“It might take several years …”
Those words from Iowa State Director of Athletics Jamie Pollard in today’s video release in the wake of “parting ways” with sixth-year head coach Steve Prohm had the most impact on me — and most likely, you, too.
“There’s no short-term fix,” said Pollard, who met with Prohm several times in recent weeks to determine the best path forward for the program. “It’s not gonna happen overnight.”
Pollard spoke from the heart. With earnestness and melancholy. With an appreciation of what Prohm, his staff and players achieved in the early years — and brutal honesty with regard to the unacceptable present, and an uncertain future.
He decided — properly, in my opinion — that a clean break was needed in order to embark on a long-haul rebuilding strategy. To restore “magic.” To get back to winning and erase the memory of an 0-18 Big 12 season.
“I challenged coach Prohm to share with me what the plan would be to get our program better,” Pollard said. “And he believed, and I agree, that that plan probably meant making some changes with the staff, and also making some changes with some of our players — essentially rebooting and starting over. And that raised the question, if we’re gonna start over, is it better to start over with fresh leadership, or start over with somebody going into (his) seventh year?”
Pollard clearly wrestled with that question. He noted what a good man Prohm is and few would disagree with that assessment. I absolutely won’t. He’s been great to work with, always attended our Cyclone Fanatic pre-basketball season gatherings and clearly cares about “the right things.” But it’s a bottom-line business — and finishing at or near the bottom of the conference in three of the past four seasons doesn’t remotely pass muster. The Cyclones have won a total of 18 conference games in the past four seasons, a number, of course, that matches the historic loss total endured in this, Prohm’s final season. So a change needed to be made. It doesn’t stop my heart — and obviously Pollard’s — from hurting, though.
“Quite frankly, one of the questions I was asking myself is, ‘What would coach Prohm have to do next year?’ Pollard said. “‘How many games would (ISU) have to win for that excitement and energy to come back? For that momentum to come back?’ And in the end, it just felt like the right decision was to start over with fresh leadership. Coach Prohm is a great coach, a great human being. We have a saying in our department, ‘Once a Cyclone, always a Cyclones.’ I hope that our fan base can focus on the positives, not the negatives. Under coach Prohm’s leadership, we won two Big 12 Tournament Championships. We went to the NCAA Tournament three times and we went to a Sweet 16. We had several NBA players. There were a lot of positives and I hope over time when we think about coach Prohm as ‘once a Cyclone, always a Cyclone,’ we remember the positives and not the negatives.
“Coach Prohm will land on his feet. Coach Prohm will be a successful coach going forward and he’ll have a huge fan in Jamie Pollard.”
He’ll have one in me, too, even as this “parting of ways” and imminent “reboot” proved to be wholly necessary. Prohm tweeted out a tribute to his players, coaches and Iowa State in general late this morning. He added his signature to the bottom, under the words, “Loyal Forever True.”
“Personnel decisions are always tough — and they should be,” Pollard said. “You’re impacting coach (Prohm), his family, our assistant coaches and their families, our players and their families, and our recruits. I’ve always said the day personnel decisions aren’t hard to do is the day I no longer need to be in a leadership position. Because it would mean I’ve lost empathy and I’ve lost doing things with class and dignity. This one, though, was especially difficult. Coach Prohm is a great human being. He is about as classy of a basketball coach and a person that I’ve ever been around. He’s got a beautiful family and I’m just sorry — I’m sorry that it’s come to this. I know he worked his whole career to get to a spot, to get a job like Iowa State University, and it breaks my heart to be part of taking that away from him and from his staff. But I think it’s also important to share with you why. It’s critical that our men’s basketball program be healthy. It’s so important to this community, to this institution, to our president, to our athletics department. And I have a responsibility to make sure it stays healthy.”