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Step Into My Office: Steve Prohm

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After a disastrous 19-20 campaign, Coach Prohm has a lot of work to do if he wants to get the program back on track

Iowa State v Oklahoma State Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

To put a bow on this college basketball season, we’re once again diving into a classic series of ours where we ask each returning Cyclone to “step into my office” to review the season that was, and take a shot at what next season could look like for them.

In this edition of “step into my office” we look at Coach Steve Prohm’s overall performance from this season, which included the lowest win total since the 2001-2002 season.

Season at a Glance (12-20, 5-13)

The Cyclones, fresh off a Big 12 Tournament Championship last year, entered the season with considerably tempered expectations. The sudden losses of Cameron Lard, Lindell Wigginton, and Talen Horton Tucker left Coach Prohm with a considerable lack of talent. This lack of talent, coupled with the sudden loss of potential lottery pick Tyrese Haliburton halfway through the year, left the Clones to depend on Prentiss Nixon, Rasir Bolton, and Solomon Young to find ways to win.

After a brutal start to the year in which the Clones went to Atlantis and faced Michigan, Alabama, and Seton Hall, CSP and crew returned home for a rematch against the Pirates, which ultimately ended up being the last true impressive win of the year. Did I mention this was in early December?

Then things really took a turn for the worst: an absolute shellacking at the hands of the Hawkeyes inside the not-so-friendly confines of Hilton Coliseum, and then quite possibly the single worst loss in the history of the program, a stunner as Florida A&M rolled into Ames and shocked the fan base on New Year’s Eve. It should be noted that Tyrese Haliburton did not play against the Rattlers (314th via KenPom), and that, no, it still shouldn’t have mattered.

Iowa State limped through conference play with an abysmal 5-13 record, and ultimately couldn’t pull off a win in Kansas City against Oklahoma State before the world collectively went insane (probably rightfully so) and all sports were cancelled.

The Numbers

The Cyclones finished the year ranked 89th via KenPom, with the 48th best Adjusted Offense and 147th best Adjusted Defense. These numbers indicate a team that could put points on the board at times, but collectively couldn’t defend your intramural team. The Cyclones, despite the #48 ranking, struggled to consistently put points on the board, ultimately ending up averaging the fewest points per game (72) since the 2009-2010 season (70.3).

But no numbers can properly show just how disappointing this season really was. Attendance at Hilton Coliseum seemed to be at it’s lowest in the Prohm era, fans chirped on Twitter about the possibility of moving on from CSP, and the fanbase lost their collective marbles about the possibility of inching back towards the McDermott years.

Status quo, this year was not.

As I Argued with Myself back in early February, fans (myself, included) couldn’t quite decide on the one reason the team couldn’t put it all together this year. Was it the massive talent drop-off? Was it Prohm’s inability to develop players? Was it the lack of depth?

The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, but the real concern is simply shown in the following:

The Cyclones have now only won 18 total conference games in the last 3 years.

2020-2021 Season Outlook

The good news for all is that help is on the way in the form of 7-footer Xavier Foster from Oskaloosa.

The 4-star recruit, along with other members of the nation’s 20th best recruiting class (via 247 Sports) will be charged with putting things back on track and hopefully injecting some life into a program that desperately needs more life and energy at the moment.

In the meantime, CSP will need to shake things up this off season and figure out how exactly Solomon Young, George Conditt, and Foster will fit together. I predict that Prohm and staff will look for creative ways to feed both Foster and Solo, all the while developing Conditt’s still relatively raw post play.

On the perimeter, the return of both Rasir Bolton and Tre Jackson should make for at least a semblance of continuity, but the departures of Zion Griffin and Caleb Grill create a dearth of depth and developmental talent that will need to be replaced through JUCOs or transfers that can play right away.

Next year’s team will need to place an undo emphasis on defending home court, which is something that has simply not happened in the last 3 years. The Clones have gone (starting in 17-18) 4-5, 5-4 and 5-4 at home in conference play. Hilton’s reputation has plummeted and teams simply aren’t intimidated anymore by what was at one point one of the best home court advantages in the country.

All that being said, at the end of the day there’s only one thing that matters in high major college basketball: Winning. CSP will have to put together a season worth praising in order to keep fans happy and content. A trip to the NCAA Tournament coupled with a strong home court advantage next year will silence doubters and give Prohm enough time to build and shape the next few seasons, to truly cement himself as one of Iowa State’s most memorable coaches.

However, if next year’s team does not make the NCAA tournament, there may very well be major changes coming as the fan base and administration search for answers on how to once again, turn Iowa State back into a winner.

Update:

News has circulated recently that both Caleb Grill and Terrence Lewis are transferring.

It should not go unmentioned how alarming it is to have FIVE different players transfer out of the program in less than a year, including all but one of the 2019 recruiting class. Transfers happen for a multitude of different reasons, some of which are entirely out of the control of the coach, but that many in such a short span of time is a black mark on Prohm’s record, and a major point of concern going forward.

On the other hand, it isn’t exactly a secret that some of these guys regularly found themselves in Prohm’s doghouse. Fans clamored for more Terrence Lewis minutes, even in the face of CSP basically saying he constantly didn’t perform to standard during practice. The same is rumored about Griffin, who under performed during his tenure as a Cyclone. Reading the writing on the wall, it isn’t all that shocking to see them each want more playing time elsewhere.

The more shocking departure is Caleb Grill, of whom Prohm typically had positive things to say about, but more often than not looked completely overwhelmed during a large majority of the year. Grill was yet another project player who didn’t always show he belonged, albeit seemed to grow more and more comfortable on the floor, culminating with his stellar performance against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament. If Grill, who Prohm clearly trusted in some capacity, was unhappy enough to transfer, what else is going on behind the scenes that we just don’t know about? How did this locker room become so miserable that players are leaving in droves? That is the most pressing concern to come from all of this. Does CSP have control of his locker room?

Apparently not.

Prohm will have no choice but to scour the country in search of any eligible transfers that can help the team win right now. No longer does he have any wiggle room to develop players who are seemingly “projects”. CSP cannot bring in two Jeff Beverly’s and a Hans Brase and expect to fill the massive holes this current roster now has.

Next year’s team HAS to produce... Steve Prohm’s job may very well depend on it.