Chillious' Tough Love Finds a Home

Raphael Chillious may be new to Seattle, but by no means is the new assistant coach unfamiliar with Washington basketball. A former head coach at South Kent (Conn.) and business manager for Nike's Elite Youth Basketball, Chillious has been associated with several current and older Huskies, such as Jon Brockman, Abdul Gaddy, Matthew Bryan -Amaning and Isaiah Thomas.

Thomas, who spent two years under Chillious' tutelage at South Kent, is one current Husky that has really grown up throughout the years.

"The biggest difference for Isaiah would be that he has become more vocal than when he played for me, Chillious said. "He always has been a leader in the sense that he is going to score and dominate a game, but he was never very vocal."

Beyond his newfound voice, Chillious also acknowledged that Thomas' defense is rapidly improving.

"He has always looked to be a really good defender, but he is now actually defending. When I first came up in October (last year) and saw him practicing he was getting after it a little bit and now he has become what a 5-foot-8, 5-foot-9 guy should be - defensively a pest," said Chillious. "He is making it very difficult for Abdul, Venoy (Overton) and the other guys who have the ball in their hands by getting after them."

Chillious said there is not only a new role for Thomas this year, but a new aspect to his game that fans will notice right away. "Last year I think he felt that he could have probably scored more times and this year we are going to rely on him to use his ability to score a little bit more," he said of the diminutive playmaker.

"The pleasant thing with him in practice is that he has been doing a great job at looking like he is going to score and the next thing you know someone else has the ball in their hands and they score a easy basket," added Chillious. "That's the last piece of his game that I think throughout the year we will see get better and better."

All of the improvements in Thomas' game have come at a price, Chillious said, admitting that he has never been easy on the former star from University Place.

"I seem like I am a very approachable person, but I'm not that guy when it comes to basketball though. I won't coddle you," said the former Lafayette College captain. "It's because of the experience I had with Dorell Wright (Miami Heat) and people that came before him that showed me that a little tough love is really good for those guys, because sometimes it's the first time they've had it."

Thomas, formerly of Curtis High School before his extended stay at South Kent, confirmed Chillious' rough touch, especially early on - but agreed in the end it was all for the better.

"He was tough on me, not just on the court, but off of the court in school. He always said, ‘you're here for a reason, so just get it done.' He has always been on me, but it's been a good thing being on me like he has. He has just made me a better player and person," the sophomore guard said.

For Chillious, it is rewarding to see a guy like Thomas benefiting from things he taught him at the high school level.

"To me it's been impressive when you work with a guy individually and when you see him get to college and apply the things that you taught him," said a proud Chillious. "That's when you know that you had his ear even though it may seem like you may not have had it."

Another connection to Washington for Chillious is his long-standing relationship with Husky Head Coach Lorenzo Romar.

"Well I first met him (Chillious) back in 1997 and I remember then he was just a guy that I thought that had a great demeanor," Romar said. "Then later when I realized that he was into coaching, I always thought that he would be somebody that could probably be pretty good, but then he was on the east coast and I wasn't really sure if that would be best for here.

"But then, when he joined Nike and he spent a year on the west coast and began to become more familiar with this side of the country, I thought he would be a pretty good fit. I'm shocked that he was out there that long. I know he has had opportunities to go on to four-year colleges as an assistant, but didn't take them. We are fortunate to have him here."

Romar said he recognized early on that Chillious wasn't your run of the mill guy.

"I spent enough time around him to see that he was sincere, he wasn't trying to be phony and he wasn't trying to be somebody that he wasn't," said Romar. "He was actually a mentor for one of the kids that he was hanging around with at Pepperdine and I thought that's good he is hanging around him because this guy's head is screwed on right."

Most coaches don't move down from a head coaching position to an assistant in the coaching food chain, but Romar is confident that Chillious' move to replace Cameron Dollar - now the head coach at Seattle University - will work out fine.

"I would imagine anybody who has been living in a house for a long time now and moves into an apartment, that it's a little different when they are sharing it with somebody," said Romar. "With him it will be an adjustment. But, he is humble enough and understands enough to where that's not going to be an issue."


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