Prohm prepares to coach against former mentor at Texas A&M


Junior Matt Thomas and senior Georges Niang congratulate junior Monte Morris after a big play during a game against the Kansas University Jayhawks on Jan. 25, 2016. The Cyclones went on to win 85-72.  

Chris Wolff

The next ISU men’s basketball game on Saturday will provide a special experience for Steve Prohm when he walks onto the court and shakes hands with Texas A&M Aggies’ head coach Billy Kennedy.

In 1998, Kennedy was the head coach at Centenary College. Prohm was an unpaid assistant, living in a dorm room that he now refers to as “The Dungeon” and working at part-time jobs to make ends meet.

Nearly two decades later, a lot has changed for both Prohm and Kennedy. 

They have both ascended toward the top of their profession, leading teams that are ranked in the top 15 nationally.

“I’m really proud of the job he’s done there,” Prohm said Thursday afternoon. “Obviously, he’s a guy I look up to — and he’s had a great influence on my life so it’s a little surreal. But once the game starts it’s just the game. He knows what I think of him and how appreciative I am for what he’s done for me.”

After Centenary, Prohm followed Kennedy to Southeastern Louisiana for six years before going their separate ways, only to join at Murray State, where Kennedy was the head coach from 2006-2011.

Kennedy left for the Texas A&M job in 2011, and if Prohm wouldn’t have gotten the Murray State head coaching job, he said he probably would have ended up in College Station, Texas, with Kennedy.

Instead, he got the Murray State job, which eventually led to Iowa State. Now, the two will face off as competitors. Prohm said he and Kennedy have exchanged a few texts in the days leading up to the game.

Trash talk?

“Nah,” Prohm said. “He’s not like that anyway.”

Prohm wouldn’t get into bragging rights and pride and the possibility of beating his old mentor, but his senior forward Georges Niang did.

“I definitely want my current head coach to beat his old boss,” Niang said. “That’s definitely more motivation. That’s our guy and we stand by him. That’s a huge pride thing so for sure we want to go down there to their place and have him beat his old boss.”

The matchup between the mentor and the mentee, two friends who coached together for a lot of years, is interesting, but, as always, it’s about what happens on the court.

The Cyclones get away from Big 12 action for one game, but it can hardly be considered a break. Iowa State gets No. 5 Texas A&M for this year’s Big 12/SEC challenge, where each Big 12 team gets matched up with an SEC team for a single game.

Iowa State has just downed two top-five teams in its last three games in Oklahoma and Kansas. Now, its another top-five team in Texas A&M, and then it’s back to the Big 12 grind next Tuesday against No. 9 West Virginia.

In the midst of a conference stretch that is that brutal, a coach might find a non-conference road game against a top-five team to be a nuisance.

“I think it’s great,” Prohm said. “You get two top-15 programs playing on national television – one of the marquee games of this Big 12/SEC challenge.”

Niang also doesn’t mind stepping out of conference play for a game and seeing some unfamiliar faces. It could even be a benefit, Niang said, for when the NCAA tournament rolls around and Iowa State is facing all sorts of good teams from various conferences.

“You see a different style of basketball from a different place in the country so I think it’ll be good for us,” Niang said.