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Arizona assistant Lorenzo Romar hired as Pepperdine head coach

Arizona Interim head coach Lorenzo Romar calls to his team during an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in Eugene, Ore. (AP photo/Chris Pietsch)

Lorenzo Romar will leave his position as the Arizona associate head coach at the end of the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament run and assume the head coaching position for the Pepperdine Waves, Pepperdine announced Monday.

“My comfort level with (Pepperdine Athletic Director) Steve Potts and President (Andrew) Benton played a huge role in my decision to return to Pepperdine,” Romar said in a press release. “I grew up in Southern California, and at this point in my career it was my preference to stay on the West Coast. The Christian mission that Pepperdine stands for, its values, the fact that they are committed to putting forth the resources necessary to allow Pepperdine to get back to the highest level where they once were, all this is very exciting to me.”

Romar joined the Wildcats for the 2017-18 season and led them for one game, an overtime loss to the Oregon Ducks, as head coach Sean Miller stepped away from the team following an ESPN report that linked Miller to the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption.

Arizona cleared Miller of wrongdoing after the ESPN report alleged that he was heard on an FBI wiretap discussing a potential payment of $100,000 to acquire a commitment from then-high school prospect Deandre Ayton.

The school, Miller and Ayton have all denied that report.

Regarded as a successful recruiter, Romar’s departure hurts Arizona, which currently has no player committed to the 2018 recruiting class. The Wildcats have lost several recruits in the wake of the FBI investigation that first led to the firing of former assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson and later led to Miller’s five-day leave from the team as the university investigated his involvement.

After Romar worked as an assistant coach for UCLA from 1992-96, he began his head coaching career with the Waves in 1996-97. He went 6-21 his first season before taking Pepperdine to a 19-13 finish in his third year on the job.

Romar then led the Saint Louis Billikens from 1999-2002 before joining the Washington Huskies, where he went 298-195 over 15 seasons.

Arizona enters the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed and will play the Buffalo Bulls on Thursday.

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