For all intents and purposes, the Iowa State coaching saga has officially concluded. With Steve Prohm announcing his assistant coaching staff last week, the dust has finally settled and now it's time to look back on the last 60 days or so and put it all into perspective.
Rumors had been circulating for some time, but on May 12 in Ottumwa of all places during the annual Cyclone Tailgate Tour, Iowa State athletics director, Jamie Pollard, provided the spark that became a rampant wildfire of rumors fueled by anonymous sources whose credibility was always dubious at best.
The day following, I wrote this piece, which was quite critical of Pollard's comments, even going so far as imploring Pollard to keep quiet as I felt his comments were doing irreparable harm to recruiting efforts. Looking back, I'm still not sure that Pollard should have been as open with reporters as he was, but if he was trying to set the stage for the hectic weeks to come, then he accomplished exactly what he had set out to do.
Regardless, reading through that piece brought me to reflect on this entire saga as a whole and chronicle who truly won throughout this process and unfortunately, also highlight who lost.
Now, for clarifications sake, I'm not calling anyone a winner or a loser directly, but simply stating that some fared better than others with the events that Fred Hoiberg leaving set in motion. We'll begin with those that came out on top.
A controversial choice to lead things off, but make no mistake about it, Fred Hoiberg was unquestionably the biggest winner here. Hoiberg more than doubled his annual salary en route to taking over one of the most storied and popular franchises in the NBA in the Chicago Bulls. Becoming an NBA coach was always a dream of Hoiberg's, but becoming the coach of the Bulls was a dream destination.
Hoiberg got everything he ever wanted and if he's able to succeed, he'll become a legend in arguably one of the best sports towns in the world. Per usual, Fred Hoiberg always comes out on top.
Some may argue that Prohm should be graded as an "incomplete" and while I don't disagree, for the time being, we'll judge him on what he's said and done to date. Aside from the obvious financial perks Prohm will now be able to enjoy as a millionaire, Prohm took a major bump professionally.
Iowa State and Murray State may compete at the same level of competition as far as college basketball goes, but for all the great things Prohm was able to accomplish with the Racers program, those benchmarks will always pale in comparison to what a program in a power 5 conference can offer.
Prohm is the proud new proprietor of a pre-season top ten team, a rabid fanbase with an insatiable appetite for basketball and above all else, "Hilton Magic". Prohm will now become a weekly fixture on ESPN's Big Monday and will compete annually against some of the top programs in the country.
When it comes to entertaining recruits, Prohm can show off the Sukup Basketball Complex, which is one of the finest training facilities nationally. He can also sell a point guard pedigree that features Isaiah Canaan, Cameron Payne and now, Monte Morris.
And speaking of Morris...
The junior-to-be point guard probably would have played himself into the NBA based on his two-year trajectory anyway, but now he has a mentor and an advocate that will provide him with every opportunity to realize that NBA dream, just as he did for Canaan and Payne.
Since taking the Iowa State job, Prohm has mentioned numerous times that he wants to hand the keys over entirely to Morris and let him steer the ship. Those comments speak volumes not only about the reputation Morris has developed as an elite point guard, but also the wisdom of Prohm to realize that only through the ascension of Morris, can Iowa State's dream season be realized.
Talk about a guy that's hitched his wagon well. This is a guy that graduated from Madonna University (what?) in 2009, was an assistant coach at the high school level the year following and bounced around as an intern for the Indiana Pacers and as a graduate manager at Utah prior to landing in Ames.
In two short years, he went from director of player development to a full-time assistant coach and now he's following Hoiberg to the NBA. It's good to be Charlie Henry these days.
This was by far the toughest call to make. In actuality, Otzelberger is exactly where he wanted to be and doing the exact job that he wanted to do. He and his family longed to return to Ames, which is a town that they've fallen in love with, and while his future was in flux, he can rest easy knowing that for at least the next year, he'll get to coach in a program he wanted to return to.
But that's only one side of it. Multiple "sources" have denied the validity of it, but I think many still believe that Otzelberger specifically returned to Ames to succeed Hoiberg and may have even been given some reassurances that it was a done deal.
How else do you explain Washington coach, Lorenzo Romar's, quote when it was announced that Otzelberger would be returning to Ames?
I think if you look in the next few months it will become pretty obvious. And I'll just leave it at that.
That was Romar's comment to the Seattle Times, begging the question; did Otzelberger think he was coming back to Ames to be Hoiberg's eventual successor?
Then there was a report from Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports indicating that Otzelberger had the full backing of Pollard, yet there were others in the ISU administration that weren't as wild about promoting him in the event that Hoiberg decided to leave.
Perhaps all along, Pollard had given Otz assurance that he would be a top candidate for the position or even the top candidate, but when the power brokers (Dr. Steven Leath) started throwing their influence around, Pollard was forced to open up the coaching search?
That's all speculation of course, but as they say, perception is often more important than reality and it sure seems like Otzelberger may have lost here.
Tough break for coach "Corn". It was highly unlikely that Prohm would retain all of Hoiberg's staff and Mann was an unfortunate casualty. By all indications, Mann was particularly close with Monte Morris and was instrumental in Iowa State's recruitment of 2016 studs, Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston, both of whom hail from Michigan, which is Mann's native state.
Mann likely won't be able to land a coaching gig this late in the game, but we certainly wish him well in his future endeavors.
The Message Board Crowd
That's right, we all lost here. Fan-shaming was at its finest as this situation played out, leading to a fracturing of the fan base. The middle ground seemed to be all but eradicated by extreme positions taken by factions of fans that either supported Hoiberg's dream, or threw in the proverbial towel on the legacy of The Mayor and the future of the Iowa State program.
I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I gained any more perspective or wisdom from this series of events than anyone else, but it is kind of humorous to go back and read our thoughts and laugh at our hairbrained theories and accusations.
If we're going to tie a bow on this whole thing though, I suppose it's important to realize that we're all on the same side here and we all want the same thing; success for the Cyclone basketball program.
Now, I'm not particularly wild about including this, but in fairness, it would seem incomplete if we didn't discuss the legacy of our favorite native son. I pointed out that Fred Hoiberg was the biggest winner here, but some Iowa State fans lost respect for The Mayor for leaving Iowa State and no longer view him as the proverbial golden boy.
I don't necessarily agree with that line of thinking, but I can understand why some fans feel scorned and betrayed. Those wounds may heal over time, but for now, it's still a little too raw to come to grips with full acceptance and forgiveness (not that Hoiberg needs to apologize for anything).
Finally, there are players in this grand saga who's legacies have yet to be determined, starting first with arguably the most important figure.
When I started writing this piece, I originally had Pollard penciled in for the "Losers" section. The hallmark of Pollard's coaching hires has always been quiet and quick decisions that always appeared to be arrived at by Pollard and no one else. This certainly wasn't the case here.
There was the aforementioned report from Rothstein suggesting that Pollard may have wanted to hire Otzelberger and call it a day, but that report was followed up by another story indicating that Dr. Steven Leath may have exercised veto power over that type of move and this may have created tension among Iowa State's leaders.
Needless to say, this wasn't a good look for Pollard. He became an easy target for criticism and natural fall guy should the fan base end up not being satisfied with the hire. It also may have created a perception suggesting that Pollard's decision-making and power had been undermined.
But then came the hiring of Prohm after Pollard had retained the services of a coaching search firm, which appeared to at least satisfy some of Pollard's doubters. Pollard and Leath presented a united front after the announcement and did their best to squash any rumors suggesting that there was ever a power struggle between the two. As a result, it would seem that Pollard salvaged his reputation and because of that, we can upgrade him to an "Inconclusive" status.
We'll check back in a few years.
Unfortunately, we're not going to know the answer to this question until next March. We all know how good Iowa State should be next year and Prohm has indicated that he doesn't plan to tinker too much with what made "Hoiball" work so well.
But with a talent-rich roster heavy on upperclassmen, how will they respond to Prohm's coaching? Can both the players and Prohm adapt to each other to find a common ground? We shall see.