If you're familiar at all with Wide Right & Natty Lite, you know that we don't get press credentials to cover football or basketball. We've never applied for any, and we probably won't any time soon, because it's almost a guarantee we'd be denied. Even though we're proud of our "rough around the edges" reputation, it's not always appealing to traditional, vanilla media-types.
That's why we're a blog. Not a news outlet.
Despite not having media access, we do our best to report on Iowa State games and stories that you, the reader, want to keep updated on. Most of the time, I think we do a pretty good job of offering fair and balanced articles — with a little humor thrown in, of course.
The thing is, our reporting would be so much better if we were able to obtain primary quotes from Cyclone coaches and athletes. Nothing secondhand — we take what they say and put it directly into our stories.
With that thought in mind...
This past weekend I was able to hear new ISU basketball head coach Steve Prohm speak in person. I was working at the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association's annual coaching clinic at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines, and Coach Prohm was one of the presenters on Sunday morning. I got to have a brief conversation with him one-on-one before he started, but what I want to share with you comes from what he spoke to everyone in attendance.
If I'd been able, I would have jotted down exactly what he said so I could quote him, but like I mentioned above, I wasn't there to report and had other duties to attend to. The good news is, I was able to listen to most of his presentation and can paraphrase.
So, consider this my kinda-sorta WRNL reporting in action.
When Prohm began talking, he expressed how blessed he was to be at Iowa State and how impressed he was at the attendance of Hilton Madness last Friday night. He also said that he's excited to coach a great group of guys this year and compete in the Big 12.
But the part of Prohm's speech that stood out to me wasn't about ISU... It was about his last year at Murray State.
ISU's new head coach recalled how the Racers stumbled out of the gate at the start of the season with a 2-4 record. That included losses to Houston (who finished the season with a 13-19 overall record), Xavier, Portland (who ended up at 17-16) and Valparaiso. The slow start was a harsh wake-up call for Prohm, who had gone a brilliant 75-23 in his first three seasons as a head coach.
Following that fourth loss, he realized that something had to be done. His players weren't gelling like a championship-caliber team should be, and he came to the conclusion that he hadn't built his team's culture the way he'd needed to for them to win games.
It was then that Prohm and his coaching staff started over from scratch. They went back to square one and focused on one thing: building a winning culture. Practices and team events for the next 30 days dedicated time to developing the culture that Murray State needed to get back to playing at a high level.
Prohm went on to say that not every day went perfectly during that stretch, but the Racers slowly got back on the right track.
And it showed in the win column during the season too.
After that 2-4 start, Murray State ripped off 25 straight wins before getting beat by Belmont on a fadeaway three-pointer with 3.2 seconds left in the Ohio Valley Conference championship game.
Had that shot not dropped, Prohm and the Racers likely would have been in their second NCAA Tournament in just four years. Instead, they qualified for the NIT and were ousted in the quarterfinals by #1 seed Old Dominion.
The reason I'm telling you this story is because I feel like it says a lot about Coach Prohm. Knowing exactly when and how to fix a problem is a trait you want in a basketball coach, and I think in about five years we'll be looking back on the Prohm hire and giving kudos to Jamie Pollard (and Steven Leath) for picking the right guy.
Success this year is almost inevitable considering the wealth of talent the Cyclones return from last year's Big 12 Tournament-winning team. Georges Niang, Monte Morris, Jameel McKay, Abdel Nader, Naz Long and Matt Thomas is a heck of a group for a new head coach to inherit, not to mention talented transfers Deonte Burton and Hallice Cooke, who are waiting to play their first official game in an Iowa State uniform.
It's 2016-17 and beyond that ISU fans are on edge about. And while Coach Prohm has done a great job securing recruits who will join the team next year, it's a little scary thinking about all the talent that will be out the door following this season. Niang, McKay, Nader and Long are all set to graduate, and Morris could bolt for the NBA if he puts together another great year at point guard.
Prohm will have his work cut out for him, no doubt, but based on his track record and what we've already heard during his brief time at ISU, I'm confident that he'll keep Cyclone basketball achieving at or near their current level. He's a proven winner (104-29 career record as a head coach) and has already identified exactly what Iowa State needs to improve at to take the next step as a program in defense and rebounding.
Defense and rebounding, plus a high-tempo offense that gives players the freedom to make plays? Seriously, what more could you ask for? (Those of you saying "FRED HOIBERG!" need to move on...)
As you can probably tell, I'm psyched for this season to start. Even though this year's team will undoubtedly hit a rough patch at some point, our new leader will be prepared to handle it, and he's going to win way more games than he loses during his career at ISU.
That, I will guarantee.
Here's to a new season, a new coach and a new era of Iowa State basketball. Go Cyclones!