After six seasons as the Iowa State Head Basketball Coach, Steve Prohm was fired after a winless conference season in which the Cyclones only won 2 total games. While Steve Prohm is a stand up guy, missing the tournament in 3 out of the last 4 seasons and going winless in conference play was groups for Jamie Pollard to initiate a change.
Pollard’s next step is the unenviably task of assembling a list of candidates who could take over as program lead. While Steve Prohm’s hiring was at the direct recommendation of Fred Hoiberg, this year’s search will look much differently. Below are a list of candidates that are worth considering, tiered by “Likely”, “Not As Likely”, and “No Harm Asking”.
Career Record: 129-101
Places Coached: Iowa State and Nebraska
Fred Hoiberg, AKA The Mayor, AKA The Most Beautiful Coach in American, has been sputtering around Lincoln the past few years at an atrocious Nebraska program that took a chance on him after being “let go” by the Bulls in 2018. Targeted for his NBA experience and ability to revive a struggling Iowa State program, Fred has struggled to get Nebraskaball off the ground to the tune of .237 winning percentage and a stunning 14 total wins in 2 years. All that being said, Nebraska had the 169th (nice) best offense and 39th best defense, as well as the 36th fastest tempo. Fred’s teams like to shoot a lot of 3’s and get up and down the floor. But you already know this.
What’s more interesting about Fred as a candidate is his desire to come back to Ames, of which we don’t really know ton about. The Mayor has already left once before for an NBA job. Does he consider his time at Iowa State over, or would he pack his lunch pail, put on his hard hat, and start rebuilding for the 2nd time in 10 years?
Fred’s inability to build Nebraska’s program is concerning but not surprising. Nebraska has only made the NCAA Tournament once in over 20 years and has struggled to drum up fan enthusiasm despite a new arena. I think one of the biggest questions I have about Fred is his ability to adapt to a different college basketball landscape than the one he was so successful manipulating during his time at Iowa State. The transfer market is no longer a secret, nor a singular viable way to build a program. Fred’s real value would have to be in his identification of program-changing four year guys that he could build around, and not stop-gap transfers.
Whether he considers the job or not, Fred is likely Pollard’s first or second call.
Career Record: 96-58
Places Coached: South Dakota State, UNLV
T.J. Otzelberger, AKA Pollard’s BFF, AKA “Otz” is the current coach at UNLV, and former assistant under Greg McDermott and Fred Hoiberg from 2006 - 2013 (and 2015-16). Otz began his career as an assistant under McDermott and Fred before spending a few years at Washington as an assistant, then jumping back to Ames for the 15-16 season, where he bolted to South Dakota State for his first Head Coaching gig. In his 3 year tenure at SDSU, Otz took the Jackrabbits to two NCAA Tournaments and the NIT. After leaving for UNLV, Otz guided the ‘Rebs to a mediocre 28-29 record over a 2 year stretch.
As a Hoiberg disciple, Otz’s teams like to shoot 3’s and play pace-and-space style basketball when they can. However, UNLV really struggled this year as they owned an average offense and below average defense, while playing with the 281st fastest tempo.
Otz is an interesting candidate because of his experience and connections to the university. It is well known that Jamie and TJ are great friends, and any coaching list would have to include the guy partly responsible for bringing in some of the greatest players in school history. Otz would hopefully bring an exciting brand of basketball back to Ames and supply the same sustainable recruiting strategy that we have seen previously. My chief concern with him is his lack of experience and reputation for being know as a bag dropper on the recruiting circuit. While his success was well-documented at SDSU, his time at UNLV has not been prosperous. However, there is something to be said about a guy that has a great connection to the university and would undoubtedly want to be here and build a program.
Career Record: 69-28
Places Coached: Drake
Darian Devries has been on my informal list for a large majority of this year. Devries has steered a Drake program back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008 (Josh Young and Adam Emmenecker, anyone?) and has developed a reputation as a fantastic coach in the Missouri Valley.
Originally from Aplington, Iowa, Devries played college ball at UNI before joining Creighton’s coaching staff in 2001 as an assistant under Dana Altman and then Greg McDermott. Altman took the helm as Drake HC in 2018, where he has been the MVC Coach of the Year twice.
Drake has played a slower, more deliberate style of offense under Devries (AdjO: 19th, AdjD: 120, AdjT: 265). This is in sharp contrast to what fans have seen at Iowa State for the past 10 years under Steve Prohm and Fred Hoiberg. Devries’ emphasizes hard-nosed defense and a grind-it-out type of offense more akin to Chris Beard than Fred or Steve.
But still, there is no denying the proximity and familiarity with the program. Devries is from the state of Iowa and carries connections with him via McDermott and Altman. While his play style may differ from what fans have experienced previously, maybe a change is exactly what the program needs.
Devries also brings the added possibility of his son, Tucker, flipping his commitment to Iowa State to follow his dad. The 6’6” Waukee Senior is the top Drake recruit since the early 90s, according to the Register.
My primary concern is that Creighton has not exactly been an NBA factory during the last 20 years when Devries has been there. Since 2003, only 6 Creighton players have played in the “Association”. Ultimately, Devries has shown in a short amount of time that he can be successful with limited talent, and is an interesting candidate.
Not as Likely
Career Record: 689-352
Places Coached: Marshall, Kansas State, Creighton and Oregon
Ahh, Dana Altman. The cream of the metaphorical crop in this year’s coaching search. The candidate I’ve been narcissistically shooting down for weeks in the hopes I’m proven wrong. Altman brings the entire package to Iowa State: Experience, program-building, recruiting, sustained success, and a high ceiling.
Altman has been coaching for a looooong time, and has taken Kansas State, Creighton, and Oregon to the NCAA Tournament. He also brought the Ducks to the Final Four in 2017, as well as multiple Sweet Sixteen’s and an Elite Eight. There is no denying the success Altman has had in multiple places, but I am hard-pressed to find a link to the Cyclones, besides maybe his former residence in Omaha.
Rumors - whether they are true or not - have linked Altman as a possible candidate. Personally, I’ll believe it when I see it, but Altman would be a home run hire with very little downside. At the very least, I sure hope Pollard gives him a phone call.
Career Record: 754-425
Places Coached: Nazareth, Le Moyne, Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia and Michigan
John Beilein has had plenty of success when it comes to coaching college basketball. What may be a turnoff here is the age. Beilein turns 69 next winter and Iowa State may be looking from someone that can most certainly carry the torch of the program for the next 10 years or longer. Though his past success and NCAA Tournament pedigree certainly gives Iowa State an interesting thought going into the coaching search.
This may be another home run type of hire that seems farfetched in terms of Jamie Pollard’s strategies in hiring coaches. Though it has been stated that Beilein wants back in the college game after his short jump to the NBA and Iowa State is a place he can win out. Keep your eye out here.
No Harm Asking
Career Record: 291-241
Places Coached: Arkansas-Little Rock, Illinois State and Loyola-Chicago
Porter Moser is an intriguing option for Iowa State if he was willing to listen to Pollard. Moser is big on player development and player driven culture. Sound familiar for a current Iowa State coach? Moser most recently led Loyola-Chicago to a Final Four in 2018 and has rebuilt the team since to make another NCAA Tournament run this season.
Moser has stated he likes being at Loyola-Chicago because of the success that he is having there. Now DePaul has opened up and his name is being floated around there. If Moser wants to make a big jump in the coaching and conference ranks, DePaul would give him that option without moving. Though I really do think Moser would be a good fit within the culture of Iowa State. Just not sure how likely of a candidate he would be.
Career Record: 180-94
Places Coached: Winthrop, Xavier (assistant), Wake Forest (assistant)
Pat Kelsey is an up-and-coming name in the coaching world as he’s steadily built up his Winthrop Eagles program over the past 9 seasons from a 14-17 record in 2012-2013, to an incredible 23-1 record this season so far, which earned him Big South Coach of the Year honors.
Much like Porter Moser, Kelsey’s teams are very good defensively, but Kelsey’s offenses run blindingly fast, as Winthrop currently sits at 8th in the country in adjusted tempo. On the defensive end, Kelsey’s teams force turnovers and rebound the basketball, the latter of which should come as music to Cyclone fans’ ears. Winthrop currently sits at 12th and 10th in offensive and defensive rebounding, respectively.
Pat Kelsey’s name is just starting to heat up and become more common in coaching searches, but he’s been at Winthrop for nine seasons now. He could decide to keep building Winthrop and taking them to NCAA tournaments, but at just 45 years old (young by coaching standards) he could decide that now is the time to jump to a bigger challenge to a program that’s hungry to win in arguably the best conference in America.
Career Record: 182-134
Places Coached: UNC Greensboro, High Point (assistant), Elon (assistant)
Incredibly, this 38-year old has amassed ten years of head coaching experience already after taking over the UNC-Greensboro job in 2011. Starting with a 11-11 record in his first season, Miller has now guided the Spartans to five consecutive 20-win seasons (would be five 25-win seasons if not for the pandemic).
Miller’s teams don’t really stand out in either efficiency or tempo, but they typically are very good at limiting turnovers on offense, and are above average rebounders. They’re also typically very good at forcing turnovers, ranking in the top thirty in the country in defensive turnover percentage three of the last five seasons.
We’d likely get a better idea of Wes Miller’s Xs and Os ability once he’s able to get some high major talent (potentially a red flag), but with Miller you’re snagging a proven program-builder with an incredible amount of experience at such a young age.
Career Record: 176-99
Places Coached: Manhattan, St. John’s and New Mexico
Fran Fraschilla last coached at New Mexico in 2002 and has been with ESPN ever since. During his coaching career he reached the NCAA Tournament 3 times and the NIT 5 times. Prior to his head coaching career he served as an assistant under Gary Williams and Rick Barnes.
There is no real reason to believe that Fraschilla is interested in jumping back into coaching. What makes him an intriguing thought is his love for Ames, Iowa State and Cyclone fans. Plus he studies the game and knows it better than most. It would be a last ditched effort in the coaching search but one that may not be a bad last-ditch effort.
Career Record: 225-107
Places Coached: Mayville State, South Dakota and Utah State
Craig Smith has been one of the hottest names in college basketball, winning 2 of the last 3 Mountain West tournament championships, picking up a Coach of the Year Award for himself in 2019. Smith hasn’t really been under any notable coaches, but him and his stingy defense has gotten all sorts of attention in the mid-major college basketball universe. The Aggies have won 20+ games in his last 3 seasons under Smith.
Is there a realistic chance he comes to Iowa State? Who knows, less than a month ago he signed an extension to keep him at Utah State through the 2025-2026 season. He’s a relatively young coach that has had success, it’s hard to not like a guy like that. I don’t see him leaving Utah State, but there’s no shame in reaching out to him.