CSR Talks With Coach Otzelberger

New Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg told Jamie Pollard that his number one priority if he got the job would be to retain assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger. Cyclone Sports Report recently talked with Coach Otzelberger on why he chose to stay, what he likes most about Iowa State, and what he thinks next season might look like for the Cyclones.

Cyclone Sports Report: You could have gone with Coach McDermott to Creighton. Why did you ultimately decide to stay at Iowa State?

Coach Otzelberger: I think I value what a great place that Iowa State has been for me. When I came here we had a goal and a vision to build a program where we could be going to the NCAA tournament on a consistent basis. I still believe we can do that and I just really want to see it through to the end. Getting the opportunity to work with Coach Hoiberg considering the credentials that he bring back to Iowa State was also a great opportunity for me. I also have a lot of respect for this athletic department and what Jamie Pollard has done for me kind acting as a mentor to me in certain ways. I also want to recruit at the highest level and I truly feel that we can bring Top 100 players here to Iowa State. So with all of these things factored in I just felt it was right to stay here at Iowa State.

Cyclone Sports Report: What did it mean to you to hear that the first priority for Coach Hoiberg if hired was to retain you an associate head coach?

Coach Otzelberger: It was really a great feeling and for me it was kind of a dream come true. Nobody knows what this program is about more than Coach Hoiberg and so for him to want to keep me was really a proud moment. To be honest with you it was the best day of my life from a professional standpoint.

Cyclone Sports Report: How long have you known Fred and what has your relationship been like leading up to this point?

Coach Otzelberger: We have known each other for about three to four years. I was his contact here at Iowa State when he would come to scout players from here or other Big 12 schools for the NBA draft. We really developed a solid relationship and he is someone that really impressed me during the process.

Cyclone Sports Report: How important was it ultimately that Jamie Pollard hired Fred so quickly in regards to you staying at Iowa State?

Coach Otzelberger: It was extremely important and that's a just another great thing about Jamie in that he always has a plan in place and is very proactive in these situations. The timing for me was very sensitive because if this thing had carried on for about a week I would probably be at Creighton right now because that probably would have been a situation that I couldn't have passed up as time went on. With him acting as quickly as he did it became a perfect fit for me to stay here and work for Coach Hoiberg.

Cyclone Sports Report: You are considered one of the best young recruiters in college basketball. What is the hardest part of recruiting these days?

Coach Otzelberger: I think the most difficult thing today is building a relationship on trust for the long term. Each individual player wants to be around people that they can trust and so I try to show the work ethic and communication skills to make sure they know they can trust me. Sometimes that means countless phone calls but it's okay because if you are inconsistent with your follow-up of a player they will likely question what it will be like with that coach in the future. The key in recruiting is just proving your work ethic on a daily basis.

Cyclone Sports Report: You didn't attend Iowa State as a student but it certainly seems to have become a pretty special place for you to coach. Why?

Coach Otzelberger: The number one thing would be the community. In big cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago you have St. John's, UCLA, and DePaul and they just don't get the level of support you do here at Iowa State. Everyone here really cares and really wants you to do well. When kids come here on a visit they see that and then it becomes contagious. They meet Cyclone fans that tell them how much they want them here and so the students and community really pay dividends for us here at Iowa State. The second thing is Hilton Coliseum because it's such an impressive environment. When we get a kid here on a visit for a sold out Big 12 game and the fans are going nuts it becomes a scene that kids remember and want to be a part of in the future. The third thing that will continue to make it great is the new coaching staff. The individual development for players should be amazing considering Hoiberg and Grayer have close to twenty years of experience in the NBA. We really take pride in coaching these guys.

Cyclone Sports Report: Right now there is currently about 10 scholarship players on the roster for next season. How competitive can this team be next year?

Coach Otzelberger: It's a difficult question to answer because we don't necessarily have our final roster yet but I think we can be competitive. We should get great leadership from Diante (Garrett), Scott (Christopherson), and LaRon (Dendy). Our backcourt will be very experienced and so if Jamie, LaRon, and the young guys up front can step up we hope we can get to the middle of the pack of the Big 12. I can't predict a number of wins especially since we haven't finished our schedule yet but I really feel good about the potential of our young players.

Cyclone Sports Report: It seems every year in college basketball that more and more players are either leaving early for the NBA or they are transferring due to a lack of playing time. Due to some of these factors there have been some assistant coaches that have passed up the chance to become a head coach. Do you ultimately want you run your own program one day?

Coach Otzelberger:Yeah, absolutely at some point in the future that is my goal but it will have to be all about the right timing. It's really hard to say and until then I just plan on giving everything I can here at Iowa State to help make us better. I'm just committed to doing a great job here and all that stuff will take care of itself. I have no timeline for possibly becoming a head coach. I'll just do the best I can and see what happens down the line.


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