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My Thoughts on Building Culture and Overcoming Adversity at Iowa State

Armed with new leaders, the football and men's basketball programs at Iowa State are being molded for future success.

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This is going to come as a shock to some of you, but running Wide Right & Natty Lite doesn't earn me enough money to make a living. I know it's hard to believe, but Mountain Dew Kickstart isn't busting my front door down and begging me to accept $5 million to put Puppymonkeybaby on the site so you'll all buy more soft drinks.

My real job is working for a company in Ames that makes instructional sports videos called Championship Productions. I won't give you the entire elevator speech, but a fun tidbit that you might not know is that legendary Iowa State track & field coach, Bill Bergan, started Championship Productions 40 years ago and remains the company's president and CEO to this day.

Bergan won two NCAA Championships in cross country while at ISU and captured numerous conference titles as well. His statue stands in the entry plaza of the new Cyclone Sports Complex in recognition of his accomplishments as ISU's head coach.

Safe to say Coach Bergan knows a thing or two about winning and building a championship program.

Every day at work, I have access to thousands of instructional videos the company has produced over 40 years that feature the best coaches in every sport. To name drop a few, I'll throw out basketball's Mike Krzyzewski, wrestling's Dan Gable, volleyball's Russ Rose and many more. There's even videos from guys like Fred Hoiberg and current ISU head coach Steve Prohm.

Naturally, I have a particular interest in basketball thanks in large part to my love for Iowa State, which has been predominantly a basketball school during my nearly-23 years on this earth. It's fun to pull a video off the shelf at work and watch coaches like Bill Self and Shaka Smart teach their teams in live practices (yes, I enjoy checking out ISU's conference opponents).

As I've watched more videos from these coaches, common themes become apparent among leaders of historically great programs. The best coaches always know how to get the most out of their players and gain the respect of the athletes they teach.

Is that saying all coaches use the same methods to drum up peak performance and respect? No, not at all. Switching from a Fred Hoiberg practice to a Tom Izzo practice is like switching from Mozart to Metallica on your iPod. Neither way is right or wrong... Just different.

In addition to coaching their teams in the present, the best coaches also establish a foundation for their programs - a specific culture. Something to root all the different aspects of their job to - recruiting, game planning, player management, etc. - as they advance from year to year.

So why am I bringing up culture and program building right now? Because Steve Prohm and Matt Campbell both just had significant events happen that helped shed light on their personal philosophies.

And they're actually very similar.


On one hand, we had bad news cause Coach Prohm's program beliefs to surface. The Jameel McKay suspension that's been well documented has led to the media interrogating Prohm for answers.

The Ames Tribune's Travis Hines tweeted out an answer that Prohm gave regarding McKay's suspension during his postgame presser after the Oklahoma State victory on Saturday. In it, Prohm decided to expand on his desires for the future of Cyclone basketball.

"I didn't come here just to coach this team this year. I came here to run a program. I came here to continue to build on what's been done the last four or five years. There's things I want done. I want things done the right way, from an everyday deal," said Prohm.

As Prohm alluded to, the last few years of the Hoiberg era at ISU were full of growth, and having upperclassmen on the team this year like McKay, Georges Niang, Abdel Nader and Monte Morris has led to massive expectations from a Cyclone fan base that wants to see their team succeed so desperately. So much so, that it's sometimes easy to forget that there's still many seasons to be played after this one.

"The bottom line is I'm not here for one year just to coach this team," said Prohm. "I've got a program to build, I've got younger kids that I have to set an example for, I've got recruits. I want to do special things here. I want my stamp on this program, and it's not going to be totally this year but as the future goes, second, third, fourth, fifth year in a way how we handle ourselves academically, how we handle ourselves socially, how we handle ourselves on the basketball court, how we handle ourselves in the community. All those things."

Regardless of your feelings on McKay's suspension, that quote says a TON about what Cyclone Nation has in its new head basketball coach. Coach Prohm wants to win now as much as any die hard Iowa State fan reading this article, but there's a foundation he needs to build for the future at the same time.

Just like all the other great coaches across the country.

If suspending a senior (reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, on top of that) is a piece to the puzzle for building the culture of Iowa State basketball, then I'm more than happy to watch ISU play another man down against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and any other teams the Cyclones could face during McKay's indefinite suspension.

I know many of you aren't fans of John Calipari, and your mind may default to "greasy car salesman" when you read his name or see his face, but I have a short clip that features Coach Cal from a newer video we produced at work in which he talks about managing his players' egos.

The segment was filmed during last season while Cal was coaching his Final Four team that often subbed using the (in)famous "platoon" system. I feel like it hits on the situation currently surrounding Jameel McKay quite well.

Coach Calipari's team this season hasn't been as dominant as Kentucky teams usually are, but the points he made still hold true to his current players and other college athletes across the country. Many, if not all of them, are masking something, and it's likely no different for McKay.

The part it appears that McKay could use some work on is blocking out the clutter. Everyone knows how active he is on social media, and many have called for him to put an end to his Twitter and Instagram use until the season is over.

It's not a guarantee that would zap all the issues at hand, but it probably wouldn't hurt.

For everyone's benefit, let's hope that McKay can find a way to "be the best version of himself" during the next few weeks leading up to the postseason. While the Cyclones can get by without him for now, it'll be much easier making an NCAA Tournament run with a focused and healthy Jameel running up and down the court. ISU certainly has the talent to make a run - so long as they stay the course.

Whether McKay does or doesn't come around, I'm content knowing that Coach Prohm has done what he felt will pay off in the long run for the ISU basketball team.

John Wooden


On another hand, good news brought out Matt Campbell's fresh take on Iowa State football. Campbell and his staff recently signed one of the greatest recruiting classes in Cyclone football history, and they did it in just 65 days.

Once all the National Letters of Intent had been signed, Coach Campbell took the podium for a press conference to recap the excitement. Parts of his opening speech will look eerily similar and contain the same basic principles of the quotes you read above from Steve Prohm.

"For me it's always been a core philosophy in our recruiting process and that's recruiting to three common denominators: great character young men, young men that have a great passion for the game of football, and obviously young men that have and understand the value of an education," said Campbell.

"We want young men to come into our program as we start to build a culture here and start to win football games. You win with young men who understand how to win. One of the things I've always looked for and that's always been important to me is getting young men who come from winning programs, that already understand what it takes. The sacrifice. The commitment. They've done it themselves, of what it takes to win and be successful."

Hearing that makes me want to march down to Jack Trice Stadium and wait there until the first football game against Northern Iowa in September. And that's saying something, because I've always been a basketball guy, even during the "up" years of the Rhoads era when ISU hovered around .500 and went to a few bowl games.

For now, I suppose I'll hang around home and enjoy getting fired up by our new football coach's media appearances. Either that, or I'll just sit in Jack Trice until the spring game instead.

Matt Campbell


What I'm taking from these statements from Coach Prohm and Coach Campbell is that they know the requirements to build consistent, winning programs. Even though both men are beginning at radically different starting points, they realize what their programs need to look and act like to breed sustained success.

Because of that, I applaud Jamie Pollard for this round of coaching hires - so far. He's certainly brought in two guys of character who hold the right mindset.

The road to glory in Ames won't be a straight one or a smooth one. However, we've got a couple great young coaches driving the bus for Iowa State's two most important athletic teams.

Philosophy isn't everything, and there's many games yet to be played for the basketball and football teams under Prohm and Campbell, but a solid foundation is being laid right now that'll support years of Hilton Magic and Packing the Jack.

That's enough to get my cardinal blood pumping for what could be the dawn of a golden era for Iowa State athletics.