Iowa State’s search for a replacement for Fred Hoiberg is not going to be as easy as some thought it would be.
Prior to Hoiberg’s departure for Chicago, many believed that assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger — who, earlier this spring, had returned to Ames after spending two years with Lorenzo Romar at Washington — was the favorite. The players had a good relationship with him, he’s a good recruiter and with a veteran, top ten team back for this season, the thought was that Otzelberger would at least get an interim tag, a one-year shot at proving that, at 37 years old, he’s ready to be a head coach in the Big 12.
That’s the move that AD Jamie Pollard wants to make. Pollard, if you’ve forgotten, is the guy that hired Hoiberg, a coach that had never run a college program before as of five years ago. That turned out pretty well, as the Cyclones reached unprecedented levels of success the past four seasons.
The issue is that school president Steven Leath believes that the program can make a better hire, land a bigger name now as a result of that success. Maybe they can land Phoenix Suns head coach and former Cyclone Jeff Hornacek. Maybe they can get Murray State’s Steve Prohm or Stephen F. Austin’s Brad Underwood or Valpo’s Bryce Drew. Maybe they follow the trend of hiring retread head coach and bring back Tim Floyd, who coached the team for four seasons before making his own leap to the NBA ranks.
And to a point, Leath is right. Iowa State is selling a very real chance at getting to the Final Four and winning a national title immediately. That’s a very difficult thing to build, which means that whoever Iowa State hires could be walking into the single-best team he’s ever going to coach. Throw in the fact that this is a veteran team that can almost coach themselves at this point, and I might be able to get this group to the final weekend of the season.
In that sense, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at other potential candidates. That shot at a title might allow the Cyclones to land a bigger name than would otherwise be interested in Iowa State. It’s probably the smart thing to do.
But it would also be smart for Heath to eventually allow Pollard to make this decision. Not only did he make the right hire the last time around — scooping up Hoiberg just days after Greg McDermott left for Creighton — he’s likely been preparing for this decision for months, since the first rumors of Hoiberg replacing Tom Thibodeau in Chicago surfaced.