With several players, including top recruit Michael Porter Jr. leaving, the UW men’s basketball team likely will need a long, slow grind under Mike Hopkins to get the program turned around.

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It was hard to leave Mike Hopkins’ news conference last week without feeling the sheer force of his energy and enthusiasm.

And it’s hard to view almost everything that’s happened to the Huskies’ men’s basketball program since that day and not think, “He’s going to need all that, and more, to survive the inevitable dark days ahead.”

Mind you, if you came away from last Wednesday’s grand unveiling of the new coach thinking Hopkins was the absolute right guy to hand stewardship of the Husky program – and that was a reasonable takeaway – then nothing that has happened since should change your mind.

Yet all the Huskies fans who cajoled and pleaded for Lorenzo Romar’s firing, and greeted Hopkins with soaring spirits, had better be prepared to hunker down for the long haul. Because it appears that the dire scenario everyone knew was possible, if not likely, is on the way to becoming reality.

That’s not to say Hopkins is doomed, but rather that this resurrection of the Husky program will necessarily be a long play, a slow build. Patience, a quality in short supply among your typical fans, and especially those who pour their heart into a college team, will be a vital commodity.

You can’t have your cake – Romar’s departure – and eat it, too. Well, maybe eventually, if Hopkins can live up to his résumé and entrance. But he might produce a few burnt pastries before he delivers the tasty stuff.

I think everyone knew that intuitively. They understood that firing Romar could well lead to a lost season or two. But as those recruits that everyone salivated over begin to disperse, one by one, and as word came out that forward Noah Dickerson is exploring transfer options (along with reserve forward Matthew Atewe), the reality of the situation began to hit home.

If your goal is immediate gratification, well, the Huskies had a far better chance for that by sticking with Romar and the glittering recruiting class that would have greeted him. Yet AD Jen Cohen weighed all that and decided that the better long-term move was to blow things up and deal with the short-term fallout.

That’s certainly defensible, even though I advocated for keeping Romar to see what he could do with the recruiting class that was rated No. 2 in the country – the best class that the Huskies would have ever brought in. Cohen decided – on behalf of a growing number of fans – that she had seen enough of the program’s downward spiral and perennial finish outside of the NCAA tournament (six straight years), capped by the 9-22 disaster of 2016-17.

Fair enough. But now the bill is coming due. Right off the top, Michael Porter Jr., the crown jewel of the would-be freshman class, quickly bolted for Missouri to join his father, thus ending one of the more unsatisfying episodes in recent memory. The Huskies paid Michael Porter Sr. – a longtime friend of Romar’s – a $300,000 salary for this past season with the clear motive of luring his uber-talented sons, Michael Jr. and Jontay, to Washington. Those two, along with numerous other transfers, delivered a state high-school title to Nathan Hale – while getting home-schooled – but depart, along with their dad, without the payoff for the Huskies.

That was hardly unexpected upon Romar’s ouster, but three other members of the incoming class have reportedly re-opened their recruiting – Garfield guard Daejon Davis, point guard Blake Harris, and forward Mamadou Diarra, with Garfield guard Jaylen Nowell still not having revealed his intentions.

Maybe Hopkins can still convince Nowell to come to Washington. He did a wise thing by maintaining Will Conroy on his staff and bringing back Cameron Dollar as assistant coach, giving the Huskies two coaches with vast connections to the Seattle basketball scene, which should pay dividends down the road. A name to tuck away is P.J. Fuller, a sophomore at Hale, who will be one of the major upcoming recruiting prizes and a player that Hopkins and his lieutenants will almost surely home in on.

A few players from last year’s UW team, including Matisse Thybulle, David Crisp, Dominic Green and Carlos Johnson, have said they’re returning next season. But that’s not necessarily a cause for overflowing optimism, considering that the Huskies, even with possible No. 1 draft pick Markelle Fultz added to the mix, managed to go 2-16 in the Pac-12 this past season.

Hopkins’ immediate task will be to coach those players up and get more out of them than Romar could. Only the most blindly optimistic, however, would anticipate a winning season for the Huskies next year, considering the turmoil of the coaching change.

As long as the expectations aren’t unreasonable, that’s the price of doing business. But if the Huskies continue to flounder in the Pac-12 next season, Romar-bashing fans should remember that this is what they asked for.