will have a total rebuild to undertake. The school announced that a national search will begin immediately to find the Huskies' next head coach.
Cohen said the school would pay the remainder of Romar's deal as per the terms of the contract.
Photo Credit: TUCSON, AZ - JANUARY 14: Head coach Lorenzo Romar of the Washington Huskies (left) gestures at Andrew Andrews #12 (right) during the second half of the college basketball game at McKale Center on January 14, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona. The Arizona Wildcats beat the Washington Huskies 99-67. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Loved this coaching staff and couldn't wait to start something special next year...this hurts. 😔— Michael Porter Jr. (@TheMPJ1) March 15, 2017
What could've been...— Jontay Porter (@JontayPorter) March 15, 2017