Dumm Thoughts: What Might Have Been

Many of you know Sean Dumm from his 'Dumm Thoughts' columns that appear on this website from time to time. But we doubt that many of you realize that Sean was considered for the Iowa Men's Basketball head coaching vacancy back in 1999. Well, we assume he was considered, as he sent in a letter informing Bob Bowlsby that he was interested in the position. And if Mr. Bowlsby even opened the letter and read part of it, that is consideration. At least in Sean's mind.

Now that the college football season has reached its glorious conclusion with our resurgent Iowa program shattering the January Bowl curse at the expense of the Florida Gators, I can finally devote all of my Hawkeye energies to the Men's Basketball program. And like many of you, I find myself confused as to why the team is mired in mediocrity and lacking cohesiveness in light of the Senior leadership on the floor and our head coach being in his fifth year of tenure with the University.

Two days following the bowl victory, I traveled to Columbia, Missouri to sit amongst some of the most mean spirited and bitter sports fans in the country to watch my beloved Hawks do battle with the Missouri Tigers. The only problem was that unlike the Missouri game two years ago, most of those ill tempered fans were sporting the tiger hawk logo on their clothing. At every opportunity, disgruntled Iowa fans took the opportunity to shout invectives at the Iowa Basketball team and Head Coach Steve Alford. And on the day of this 20-point road defeat, there was a lot to be upset about.

I'm not an expert on Basketball by any means, but even from one of the worst seats in the house I could see part of the problem. Coach Alford sat speechless the entire second half as his team was getting blown out of the gym. He alternated between a forward lean hand-on-chin thinker pose and an arms-crossed lean-back-in-the-chair gaze. Occasionally, he would stand, walk to the coaching box, and crouch. At no time did he shout any instructions to his struggling players. I think back to the dichotomy between what I saw January 3 and some of the coaching greats: Tom Izzo, Roy Willaims, Coach K, Gary Williams, Kelvin Sampson, Tom Crean, Bill Self etc, who continue to actively coach the player from the tip off to the final buzzer, regardless of score.

Now as we enter into conference play, we are left to wonder if this might be the year in which we can finally post a plus .500 conference record. Five years ago, there was so much hope, hype and promise, and now the Hawk's Nest sits empty save two or three people, or at least that is what it looks like on TV. The Hawks looked better at home against Purdue, but after a pitiful 77-68 loss to Northwestern, criticism abounds.

In his January 9 press conference, Coach Alford said:

"I'm in a business where we understand that there are an awful lot of professional critiquers out there. There are an awful lot of individuals that really have nothing better to do with their time than stand on the sidelines or stand in the stands, and they've got all of the answers. Believe me, as a former player and now as a coach, it would be very exciting to just change places for just one evening or one afternoon to see truly what a player goes through at this level; truly what a coach goes through at this level."

I really hope that Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby made the right hire back in Spring, 1999. While the football coaching hire was debated continuously, no one seemed to debate the other applicants and candidates for the basketball job, such as Skip Prosser and well, me.

Every University job opening must be publicly advertised. Back at the time of the Men's Basketball coaching hire, I was a second year law student in search of a clerkship for the summer and a job post-grad. While researching job opportunities in Iowa, I came across an ad for the Men's Basketball program in the Cedar Rapids Gazette. I immediately sent out my resume and cover letter.

I recently stumbled across that letter on a dusty floppy disk. What follows is the actual cover letter I sent to Bob Bowlsby with my resume. My apologies for any embarrassment it causes the friends I've referenced herein:

February 27, 1999

Robert Bowlsby
Athletic Director
The University of Iowa
338 CHA
Iowa City, Iowa 52242

Dear Mr. Bowlsby:

My name is J. Sean Dumm. I am a second year law student at Washburn University School of Law and an alumnus of the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts. I was excited to learn of the recent openings in the Men's basketball program which you advertised in the Cedar Rapids Gazette. I have enclosed my resume for your review.

I feel that I possess a strong combination of academic achievements and work skills, which demonstrate my demand for academic excellence. I was the first person named "Dumm" (pronounced "DUMB") to graduate from Iowa. My law school class rank places me within the top fifth of our class. I am an editor of our Law Journal. While steadily employed throughout my academic career, I have developed a strong work ethic, business skills, and personal relation abilities. My legal skills could come in handy whenever a player is involved in an infraction. I demand academic excellence and respect for the law. I believe a student athlete should be a student and ambassador of Iowa first and an athlete second.

While having not played organized basketball since the fourth grade, I possess strong skills that would come in handy while recruiting and inspiring players. My younger age (24) would enable me to relate to players better than a coach in his 50-60's. My choices for assistants have strong basketball experience, playing for various size high schools in both rural and urban environs. My roommate John Larigan Jr. played for a Wichita, KS high school, then spent his college years playing at The University of Kansas's field house pick up games with actual players on the men's varsity team including Billy Thomas and Boston Celtic standout Paul Pierce! My friend Christopher Pittman comes from small Webb City, MO, and served as a student trainer for the University of Oklahoma athletic program. Both these potential coaches (fellow lawyers-to-be) relate well with others and appreciate the University of Iowa. In fact, John's girlfriend Beth Fisch is a standout student at the Iowa Law School. Our third selection for an assistant coach is open to anyone who has actual college coaching experience. Naturally, I would serve as the puppet master and figurehead of the whole operation.

Though our intercollegiate coaching experience is limited, we are smart and enthusiastic young men who would drop our summer clerkships in a second to take the reins of such a storied basketball program. We learned in a recent article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette that you said there was some "wiggle room" in acceptable qualifications. Though my basketball experience is limited, my Hawkeye pride runs deep and I would be honored to coach your men's team. We are willing to work for substantially less money than your current coach. We are willing to forgo all benefits of the compensation package for flat salaries of $60,000 a year and our own television show. We are only considering this coaching vacancy. Please contact me at (785) XXX-XXXX to arrange an interview. References and writing samples are available upon request. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

J. Sean Dumm
B.A. 1996

P.S. If you are unable to offer us an interview due to the high number of coaching candidates, we will understand. If possible, I would like a strong recommendation letter for admission as a transferring visiting student for my third year at the University of Iowa law school. At the least, I would accept a rejection letter to frame with the others.

Epilogue: I never received that rejection/recommendation letter. Steve Alford was hired as head coach. Undaunted, we all finished law school instead. John and Beth later got married to each other. Chris continues to praise the hiring of Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. Iowa basketball players became involved in many legal situations. A couple of years later, I ran into Coach Alford and told him about my candidacy for the job. He laughed told me that he was "more qualified" and that things probably worked out best this way. For his sake, I truly hope so. Should that job open again in the future, I'll take it, but I want six-figures. I've got student loans to pay.


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