Belinson: Going through the names fans might hear in Iowa State’s coaching search

Fred Hoiberg (left) and T.J. Otzelberger (far right) standing next to Steve Prohm (center right) will be among many names Iowa State fans should be aware of as the program searches for its next men’s basketball coach. 

Matt Belinson

The coaching search is underway for Iowa State Athletics and Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard after agreeing with Steve Prohm to part ways Monday evening. But Cyclone fans should expect change fairly quickly.

“I anticipate the search will go pretty quickly,” Pollard said in a video message to fans Tuesday.

With fast thinking in mind, some of the bigger names connected with Iowa State’s vacancy were brought up with what should fans know about these potential candidates.

T.J. Otzelberger (UNLV)

The head coach of UNLV (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) Runnin’ Rebels has a long history with Iowa State after working as an assistant coach for Greg McDermott, Fred Hoiberg and Steve Prohm over the last decade.

After serving on McDermott and Hoiberg’s respective staffs, he left to become an associate head coach at the University of Washington in the 2012-13 season but would shortly return to Ames as an assistant coach in Prohm’s first season.

He would once again jump to another coaching opportunity in the coming years, but this time as a head coach at South Dakota State in the 2016-17 season. Otzelberger would lead the Jackrabbits to the NCAA Tournament in his first two seasons with 46-24 in his first two years.

After three seasons in the Summit League, Otzelberger headed to UNLV in the 2019-20 season where he has coached ever since, guiding the Runnin’ Rebels to a 29-30 record in his first two seasons.

Otzelberger does hold a buyout of $3 million, which, given Iowa State Athletic’s $25 million shortfall, could be a tall order. But as we will see with another candidate, the $3 million in comparison is a lot easier to swallow if you’re Pollard and Iowa State.

A source told the Iowa State Daily that given Otzelberger’s connection to the Iowa State program in the past and where Iowa State is trying to take the program, he is a “serious” name in the mix.

Craig Smith (Utah State)

Smith is an interesting name floating around many Midwest circles, with the Stephen, Minnesota, native having plenty of success at Utah State over the last three seasons.

In his time at Utah State in the Mountain West Conference, 48-year-old Smith has led the Aggies to a 74-23 overall record, two Mountain West tournament championships and two NCAA Tournaments.

Smith and the Aggies would have made the NCAA Tournament in the 2019-20 season as Mountain West Tournament champions, but the COVID-19 pandemic shut those plans down.

The 11-seeded Aggies are slated to play the six-seed Texas Tech in the NCAA Tournament this year.

His buyout sits at right around, if not less than, $1 million, making the potential financial hit a smaller worry than other candidates.

Smith has been reported to garner interest from Minnesota and other schools with coaching openings but could be on the radar of Pollard.

Fred Hoiberg (Nebraska)

For better or for worse, Hoiberg’s name will always be floating around as a potential hire for Iowa State. But this is an unlikely move.

Unlike the other coaches mentioned, Hoiberg’s salary is the biggest hurdle to get past. The Cornhuskers’ coach has a $3.5 million salary and a buyout of $10.25 million.

Hoiberg is an icon at Iowa State after coaching the Cyclones over five years to a 115-56 record, four NCAA Tournament appearances and a Sweet 16.

He is only in his second year at Nebraska, and it would be hard to believe he would quickly jump ship to return to Ames. And even if he did, Pollard would have to do major heavy-lifting to make the buyout numbers digestible for an athletics department already in a sizable deficit.

Porter Moser (Loyola-Chicago)

The 52-year-old Naperville, Illinois, native has become one of the rising stars in college basketball over the last three seasons given all of the recent successes coming out of Loyola-Chicago.

The Ramblers went on their magical 2018 NCAA Tournament Final Four run led by Moser and have stayed on the top of the Missouri Valley Conference ever since. This season, Moser took the Ramblers back to the NCAA Tournament as Missouri Valley Tournament Champions with a 24-4 record.

Over the last four seasons, Porter has gone 56-16 in the Missouri Valley.

Porter knows the Midwest scene and has plenty of connections in recruiting near the Chicago area where Iowa State has been able to grab some big names like Talen Horton-Tucker or George Conditt IV in previous seasons.

Porter will have other offers out there, including DePaul’s coaching position, which became open after the program moved on from Dave Leitao on Monday after five-straight losing seasons.

Darian DeVries (Drake)

Drake fans, look away — I hate to break it to you, but DeVries name will likely be circulated as a potential pick for the Iowa State job.

How could he not?

DeVries has been named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year twice in his three seasons in Des Moines and just led Drake to an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament this season with a 15-3 record in the Missouri Valley.

Before leading the Bulldogs to success, he played four years at Northern Iowa and spent seven years at Creighton as an assistant coach for former Iowa State Head Coach Greg McDermott.

Drake is a private institution, so his buyout information is unknown.

Something to keep in mind is his son, Tucker, committed to Drake as a highly rated recruit back in October.