Steyer, Schaben help fuel Fennelly’s success


Photo: Grace Steenhagen/Iowa State Daily

Asst. Head Coach Jodi Steyer yells direction to the team from the bench. The team faced up against the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday night, ending with a final score of 84-65 in favor of the Cyclones. 

Harrison March

Bill Fennelly is synonymous with ISU women’s basketball and for good reason.

Fennelly has been at the helm of the program for two decades, is the only head coach in team history with a winning record and has led his team to eight consecutive NCAA tournaments.

You’ll see his face turn colors as he shouts from the sideline this winter and right beside him will be Jodi Steyer and Latoja Schaben, two mainstays of assistant coach for the Cyclones.

Entering their 13th year coaching the Cyclones together, the trio has developed a strong bond.

“Everybody talks about team chemistry,” Fennelly said. “I think there’s got to be chemistry on a staff, too. I know friends of mine that have struggled internally with their staffs. I’ve been very lucky.”

Steyer has coached 18 seasons with Fennelly, six of which date back to their time together at Toledo University. Fennelly hired Steyer right out of college to work with the Rockets’ post players, one of whom was Schaben, and the two coached Toledo to a 141-45 record together.

When Fennelly left for the ISU head coaching position, Steyer stayed at Toledo for one season before taking some time off.

“After he came out here, I took a little time off for my kids because it was just the right thing to do at the time,” Steyer said. “We moved out here, and Bill brought me back on. Now I’m starting my thirteenth year here, and it’s been absolutely awesome.”

Schaben also spent some time away from Fennelly before reuniting in Ames, as she played professionally in Europe for three years. Schaben averaged double-digit scoring and rebounding over her professional career while playing for teams in Portugal, Italy, Finland and Turkey.

Now with 17 years at Iowa State under her belt, Schaben has been alongside Fennelly for the greatest years in program history.

“It’s been great. I’ve learned a lot,” Schaben said. “It’s been great to see a lot of the players develop, and one thing I say about that right there [pointing to the “Cyclones and the WNBA” sign], every one of those players I’ve had the opportunity to coach. No one else can say that besides coach Fennelly.”

Add Fennelly’s son, Billy, who is entering his third season as an assistant coach for the Cyclones, and the ISU women’s basketball coaching staff has a dynamic unlike any in the country.

“You throw in Billy to our mix, who we’ve known since he was just ‘little Billy,’ and now it’s awesome,” Steyer said. “He does a great job. I think it becomes an advantage just because we’re really comfortable together.”

When all the successful years spent together start stacking up, it becomes apparent that these coaches are more than just colleagues.

“People use the word family a lot in our business and [mostly] it’s B.S.,” Fennelly said. “It’s a good word to use. People think it’s important. [But] we live that every single day and I think it makes it easy to come to work, fun to come to work. I think it translates to the kids, and I think ultimately that’s what you want.”