Yesterday, one of the moves that many Iowa State fans have been dreading the thought of over the past month or so happened... The second-most dreaded move, to be exact.
The Chicago Bulls finally brought the hammer down on coach Tom Thibodeau, who apparently wasn't exactly "besties" with the Bulls' upper management. Despite being one of the best coaches in the NBA according to FiveThirtyEight, Chicago felt it was in their best interest to move forward with a new leader at the helm.
According to many experts, journalists, and just about anyone with access to a Twitter account, ISU head coach Fred Hoiberg is going to become the new leader of the Windy City's lone NBA program. And it shouldn't take much longer to make an official decision.
If the reports and speculation are correct, athletic director Jamie Pollard will be tasked with finding Iowa State's fourth new basketball coach since the turn of the millennium. There have been a few name drops over the past few weeks, and more than a couple tinfoil hat theories when it comes to who'll be the next coach of the Cyclones... So with the impending Hoiberg departure, who exactly are the candidates everyone's been hearing about?
Chris Williams of Cyclone Fanatic posted his potential list of replacements yesterday, and just a few hours later, CBSSports' Gary Parrish wrote this article about Hoiberg's replacement getting a chance to lead one of the best rosters any new coach has ever inherited. In Parrish's article, he listed six of the same names that Williams mentioned in his forum post.
The six common coaches references by Williams and Parrish are the guys I'm going to discuss in this article. Does it mean that one of the six is guaranteed to become the next head coach at Iowa State? No... But I also wouldn't bet against it.
So without further to do... The coaches.
Candidate #1: T.J. Otzelberger
Widely believed to be the favorite should the head coaching position become available, T.J. Otzelberger is currently an assistant on Iowa State's basketball staff. "Otz" was an assistant and associate head coach at ISU from 2006 to 2013 before leaving for a two season stint as an assistant at Washington. When Hoiberg's right-hand man Matt Abdelmassih took a position on the staff at St. Johns in March, Otz decided it was best to come back to Ames and reassume his old position as an Iowa State assistant.
So far, any discussion suggesting an Otzelberger promotion has contained a mixed bag of opinions. The "for" side cites his track record of pulling in good recruits (Melvin Ejim, Diante Garrett, Craig Brackins, among others) and ability to serve as a source of continuity for a program that could be hurt if it were to undergo a complete remodel. Otz helped coach the Cyclones for the first three years of Hoiberg's tenure at Iowa State, and knows the program and city better than any other candidate. He'd also likely continue to use some version of the "Hoiball" offensive scheme that ISU faithful have come to adore over the past few years.
The argument against Otz is his lack of head coaching experience. The only years that he has been the man in charge of a program came back in 2001 to 2004, when he was at Burlington Catholic Central High School. Many Iowa State fans believe that hiring Otzelberger would be "settling" in a time they feel the program is on the cusp of taking the next step, a time that might require someone with a few years of collegiate-or-higher head coaching under their belt.
Basically, does the continuity and potential of hiring Otzelberger outweigh his inexperience? Also, would hiring Otz save ISU some money compared to the contract demands of a more experienced coach?
Candidate #2: Bryce Drew
Bryce Drew has spent the last four years as the head coach of Valparaiso, compiling a 94-42 overall record during his time with the Crusaders. Some fans may remember Drew as the guy who made this brilliant shot in the 1998 NCAA Tournament:
After his college career, Drew was drafted #16 overall by the Houston Rockets (sound familiar?) in the 1998 NBA Draft. Following a brief NBA stint, he joined his father's staff at Valpo in 2005, then inherited the head coaching position in 2011 when Homer Drew retired.
During his four years as head coach, Bryce has helped the Crusaders win the conference championship three out of four seasons, and qualified for the NCAA Tournament two of those years thanks to winning the Horizon League's automatic bid for their conference tournament champion. Valpo lost in the second round both times they made the NCAA Tournament.
Last year, the Crusaders were a forgettable 125th in the country in kenpom.com's adjusted offensive rating, but held their own on the defensive end of the floor, finishing the season ranked 33rd in adjusted defense. At 284th in adjusted tempo, Valparaiso was miles behind ISU's blazing fast pace (17th according to kenpom.com), so the shift in style could take some getting used to for Iowa State fans.
Oh, by the way, Bryce's brother is this guy:
Drew is certainly an up-and-coming coach in the college ranks, but would he be the right fit for the Cyclones?
Candidate #3: Brad Underwood
Stephen F. Austin head coach Brad Underwood's name has been tossed around for a few high-major coaching jobs lately due to his slick spread offense. It's certainly more tailored to the college game than Hoiball, but to prove one offense is better than the other would be a tough argument to make.
Here's a video showing some of the sets and motions of Underwood's offense. Immediately, you'll notice more motion on the weak side of the floor compared to Hoiball, but many of the same concepts as well (ball screens, spacing, etc.).
As far as kenpom.com's offensive and defensive efficiency ratings go, Stephen F. Austin was pretty close to Iowa State's numbers last year (ISU: 11th, AdjO and 71st, AdjD - SFA: 32nd, AdjO and 91, AdjD).
While the obvious lure of coaching at a bigger program, for more money in a better conference is obvious to Cyclone fans, it's also not unfamiliar to Underwood. He was an assistant coach at Kansas State from 2006 to 2012 under current South Carolina coach Frank Martin. When Martin left the Wildcat program, Underwood followed him, but left shortly after to coach the Lumberjacks.
In Underwood's two years at Stephen F. Austin, he's led the program to two NCAA Tournament berths behind a sterling 61-8 record overall, and 35-1 mark in Southland Conference play. Most people probably recall Stephen F. Austin's win over #5 seed VCU in the 2014 NCAA Tournament (highlights seen in the video above).
While it might seem like a great chance for Underwood to make the jump to a power five program, waiting one more year might give him what he truly wants... A shot at the K-State job. Bruce Weber's squad is going to be a mess this year, and it will be very surprising if Weber lasts more than one more year in Manhattan.
In this Fox Sports article, Underwood is quoted as saying:
"I'm an EMAW guy. ... I was part of that for a six-year run, so, I mean, I want them to win. I bleed purple, there's no doubt about that"
Reading that quote immediately makes it a long shot that Underwood would come to Ames. Just one game in Bramlage Coliseum per year might not be enough for someone who says he bleeds purple...
Candidate #4: Steve Prohm
Another offensive guru enters the playing field. Murray State head coach Steve Prohm fielded the 13th most efficient offense in the land according to kenpom.com. However, they were ranked only 174th overall in adjusted defensive efficiency. Overall, Prohm has achieved a record of 104-29 at the school.
Despite their middling D, the Racers used their offense to their advantage in last year's conference schedule. An unblemished mark of 16-0 in the Ohio Valley made them the favorite in the conference tournament, but they lost to Belmont in the championship game by one point on a 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left (seen in the video below). That fateful shot sent Murray State to the NIT, where they were defeated in the quarterfinals by Richmond.
The last time Prohm led the Racers to the NCAA Tournament was in 2012, a year they won their conference and conference tournament and went 31-2 overall. Murray State was a 6-seed that year and advanced to the round of 32, where they were sent home by 3-seed Marquette.
Taking the Iowa State job would definitely be a pay bump for Prohm, but he did just sign a contract extension to coach the Racers through the 2020 season.
Candidate #5: Tim Floyd
Iowa State fans are no stranger to current UTEP Miner head coach Tim Floyd. Floyd coached the Cyclones from 1994 to 1998, with his first year at ISU being the last year of Fred Hoiberg's collegiate playing career. He compiled a 81-49 record at Iowa State before leaving to coach the Chicago Bulls (deja vu), where he ultimately failed due to roster restructuring/transition.
Floyd brought a more defensive-minded approach to Ames than former legendary coach Johnny Orr. Under Floyd's leadership, the Cyclones made it to the Sweet Sixteen in 1997, then lost to UCLA in an overtime game that ISU had led big until late. Had Iowa State won that game, they'd have a second Elite Eight appearance in the last two decades, in addition to Larry Eustachy's run in 2000.
In 2010, Floyd left USC to become the head coach at UTEP. Since being hired, he's led the Miners to a 93-62 record and no NCAA Tournament berths.
If Floyd were to return to Iowa State, there's no doubt that Ames would see an uptick in McDonalds traffic with brilliant advertising like this commericial...
Candidate #6: Jeff Hornacek
Allow me to be the 92352634th person to mention the potential for "Hornyball!"
But yes, there is a chance that one of Iowa State's most notable athletes of the 20th century could come back to coach at his alma mater. Especially with vague, non-decisive quotes like the ones in this article from 98.7 FM in Arizona.
Hornacek has the kind of story that parents like to tell their kids... A walk-on that developed into an all-conference player in college and eventually a major NBA contributor. His story is very similar to Hoiberg's, though without the career-ending heart complications. Below is a video of some of Hornacek's career highlights.
In May of 2013, Hornacek was named head coach of the NBA's Phoenix Suns. In his first season as coach, he led the Suns to a 48-34 record and was runner-up to Gregg Popovich for the 2014 NBA Coach of the Year Award, thanks to leading Phoenix to a record 23 wins better than the year prior. This past season, the Suns regressed to a 39-43 record and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
As for his coaching style, Hornacek likes to run an up-tempo system. Phoenix finished third in the NBA in pace this year, behind the two Western Conference finals teams in the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets.
Even though he coaches in the NBA, Hornacek has the potential to earn more money at ISU if the AD is willing to open up the checkbook. The question all along regarding "Horny" has been whether or not he's interested in the opening. Regardless, Jamie Pollard would be foolish to not at least send out a feeler to the Hornacek camp.
Oh, by the way, Jeff's daughter Abby isn't too bad too look at, either.
There you have it. Six men who all have a chance at being the next head coach for Iowa State. Have a favorite? Be sure to vote in our poll below.