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Report: Washington fires Lorenzo Romar

Lorenzo Romar hasn’t had a lot to be happy about this season. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

Washington on Wednesday changed the direction of its men’s basketball program, firing coach Lorenzo Romar after 15 seasons with the Huskies, according to an ESPN. The Seattle Times has not been able to confirm his dismissal.

Athletic director Jen Cohen met with Romar during an afternoon meeting with the coach.

Players were given less than an hour notice Wednesday to attend an emergency team meeting at Alaska Airlines Arena, where they were informed of the decision.

Romar and Cohen were not immediately available for comment.

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The Huskies lost 78-73 ast week in its Pac-12 tournament opener, finishing the season 9-22 – it’s fewest wins since 1994.

In 15 years with the Huskies, Romar compiled a 298-195 (.604) record. He ranks second on the school’s all-time coaching wins list.

His tenure included six NCAA tournament appearances and two Sweet 16 trips. Washington was 8-6 in the Big Dance under Romar.

The Huskies won conference regular-season championship in 2009 and 2012. They also captured conference tournament titles in 2005, 2010 and 2011.

Washington also played in the National Invitation Tournament three times, including the 2012 semifinals.

However, the unprecedented highs achieved early in Romar’s 15-year tenure were not enough to protect the former UW standout guard from a six-year NCAA tournament drought and 2-16 season

Making matters worse, the Huskies finished the season with 13 straight defeats in which the Huskies finished 11th in the Pac-12. It was their fewest conference wins and most defeats since the league began playing 18 games in 1978-79.

The Huskies last NCAA tourney appearance was in 2011.

Before leaving for Las Vegas and the Pac-12 Tournament last week, Romar said he did not feel his job was in jeopardy.

He said several times this season that he felt good about the direction of the program, particularly a five-man 2017 incoming class that’s ranked second nationally and includes three prospects among the top 60 in ESPN’s rankings.

Firing Romar likely means Nathan Hale senior forward Michael Porter Jr., the nation’s No. 1 2017 prospect, will request to be released from the letter of intent he signed with the Huskies in November.

Porter’s father Michael Porter Sr. finished his first season on Romar’s staff as an assistant.

It also remains to be seen what happens with Garfield High senior stars Jaylen Nowell and Daejon Davis, who also signed with UW.

Due to terms of his buyout, Romar is owed $3.2 for the remaining four years of his contract, which must be paid in a lump sum within 30 days of his termination, according to his contract that was set to end in March 2020.

Former UW athletic director Barbara Hedges hired Romar in 2002 and her predecessor Scott Woodward signed him to a 10-year extension in February 2011, weeks before guiding Washington to the NCAA tournament.

After beating Georgia 68-65 in the 2011 NCAA tournament opener, the Huskies lost 86-83 to North Carolina 86-83 in a Round of 32 matchup – a high point for a program that’s declined into mediocrity.

Before arriving at Washington, Romar, 58, coached at Saint Louis where he had a 51-44 record during a three-year (1999-02) tenure. Romar began his head-coaching career at Pepperdine. He was 42-44 in three years (1996-99) with the Waves.

The Compton, Calif. native played two years (1976-78) at Cerritos Community College before transferring to Washington. He played point guard for legendary UW coach Marv Harshman before a five-year journeyman NBA career that included stints with three teams.

Romar initially rose to prominence as an UCLA assistant and a top recruiter for coach Jim Harrick. He helped the Bruins to the 1995 NCAA national title before leaving and taking the Pepperdine job.

The past six years notwithstanding, Romar will likely be remembered for resurrecting a dormant UW program.

Before his arrival, the Huskies had made just two NCAA tournaments in the previous 16 years while burning through three coaches (Bob Bender, Lynn Nance and Andy Russo).

Romar turned down offers to leave and often said he had hoped to retire at Washington. He was the longest tenured coach in the Pac-12 and second longest at UW after Hec Edmundson, who spent 27 years (1920-47) and compiled a 683-488 record with the Huskies.

Those close to Romar would like to see his name attached to a proposed basketball-only facility that’s been in the works for years.

For now, Cohen must find Romar’s replacement.

While serving as a senior associate athletic director, she helped lure football coach Chris Petersen from Boise State to Washington in 2013.

At the time the Huskies eschewed hiring a search committee and targeted two candidates, ultimately landing their second choice once UCLA’s Jim Mora declined. Petersen has proved to an early success at Washington.

However, finding a men’s basketball coach could prove to be trickier.