Q&A - Will Conroy

Dawgman.com spoke Thursday with Will Conroy after the news became official; Conroy would become Washington’s next assistant basketball coach, taking over the vacancy left when TJ Otzelberger moved back to Iowa State.

When did the job become a possibility? - “Good question. It’s always been something I wanted to do after I finished playing basketball. To me, I would say the moment I stopped playing basketball I felt that’s what I wanted to do. I just stayed in touch with coach (Romar), as I’ve done over the years. Once TJ left, I asked coach. I told him to keep me in mind. I didn’t say anything else. Just keep me in mind. Everything went from there.”

When did things end for you in terms of the pro dream? - “Last year I played in Germany; the year before that I played with the Timberwolves. This year I wanted to take a year off and finish school out. I had left early to do my NBA draft stuff and I had a couple classes I needed to finish out. So I wanted to focus on that this year. That’s what I did.”

Are you finished as of spring quarter? - “I’ll be done with school - all the way finished - in the fall. At the end of fall quarter.”

What is your major? - “Drama.”

How are you going to apply that to coaching? - “You know what? I used to say I wanted to act. But not any more. (laughs) I thought I wanted to be in front of the TV somehow. I did a couple plays in high school. When I got to college everyone was doing Business and Communications. I was like, nah. I’m not doing that.”

You could argue you definitely got in front of the camera during your time at UW - “Absolutely. Almost too much!”

How are the logistics going to work with you finishing school and working at your new job? - “We’ve done a lot working with my academic advisor. Everything coincides, so I’ll be fine in that regard.”

When do you start? - “I start today.”

What was the first thing coach asked you to do? - “He didn’t make any demands for me to do anything. He does want me to cut my facial hair off. The chin hair has to go, but I kind of knew that was coming.”

When did you get a real sense that this was going to happen? - “Good question. I kind of didn’t want to press it. There’s so many things that go into hiring an assistant coach or hiring a coach, period. It’s a big-time institution, so they have to do their due diligence. I didn’t want to press it in that regard; I just wanted coach to fill me in on things and he was like, ‘You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do this’. All I said was, I’ll do whatever you ask me to do. One day he called me and he told me it could probably happen this year. You just have to get your side of the bargain done. That’s what I did.”

What was ‘your side of the bargain’? - “Just the school stuff. Just getting back on track to getting done there. It was important to me, not just to coach. I’m so close to finishing that I wanted to do it for myself. It’s always better when all your coaches have degrees.”

What was the experience of going to back to school like? - “Parking has always been an issue for me, even going back to school. (laughs) Just having to find somewhere to park when you have to walk a long way… but as far as class? I just blend in. I’m no bigger than the basketball players or the football players. I blend in.”

Is there a chance some of the players could be in class with you? - “It’s possible. Only if they are in my major. If they are, it’s possible.”

What attracted you to the job right now? - “At this point of my life, I’m into helping our young guys around the community get better. That’s very important to me. You know me; I’m so committed to the University of Washington - almost too committed to the point where if someone was playing tennis in high school I may try and call the tennis coach at U-Dub and say, ‘You should go see this guy!’ I’m super-committed to the programs, so it was a no-brainer when I was done playing that’s where I wanted to be.”

Do you think there’s any potential downside to being that committed? - “Not to me. I think passion is a huge key to having success anywhere you are. If someone has passion and dedication to something, those are key ingredients.”

When you were overseas, how much did you get to see UW play? Or was it through friends back home? - “I watched every game. I had Slingbox, so I watched every game. To be honest with you, this was a tournament team. When Robert Upshaw got dismissed and Jernard (Jarreau) got hurt - before all that happen - in my mind there was no question this team was going to the NCAA Tournament. I know we went on a little skid right before then, but every team is going to go on a skid, especially when you have a young team that doesn’t have a lot of experience. You’re going to go on a skid. You usually get your feet back underneath you by the end of the season. You saw that happen with Oregon at the end of the season. Oregon got hot late, and Oregon State as well. When you lose a big piece to your offense and defense like Robert Upshaw, you have to gameplan totally different. And that hurt us.”

What’s the biggest thing you’re going to bring to the program right now? - “Good question. I’m really good with working with guys on the court. I know that’s a bonus. The rest…whatever coach needs me to do I’ll do.”

So there’s no set plan right now for you working with the guards or working with specific guys? - “Absolutely not. He hasn’t pointed me toward a certain category that he wants me to focus on.”

So now that it’s official, what’s your first order of business? - “Just this year, the 2015-2016 season. That’s where my focus is. Anything to help us win, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Have you been hearing from some of your former teammates about the news? - “I talk to those guys all the time, probably too much (laughs). They are excited. They said this is a great thing for Washington and everybody is super excited.”

Do you think it naturally makes sense that a local guy will have a better handle on the local recruiting? - “I think it makes a lot of sense. I know a lot these kids; I know a lot of these kids’ parents. I’m getting older, so a lot of these kids’ parents that used to play basketball coming up - their Dads were playing in the pro-ams when I was like 18. I know their dads and now their kids are 16, 17…there’s some familiarity there, and that’s a bonus.”

Any final thoughts? - “Let’s fill the arena! Let’s get it back!”

Do you feel there’s been a disconnect? Or does simply winning cure all that? - “That’s all it is. When you’re winning and you’re passionate, I think fans feel that. Fans understand passion, and I think that’s a huge thing the Seahawks got. It’s a passionate group, and when you put that kind of passion out on the court, the city will get behind it.”

Do you think the program is at its best when it’s dominated by local talent? - “I’m not sure. I just know that we had some key ingredients that weren’t from Seattle, like Bobby Jones on our team. When Isaiah Thomas played he had Darnell Gant and Matthew Bryan-Amaning. I just think when you win and you’re passionate about it, I think the city will get behind it. It means a little bit more for the guys from the state of Washington to be good because ultimately you have to walk around here. And if you suck and you have to walk around the state people are going to be looking at you and talking about you about it. But if you’re good they’ll open doors for you wherever you go.”

Do you think it’s also a good time for you to come back knowing the Gonzaga series opens back up soon? - “I haven’t looked that far down the line, but that’s going to be pretty sweet.”

HERE is a story Kim Grinolds wrote in early April, outlining the reasons he thought hiring Will Conroy made sense.


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