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Arizona assistant Lorenzo Romar returns to UW for 1st time

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FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, file photo, Arizona associate head coach Lorenzo Romar reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State in Pullman, Wash. . (AP Photo/Young Kwak, File)

SEATTLE (AP) - Former Washington coach Lorenzo Romar says it will be "weird" walking into the Huskies' home gym as the opponent for the first time.

He'll go to the visitors' locker room and not the coaches' offices. He'll sit on the bench at the opposite end of the floor he patrolled for 15 seasons as the head coach at his alma mater. The student section directly behind him - once affectionately called "Romarville" - will be chanting and berating the opposing team he helps coach.

Perhaps most difficult for Romar, now an assistant for No. 9 Arizona, will be watching players he recruited facing off against the Wildcats.

"It's not going to be easy to go back there," Romar said in a phone interview this week. "The No. 1 thing is we're fighting for a conference championship and that's the No. 1 focus.

"Those guys are like your sons that you're competing against. The 'Dawg Pack,' we were teammates. Who knows what they're going to do. It's just going to be weird."

Romar was 298-196 in his career at Washington since arriving in 2002. There were three Sweet 16 appearances and two outright conference titles. But six straight years of missing the NCAA tournament finally became Romar's downfall. He was fired last March after going 9-22.

Romar was responsible for reinvigorating a downtrodden program and developing the Huskies into a perennial Pac-12 contender with a long list of NBA talent shuffling through the program.

Romar was a beloved figure at Washington, for his winning ways and demeanor.

"People will be happy to see him. I think this city misses him and I know a couple of us do," Washington guard Matisse Thybulle said. "He was loved around here. But at the end of the day, it's about basketball."

Romar was out of work just a few weeks before Arizona coach Sean Miller called him. Romar considered head coaching jobs in other locations, assistant jobs and working in television. Romar's preference was to not take a job in the Pac-12 so he could avoid matchups with Washington. But when Miller beckoned, Romar realized this was the right job.

"Sean called me two weeks after I was fired and during those two weeks, you don't have a job and you're thinking you may not have a job," Romar said. "I didn't like that. I didn't like sitting around. So this situation here at Arizona made the most sense."

Romar said the transition from head coach to an assistant again - for the first time since the 1995-96 season - has been seamless. And he insisted while there may be a brief opportunity to visit with old friends between practice, film preparation and perhaps a little recruiting - this trip back is all business.

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