Iowa State will lean on Otzelberger’s passion in its program rebuild

T.J. Otzelberger’s pride and passion for Iowa State are being used as a source for optimism in the program’s rebuild.

Matt Belinson

Pride and passion. Those were the words said time and time again during T.J. Otzelberger’s introductory press conference with Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard on Friday.

In introducing Otzelberger as the program’s 21st head coach, Pollard told Cyclone fans he had never met someone who last worked as an assistant coach in any given program have such strong roots in a community like Otzelberger does in Ames.

Less than 24 hours after being named the new head coach at Iowa State, plenty of recognizable names had reached out and offered support — former Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell, Georges Niang, Matt Thomas, Deonte Burton and Dan McCarney.

“T.J. with all due respect, you were an assistant coach for us for eight years, but I’ve never met anybody that’s been more connected with Iowa Staters that was in an assistant position,” Pollard said as he looked over at Otzelberger during a press conference Friday.

It’s what Otzelberger and his plans for Iowa State’s rebuild are centered around.

The wins and losses will be the ultimate judge of how well Otzelberger will end up doing at Iowa State as Pollard said himself, but so far, his desire to be back in a place he loves so much has made an impact in and around the program.

In his opening statement, Otzelberger mentioned how far his love goes for Iowa State and how even while he was away, he never stopped loving his first home.

“[Me and my wife Alison’s] passion for the Cyclones has never wavered,” Otzelberger said. “We bleed cardinal and gold.”

Most of what the 43-year old head coach said in his first official press conference as the leader of the Cyclones revolved around his love for the fanbase and joy in being able to see his lifelong home of Ames also serve as his dream job.

Whether it’s in recruiting or building a coaching staff, Otzelberger plans to make a passion for being in Ames and becoming a part of Iowa State’s culture the top of his priority list.

“We want young men that play with tremendous passion and commitment to excellence,” Otzelberger said. “The work is in front of us and I want young people that embrace that work and understand the impact they have not only on the court but in the classroom and community.”

As he builds his coaching staff, the mark of finding smart basketball minds will of course be essential for Otzelberger to get the Cyclones back into the mix within the Big 12, but not unlike the rest of his vision for the program, everything starts with the passion and enthusiasm people should bring to their jobs every day.

Whoever is brought in or possibly retained from Steve Prohm’s previous coaching staff, Otzelberger said it comes down to hiring people of great character and integrity above all else. 

“We’re going to establish a staff that loves Iowa State as much as I do and my family does,” Otzelberger said. “You want people who really love to be here because that’s been my experience as an assistant coach is that people will talk all the time about recruiting and if you love Iowa State first, all you’re doing is telling your story.”

But like Pollard mentioned in his video announcing the parting of ways with Prohm, Otzelberger’s words weren’t simply a way to “win the press conference” to put anxious fans at some sort of ease.

Otzelberger said he was aware of the expectations the fanbase will have, which is why he expects his knowledge of the program’s history of Big 12 relevancy and winning to help. With his past success as a starting point, he plans to bring the “Cyclone brand” back and look to make Ames “the” destination in the state and the Big 12.

But for some who were still doubting how genuine his outlook for the program might be and how eager he is to help lead the way, Otzelberger assured fans how serious his feelings are on wanting to fix the program.

“My passion is real,” Otzelberger said.