By this time next week, Iowa State could have its next head coach. Reports surfaced earlier in the week indicating that with the help of an Atlanta-based search firm, Iowa State would be conducting interviews of several candidates this weekend, including Brad Underwood of
Stone Cold Stephen F. Austin, Steve Prohm of Murray State and Bryce Drew of Valparaiso, among others which would likely include Iowa State assistant, T.J. Otzelberger.
The rumor mill is working overtime at this point and each day brings us a wild new set of speculation, misdirection and flat out craziness. Nobody has any clue which direction this search will go and as you'll see from the WRNL staff, our predictions are just as varied.
A few days ago, I wouldn't have hesitated to say T.J. Otzelberger, but from the chatter I've heard lately, my guess is it'll be one of the other guys. My pick? Steve Prohm.
Cyclone fans are used to viewing break-neck pace and offensive efficiency from Hoiball, and Prohm's teams at Murray State have operated with that addicting style of play. (Pollard) knows the personnel for the 2015-16 season have the capability of competing for a national title, so he'll want to pick a coach that is offensive-minded to fit what they're used to. Looking at the long-term, Prohm is still young (40-years-old, actually two years younger than Fred Hoiberg) and wouldn't be competing against a school he holds dear to his heart (Brad Underwood and K-State). If Prohm is hired, ISU fans should definitely be happy with Pollard's (and Leath's) decision.
No matter who's hired, I expect Otz to remain on the staff as our lead recruiter.
I predict Iowa State's next men's basketball coach will be T.J. Otzelberger.
Here's what we know in terms of the coaching search: Before Fred Hoiberg was even sworn in for the Chicago Bulls job, we learned that Otzelberger had already gotten a "vote of confidence" of sorts from Jamie Pollard. In response, Steven Leath made it known that he'd like to make a splash with this particular hire. And why wouldn't he? Iowa State is literally the only head coaching vacancy in the country right now, the roster is loaded, and Leath wants to swing for the fences. He believes anyone could, and should, coach this team and I get that.
However, Leath also hired Jamie Pollard to do things like hire and fire. Replacing Fred Hoiberg is a task that the president of the university needs to delegate, and at the end of the day, I think he will. It's funny to see Parker Executive Search take the lead on finding Hoiberg's replacement, because it's so obviously a measure Pollard has taken to placate Leath. When it's all said and done, sure, the search firm will wind up with its short list. Due diligence will be done. Interviews will be conducted. Leath will be happy.
But Jamie Pollard is going to hire "his guy" because he's always hired "his guy," and with relative success. They've been as rotten as Gene Chizik and as remarkable as Fred Hoiberg, but Pollard is going to go about this his way. Don't think he won't.
From player relationships, to recruiting, to the playbook, to understanding who Iowa State University is in the college basketball landscape, T.J. Otzelberger is the closest thing you're going to find to Fred Hoiberg. Certainly with this roster, maintaining continuity is paramount. But even without this particular roster, Hoiberg brought to Ames a style of play that works and can keep working. It's a style of play that completely changed Iowa State basketball for the better. Simply, Otzelberger knows *this* style of play better than any coach you're going to see on any short list.
What have we always said? Fred Hoiberg consistently took a random group of guys -- average to above-average high school recruits, graduate transfers, junior college transfers, cast-offs, projects -- and he made them play his style of basketball. It worked. And given Otzelberger's existing recruiting prowess, it can keep working under his tutelage.
I have no friggin' idea.
If Pollard's history is any indicator then the popular media names don't stand a chance. While Iowa State's profile has risen nationally this is the same Jamie Pollard that hired Fred Hoiberg in 2010.
President Leath may be trying to find a coach befitting of our new "prestige", but Pollard will still find his guy. With that in mind, the next coach is either TJ Otzelberger or someone we don't see coming. It will not be one of the other three in Atlanta this weekend.
As mostly everyone else, I'd prefer HornBall over any other balls. But apparently his agent thinks the NBA is better than Iowa State University. Psh. So out of the remaining "candidates" I'd prefer Otz - in the short-term. Many of the players are familiar with him and he wouldn't change much in overall scheme. But as with most brand new hires into head coaching, the long term outlook looks cloudy. So if I had to pick a coach for the "long-term", give me Prohm. He seems to run a system similar to Hoiball, and on the big stage that will sell. I'm just wary of what would happen in the next year or two. The current group of boys won't want to change the scheme much because of familiarity. So hopefully if he is hired, he can adjust.
This all leads to my prediction, which I don't have a dick of clue. So I'm just gonna say Prohm because Boss Man Leath will put the pressure on Jamie. But I'm happy with either.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say the next ISU basketball coach is Bryce Drew. The timing seems right for him to make the jump from the Horizon League, where in his 4 seasons there he has led the team to two NCAA Tournament appearances, while compiling a 94-42 overall record. While he's most famous for "The Shot" in the 1998 tournament, he's shown an ability to coach and lead his team to the NCAA Tournament. He's relatively young, he was a player in the NBA, (which never hurts recruiting) and comes from a family of coaches. Not many guys get the chance to coach against their brother in the same conference, which he'd get the chance to going up against his brother no less than twice per season.
I've heard a lot of talk lately about system changes and how ISU needs to keep continuity with the system and staff, and I totally agree with that. I know the system that is run is important, but you can't tell me a veteran team like ISU couldn't adjust to a system change? Coaches can adapt to the talent they're given, and many of the good coaches find ways to do that year in and year out. So there's no reason to believe that a major "system" overhaul would take place. Not to mention, most of the current roster most likely won't be here after this season, so any coach that comes in will need to make adjustments based on the roster construction and recruiting.
Who knows what Otzelberger was promised or guaranteed when he was brought back on the staff, if anything? Maybe he's already aware that he's there to recruit, and will support whatever direction Pollard decides to go with this? Anyone's guess is as good as mine. When I first heard Hoiberg was gone, I immediately thought this was his job for sure. This last week and some of the events that have transpired, I'm not as confident.
There's also this interesting nugget, the 2000-2001 Chicago Bulls. While looking at this team full of college All-Stars, there's a few names that jump out, Marcus Fizer, Fred Hoiberg, and yup, Bryce Drew! Maybe some of that ISU magic rubbed off on him? To top it all off, this team was coached by none other than Tim Floyd himself...cue the Twilight Zone music folks....
And for those saying Bryce Drew is completely happy at Valparaiso, why would he want to leave? Take a look at this
At this point, this is anyone's guess. I had been convinced for weeks that T.J. Otzelberger was the guy, but if Jamie Pollard is going to the trouble of hiring a search firm and interviewing outside candidates, it can't just be a smokescreen, can it?
I'm glad that president Leath is challenging Pollard to conduct a full and thorough search, but like most of you, I'm less than thrilled that it became public. It's undermined the decision-making ability of Pollard and damaged the qualifications of Otzelberger, which is unfortunate. Should Otzelberger be named the head coach, Pollard becomes an easy "fall guy" and Otz would serve as an overwhelmed scapegoat should the hire not work out.
Perhaps that could have been the case anyway, but now it all but guarantees that narrative develops if Otz couldn't maintain the success of the last four seasons. For that reason, I'm becoming increasingly less confident about the chance Otz stands of getting the promotion.
By all accounts, the Jeff Hornacek option was bungled in some fashion and at this point, I wonder if Pollard tries to save face by offering the position to an outside candidate. Pollard may want to hand the job to Otzelberger and call it a day, but with everything that's become public, the likelihood of that happening seems to be shrinking daily.
So my best guess right now? I'm going to say Brad Underwood, but I admittedly have no idea what to expect.