6 potential candidates to fill the ISU men’s basketball coaching vacancy


Fred Hoiberg and ISU assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger talk on the sideline during the second half of Iowa State’s 65-61 win against Kansas State on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012. Otzelberger will be the highest paid assistant coach on Steve Prohm’s staff for the 2015-16 season. 

The new ISU men’s basketball coach will have big shoes to fill now that Fred Hoiberg is moving on to fulfill his dream of coaching in the NBA as the Chicago Bulls’ head coach. 

Six consistent names have been linked to the vacant ISU coaching position. The candidates range from virtually unknown to ISU faithful to the ever so popular Jeff Hornacek.

Candidate No. 1: Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin head coach.

Two of the biggest factors for Underwood as a potential replacement for Hoiberg are his ties to the Big 12 and his impressive career record as a head coach. Underwood has roots to the Big 12, going back to 1984 when he played at Kansas State and as recent as 2012 when he was an assistant under former Kansas State head coach Frank Martin. Not only does he have ties to the Big 12, his career record as a head coach is 61-8 at Stephan F. Austin. He has also led the team to the NCAA tournament both years as the head coach.

But the furthest Underwood has advanced in the NCAA tournament is the round of 32. Because Cyclone faithful experienced Hoiberg’s magical Sweet 16 in 2014, the round of 32 will not cut it as head coach. Another factor against Underwood is that he is not a brand name, which ISU President Steven Leath is looking for in a new coach.

Candidate No. 2: T.J. Otzelberger, ISU assistant coach

Otzelberger was an assistant and an assistant head coach at Iowa State from 2006 to 2013. Not only does his tenure at Iowa State make him a suitable candidate, he also knows Hoiberg’s system as he worked under Hoiberg from 2010 to 2013. Otzelberger is Pollard’s favorite to replace Hoiberg, per a report by CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

The only downside for Otzelberger is his lack of head coaching experience. He has never been “the man” at a university. However, that never stopped Pollard from hiring an inexperienced head coach — Hoiberg in 2010.

Candidate No. 3: Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns head coach

Hornacek was a basketball star at Iowa State and his jersey hangs in the rafters at Hilton Coliseum. That makes him a name brand, which Leath is looking for. Along with being a former ISU great, Hornacek has NBA coaching experience. He played in the NBA from 1986 until 2000 with the Suns, Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz before becoming an assistant with the Jazz from 2011 to 2013. His record as head coach of the Suns is 87-77 in two seasons. 

Although Hornacek has NBA head coaching experience, he doesn’t have college coaching experience. He also doesn’t have any recruiting experience. 

Candidate No. 4: Steve Prohm, Murray State head coach

When Prohm took the head coaching position at Murray State in 2011 he led the team to its best year in school history in his first year. Prom’s 2011-12 squad went 31-2, including a 23-0 start to the season and a top-10 ranking. 

A loss in the round of 32 at the 2012 NCAA tournament, followed by 21-10 and 23-11 seasons, removed some of the momentum Prohm built in his first year as coach. Murray State returned with a 29-6 season in 2014-15, giving Prohm a 104-29 overall record as coach of Murray State. 

Prohm had a similar offense at Murray State last season as Hoiberg had at Iowa State. Murray State was ranked No. 11 in the nation in scoring and No. 25 in assists, while Iowa State was ranked No. 14 in scoring and No. 11 in assists. 

Prohm did however sign a contract extension trough the 2020 season at Murray State, increasing his salary from $300,000 to $500,000.

Candidate No. 5: Dana Altman, Oregon head coach  

Altman is an interesting candidate because he has experience coaching in the Big 12, which was known as the Big 8 at the time. He was the head coach at Kansas State from 1990 to 1994, but had marginal success and took only one of his teams to the NCAA tournament.

Altman later went on to coach Creighton for 16 seasons, finishing with a 327-176 record and seven NCAA tournament appearances.

As coach of Oregon, Altman has a 123-57 overall record and an appearance in the 2013 Sweet 16. Another offensive-minded coach, Altman’s Oregon team was ranked No. 26 in scoring in 2014-15.

Altman signed a three-year contract extension at Oregon in 2013.

Candidate No. 6: Bryce Drew, Valparaiso head coach

Drew starred as a player from 1994-98 at Valparaiso, with his dad, Homer Drew, as the head coach.

Bryce Drew was drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft to the Houston Rockets, where he played two seasons. He then went to the Chicago Bulls for a season where, yes, Drew played with Hoiberg. Finishing his NBA career, Drew signed with the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets in 2001 and retired after the 2004 season.

After his playing career, Drew went on to coach at his alma mater (sound familiar?). However, unlike Hoiberg, Drew started as an assistant/associate head coach.

In 2011, Homer Drew retired and Bryce took over the reigns at Valparaiso. Bryce has led Valparaiso to two NCAA tournaments in his first four years as the head coach with a 94-42 record. 

Bryce Drew’s system differs in philosophy from Hoiberg’s. Drew’s Valparaiso team only scored 69.8 PPG, which ranked No. 104. On the other side of the coin, Drew had a stout defensive system that allowed 59.4 PPG good and was ranked No. 17.

In 2013, Drew signed a 10-year contract with Valparaiso.

These six coaches all have the opportunity to be the new face of ISU basketball. And the candidate Iowa State hires will inherit a talented roster.