Just one day after Iowa State's said goodbye to assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih, the Cyclones filled the void on their bench by bringing back T.J. Otzelberger.
Otzelberger spent the last two seasons at Washington, but for the seven seasons prior, he was in Ames under both Greg McDermott and Fred Hoiberg. The 37-year old assistant, who will become a key recruiter, talked to a small group of reporters Wednesday after his return was announced.
On the process of hearing from Hoiberg and ultimately returning to Iowa State.
It happened really quickly. Coach Hoiberg reached out to me yesterday morning and discussed with me the possibility of coming back. From there it kind of took off quickly. I know we’re only 25 hours past that point, but as soon as he reached out, I kind of felt something inside. Obviously there’s a lot of passion I have for Iowa State. We were extremely excited. As the day evolved, I knew when I called [my wife], Alison [Lacy], she was pumped up. We felt like the opportunity to come home and reconnect with all the people we care about so much and have relationships with and being around the school we were both highly invested in for a number of years was an unbelievable opportunity.
When Otzelberger left Ames two springs ago, he said it was in part to set himself up for a head-coaching opportunity. How does he view this recent move?
I feel like two years ago when the Washington opportunity came up, I felt like I was at a point where Iowa State had been the only place I had been from a coaching standpoint at the Division I level. I felt in order to broaden my horizons or grow professionally, that I needed to work somewhere else, see another opportunity. The Washington opportunity was one I perceived as a really strong one. [There were] a lot of things I liked about [Washington] coach [Lorenzo] Romar and guys he has had work under him that got head coaching jobs. To me, that dynamic was something that was prevalent.
As we stand now, I feel like that experience definitely provided some of those things, it allowed me to see another environment. What it ultimately taught me and what I learned through it, was how much I missed Iowa State, how much I wanted to be back here, all the great things about Iowa State. Although I aspire to be a head coach at some point, I’m not at a point where it has to be tomorrow. I feel like this is where I want to be, and that experience has helped show me that more. The path you take you don’t always know where it’s going to lead you, but that’s where we were at two years ago and how things came to where they are today.
Otzelberger was rumored to soon be interviewing for multiple jobs, including the Wisconsin-Green Bay head coach vacancy. He talked about where things stand now.
I feel like sometimes when those opportunities come up it’s flattering to be pursued and it’s flattering for people to talk to you about those things. Ultimately, if the opportunity to become a head coach presents itself, I want it to be the right opportunity, at the right place, at the right time. For me, at this point, our desire is to be at Iowa State to continue to try to build on the successes — some that I’ve been part of and others that have transpired the last few years — and try to build on those and continue that path. I’ve removed my name from consideration for some other opportunities and feel like we’re fired up to be at Iowa State and locked into it and feel like this opportunity is better than those and fits us more.
On what his role with the staff will be.
I’ll be an assistant coach and we’re going to talk through staff-wise the dynamics of working together as a group to make sure we’re maximizing the strengths overall of the group. Having the opportunity to work with Cornell [Mann] again, coach Mann, he’s obviously someone I’m very comfortable with and have a track record of working with before. With coach [Charlie] Henry, another guy that I’ve known for a period of time and have respect for. As we talk about a specific role, I think there’s a lot of strengths in that group.
On if he's talked with any current players.
I did have an opportunity to visit with Georges [Niang] via text message this morning. I just kind of wanted to share with him, he had heard a little bit what could happen. Obviously we have a good relationship that goes back a number of years and he expressed his excitement and I did the same and I look forward to catching up more as well.
On when he starts at Iowa State.
You know, we’re kind of already in that spot right now. We’re full steam ahead right now for Iowa State. It’s going to be one of those things over the coming weeks that I want to make sure I do the best job possible of tying everything up at Washington and then we’re moving forward.
On the difficulty of jumping right in to recruiting.
The one thing when you’re in the recruiting world, whether it’s where I just came from or coming back to Iowa State, you try to maintain a lot of relationships with people over the course of time and continue to build on those. I feel like on one end of it, I look forward to visiting with coach Hoiberg and coach Mann and coach Henry and talking about what specific needs need to be addressed and where we need to go moving forward. I feel like even though I was in Seattle the last few years trying to do a good job myself, trying to be aware of players and possibilities and I know the staff at Iowa State has done a good job of that as well.