BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 04/06/2017

Thiel: In state college hoops, what just happened?

Four Division I hoops programs in Washington had coaching changes. And Gonzaga picked its last game to have its worst game of the season. And how about that Porter family?

Michael Porter Sr., left, is now an assistant coach at Missouri, Will Conroy kept his Huskies job and Lorenzo Romar is trying to figure out how to spend his $3.2 million buyout. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest

The end of the college basketball season prompts a look at a different kind of final box score in the state: Four Division I programs lost their coaches, and the one program that was fantastically successful played its worst game of the year at the industry’s pinnacle moment.

And how about those Porters, drawing the weirdest looks since the Gekko family.

Whooshed into town by Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar, the Porters took over a misbegotten high school program, hired a glam, but rookie, coach and whooshed to an undefeated season and a state championship, then whooshed out of town.

Did that really happen here? Were the Porters around long enough to use up their Starbucks gift cards? Isn’t that the kind of greasy package deal Larry Brown or Rick Pitino would do?

It was the saintly Romar who stooped to hire the dad as assistant so he would bring along his ultra-talented sons, Michael Jr. and Jontay, all the way from Columbia, MO.  But Porter Sr. apparently was zero help to Romar in stopping a school-record, 13-game losing streak that ended the season  — despite the presence of the probable No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, Markelle Fultz.

Did all of that really happen?

The Metro League athletics directors could have raised a righteous clatter about the Porterhouse stink, except that if the Porters had chosen their school instead of Nathan Hale, they would have laid down in front of the same steamroller and said, “Flatten me!”

So despite the perceived protection of a $3.2 million contract buyout from an athletic department operating in the red, Romar and his longtime friend Porter were fired, the Huskies having missed the NCAA Tournament a sixth consecutive time. Dad and the boys hustled back to Missouri, which had a new coach, Cuonzo Martin from Cal, who needed an assistant coach.

How convenient. Dad and the kids will not wander the streets aimlessly this fall.

Before Romar was offed, Cameron Dollar, Romar’s former assistant at UW, was fired after eight years at Seattle University, which included one winning season and a 104-138 record.

The Redhawks haven’t made a dent yet in the WAC or the big city. But that is now the problem of Jim Hayford, who was hired away from Eastern Washington in Cheney after six mostly successful seasons in the Big Sky Conference.

Dollar ended up back in Montlake as an assistant to Romar’s successor, Mike Hopkins, who was on no one’s radar in this market until UW athletics director Jen Cohen raised eyebrows by hiring him out from under Jim Boeheim at Syracuse — despite the fact that Hopkins, 47, has never been a head coach.

So if you’re scoring at home, that’s three D-1 job changes. The fourth? Mike Neighbors left the Huskies women’s program, which reached the Sweet Sixteen, for his home state to fill the vacancy with the Arkansas Razorbacks.

After two years of great fun watching stars Kelsey Plum and Chantel Osahor and listening to Mike Neighbors’ self-effacing, unpretentious wit, there is potential for a two-program quiet at Hec Ed next season that could be Stephen King creepy.

So Monday night, the disappointed state college hoops fan at least could look forward to Gonzaga’s first shot at a national title. Yes, North Carolina was good, and good and mad, after missing out on the 2016 national title on a buzzer-beater. But they weren’t the better team.

After playing perhaps their best half of the season Saturday in the semifinal win over South Carolina, the Bulldogs against the Tar Heels made a boxcar-load of errors, many unforced — missed lay-ins, nine missed free throws, 14 turnovers compared to four for UNC — and then watched as coach Mark Few erred late.

A valiant Nigel Williams-Goss sufficiently re-injured his right ankle in the 90 final seconds that he had no lift, and should have been nothing more than a decoy. But since he had also scored the Zags’ most recent eight points, Few, with the national championship in the balance, called twice on Williams-Goss to shoot  — into the teeth of the gathering defense. Didn’t work.

Any of the Zags on the floor would have been a better choice to shoot than the wounded Williams-Goss. But Few couldn’t get around the emotions that favored Williams-Goss as warrior-hero. UNC scored the game’s final eight points to win the title, 71-65.

Did that really happen?

As you sort through the bewilderment of last month of college hoops in Washington, here’s one more: Michael Porter Jr. likely will end up playing for four teams in four years (his Missouri high school, Nathan Hale, Mizzou and the worst team in the NBA in 2019).

Whoosh. And bleah.


  • Jon

    The Cougs are so forgettable you failed to mention that Ernie fired two of his assistants.

    • art thiel

      Firing college hoops assistants is like firing the hitting coach in MLB, A token scapegoat signifying nothing.

  • Pixdawg13

    Whoosh. and bleah to the men’s side. UW women’s program has talent still there even though the two best players in program history are graduating. Jen Cohen has the opportunity to hire the next top-quality coach for UW Women’s Basketball. I hope she goes with Loree Payne, but there may be others out there who are qualified and good.

    • art thiel

      Cohen can tell them the shadow of the men’s program is small.

      • 1coolguy

        Correction: “is non-existent”

  • Husky73

    Whitman went to the D3 Final Four and lost…but kept their coach.

    • art thiel

      I so wanted to see them win, followed by the ticker-tape parade in Walla Walla.

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  • 1coolguy

    I’d like to see Jen hire Auriemma’s #1 assistant (UConn) or VanDerveer’s (Stanford). That could keep the women’s program rockin’

  • disqus_0fotImVld4

    Cheer up, everyone. The changes may allow for better coaches, better teams, and, please—no more damned ‘one and dones.’ And Whitman may just be getting started. :)
    And I learned something–the Missionaries are now the Blues—because of the Blue Mountains??? Anyway, I like it.

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