Now that former coach Fred Hoiberg has headed to the NBA to coach the Chicago Bulls, Iowa State has found his successor while leaving a loyal assistant of his on the outside looking in. Per a tweet from ISU AD Jamie Pollard, the university has hired Murray State Racers coach Steve Prohm, leaving longtime Hoiberg assistant T.J. Otzelberger’s future up in the air.
Pollard also addressed the hire in a statement.
“We feel Steve and his family are a perfect fit for Iowa State University,” ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard said in a statement. “Steve’s personal values, style of play and proven success as a head coach make him an outstanding choice to be our next coach.
“He is a proven winner who is widely respected by his current and former players. We feel Steve is the ideal coach to continue the incredible success that Coach Hoiberg and his players have achieved during the past several years.”
This is certainly an interesting end to, what last week, seemed like disorder in ISU’s house.
In a report by Gary Parrish of CBS Sports, it was revealed that university president Steven Leath wanted to hire a bigger name to replace Hoiberg while Pollard was rallying hard for Otzelberger. Today, it appears that Leath won the battle and in a move that absolutely reeks of projecting positive PR and a stable environment behind closed doors, Pollard tweets out a photo of himself with Prohm looking all buddy-buddy.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel sorry for Otzelberger. Here’s a man who began his NCAA coaching career at Iowa State in 2006, as an assistant to Greg McDermott, and was subsequently promoted to associate head coach when Hoiberg was hired in 2010. After going to work under Lorenzo Romar at Washington for a couple of years, Otzelberger returned to Ames in April, once again as an assistant.
Given how Otzelberger is the man who recruited key Cyclones players like Naz Long and Matt Thomas, not to mention former ISU star Melvin Ejim, one would think that he’d be a shoe-in for the head coaching job once Hoiberg left for the NBA.
But that isn’t the case, and his status with the university remains up in the air as Prohm has yet to indicate whether or not he will keep Hoiberg’s assistants or bring along his own from Murray State.
That isn’t to say that Prohm, 40, is a terrible hire. He did an excellent job at Murray State, going 104-29 (54-10 OVC) in four seasons, and now inherits a team that is ready to contend immediately. Everything is set up for him to succeed in Ames, and his success with the Racers speaks for itself.
But that still doesn’t make it right that the 37-year-old Otzelberger was passed on, even if Prohm does have more NCAA experience (he served as an assistant at Southeastern Louisiana, Tulane and Murray State before becoming the Racers’ head coach).
This is a man who loved Iowa State enough that after leaving for another program for a few years, he came back because he was committed to seeing the Cyclones succeed, and was “Returning to Iowa State is a dream come true for my family and I,” Otzelberger said. “We are truly passionate about this university and the Ames community. I couldn’t be more enthusiastic to get back to work with Coach Hoiberg and the excellent staff he has assembled. It feels great to be coming home.”verbally ecstatic about returning to Ames.
“Returning to Iowa State is a dream come true for my family and I,” Otzelberger said. “We are truly passionate about this university and the Ames community. I couldn’t be more enthusiastic to get back to work with Coach Hoiberg and the excellent staff he has assembled. It feels great to be coming home.”
And now, the homecoming is on the verge of being all for nothing. Hoiberg hasn’t yet mentioned wanting Otzelberger to join him in Chicago, and it’s unclear as to whether or not Otzelberger will remain in Ames following this hire. If he goes looking for another position, well, there’s an opening at Murray State!
All jokes aside, while it’s understandable that President Leath would want someone with significant experience to succeed Hoiberg, it’s odd that Otzelberger wouldn’t at least be a top contender for the job. After all, though Prohm is inheriting a fine team, he brings with him a transitionary period. Otzelberger knows Hoiberg’s system, and likely would have kept that while he slowly incorporated his own into the mix. Though Prohm and Hoiberg run similar offenses, built on feistiness and three-point shooting, it’s hard to ignore that Otzelberger would have provided a smoother change.
But the fact of the matter is that Prohm is in, and Otzelberger’s status is unclear. He has a great reputation as a recruiter and an assistant so even if he does end up leaving ISU, he’ll end up catching on somewhere else quickly.
All in all, though he did interview for the position, it’s just unsettling that he didn’t really seem to have a fair chance from the get-go.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to Iowa State Athletics