Mar 5, 2020; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; UNLV Rebels head coach TJ Otzelberger reacts from the bench during the second half of a Mountain West Conference tournament game against the Boise State Broncos at Thomas Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
A familiar face is the new leader of Iowa State men’s basketball.
TJ Otzelberger has been hired as the new head coach of the Iowa State men’s basketball program, according to a university release on Thursday. The news comes just three days after the school announced it had parted ways with former head coach Steve Prohm after finishing the 2020-21 season 2-22 and 0-18 in Big 12 play.
Otzelberger, a former ISU assistant under Greg McDermott, Fred Hoiberg and Prohm for eight seasons, has been a head coach for five years while building an 88-55 overall record and has spent the last two years as the head coach at UNLV, compiling a 29-30 record in Vegas.
That came after a three-year run as the head man at South Dakota State, where he went 70-33 overall, 35-11 in Summit League action, won two Summit League regular-season championships, a pair of Summit League Tournaments and appeared in two NCAA Tournaments.
Otzelberger has long been rumored as the overwhelming favorite to land the job Ames and now he has.
“It’s with great excitement and anticipation that we welcome T.J., Alison and their three children to Iowa State,” Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard said in the release. “T.J. was instrumental in helping our program achieve some of its most-significant achievement and he is keenly aware of what it takes to be successful at Iowa State.”
Otzelberger’s college coaching career began in 2004-05 when he was an assistant at Chipola College in Marianna, Fla. While there he helped the Indians finish 33-4, win the Panhandle Conference title and finish in third at the 2005 NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
The Milwaukee native made the jump to Division I coaching in 2006 when he was hired as an assistant by McDermott in Ames. That role allowed him to be the point man on recruiting former Cyclone stars Mike Taylor, Craig Brackins and Diante Garrett.
When Hoiberg was hired at Iowa State in May 2010, Otzelberger was elevated to associate head coach. He remained in that role for three seasons and was instrumental in recruiting some of the most iconic players of Hoiberg’s tenure at Iowa State, including Scott Christopherson, Will Clyburn, Chris Babb, Korie Lucious, Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang, Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas.
Following the 2012-13 season, Otzelberger headed west to join Lorenzo Romar’s staff at Washington, where he spent two years and solidified himself as one of the most respected assistant coaches in the country.
He returned to Ames in the spring of 2015 to rejoin Hoiberg’s staff in Ames. Once Hoiberg left Iowa State to take the position as the head coach of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, Otzelberger became one of the lead candidates to replace “The Mayor” and had considerable support from the players within the program, a group which still included Niang, Mitrou-Long and Thomas.
Otzelberger finished only as a finalist for the position as Prohm was named the head coach in early-June of 2015. He remained on the staff under Prohm for one season, helping the program reach the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years, before taking over as the head man in Brookings prior to the 2016-17 seasons.
“I couldn’t be more enthused about the opportunity that President (Wendy) Wintersteen and Jamie (Pollard) have given our family,” Otzelberger said. “It’s somewhat rare to get the chance to return home but Iowa State was my first stop as a Division I college coach and it is my wife’s (Australia native Alison Lacey, who played for ISU) adopted home. The resources are here to build and sustain a program that competes at a high level in the Big 12 and nationally. I’m familiar with the foundation of the school and basketball program and am eager and inspired to sell our vision and re-establish a championship culture.”
Otzelberger quickly found success at South Dakota State, reaching the NCAA Tournament in each of his first two seasons, while ushering a roster led by do-it-all star Mike Daum, who finished his career in 2017-18 as the seventh all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division I history.
The Jackrabbits went 52-16 overall during Otzelberger’s last two seasons as head coach and posted a 27-3 mark in conference play, winning the regular-season Summit League title each season.
That boosted Otzelberger to Vegas, where he took over the historic UNLV program, which was looking for a fresh start after winning only 50 percent of its games in the previous two seasons.
Otzelberger’s first season leading the Runnin’ Rebels was hurt by the fact he was forced to replace 10 players from the previous season’s roster, which was done by adding eight newcomers from the transfer market.
That team finished 17-15 overall and 12-6 in the Mountain West to finish in a three-way tie for second-place in the league. The season’s highlight came on Feb. 22, 2020 when the Rebels went on the road to upset No. 4 San Diego State 66-63, handing the Aztecs their first loss of the year.
Otzelberger’s team this season finished 12-15 overall and 8-10 in the Mountain West with a roster that featured seven freshmen. The year ended on March 11 when the Rebels lost to Utah State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament.
Details on Otzelberger’s staff in Ames are not currently known. He will officially be introduced as Iowa State’s head coach during a virtual press. conference at 10:30 a.m. on Friday.
“TJ will arrive in Ames (on Friday) so he can begin meeting with our players and putting his staff together,” Pollard said. “And hit the ground running to help us restore our basketball program to where we all want it.”
Stay tuned to Cyclone Fanatic for more on this developing story.