Winds of Change Blow in Carver Hawkeye Arena

After a year of relative calm for the Iowa Men's Basketball program's out of season, some full force gales rocked the program on Tuesday.Assistant coaches Greg Lansing and Rich Walker did not have their contracts renewed beyond the fiscal year, while Brian Jones was promoted to Director of Basketball Operations. Players Carlton Reed and Alex Thompson asked for and were granted a release from their scholarships as well. Jon Miller chimes in on the latest happenings within the program...

After a year of relative calm for the Iowa Men's Basketball program's out of season, some full force gales rocked the program on Tuesday.

Assistant coaches Greg Lansing and Rich Walker did not have their contracts renewed beyond the fiscal year, while Brian Jones was promoted to Director of Basketball Operations.

Those moves were rumored for months, so the announcement was not a surprise to most within the Hawkeye Nation.

Walker spent the last 17 years of his life associated with Iowa basketball, the first 10 of those years coming as an assistant coach to former Iowa head man Tom Davis. Lansing spent the last seven years as an Iowa assistant and was one of Alford's original staff members.

In other news from Tuesday, Carlton Reed sought and received a release from his scholarship and he will transfer out of the program. That too was expected for some time.

Alex Thompson going the same route as Reed was not so expected, or at least the rumor of his leaving Iowa didn't begin to pick up steam until late last week. The reasons for the transfer were not provided in the release.

The release did include this quote from Steve Alford:

"Coming off a second Big Ten Tournament championship and back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, we are excited about the direction of the program," added Alford. "But, both Alex and Carlton expressed their desire to explore other options. We wish them well and will provide assistance as they search for a better fit."

I will certainly hand it to Alford; he accentuates the positives at all times, something he has done throughout his tenure. I can respect that, because I am an optimistic person by nature.

However, some of the things that Alford has said to this end during his entire seven year career on Iowa's bench have ruffled the feathers of the faithful Hawkeye flock. To many, things are not as rosy as Alford would like to paint them.

Hey, you have to give the man and the coaching staff some respect for what this year's team accomplished, plus a lot of respect to the players that wore the jerseys and fought each and every night. It was a great season, an enjoyable season and one that fans should cherish for a long time; 25 wins in a year don't happen around Iowa City very often. However, two more transfers put the total number of players that have signed letters of intent with Iowa during the Alford era that did not make it to senior day right at 11.

Reed's defection leaves Iowa thinner in the guard court than one would like. Thompson's defection has to be very concerning to those in Carver Hawkeye Arena, as they were touting his abilities for the past two years.

It has been no secret that Thompson has shown some solid abilities in practice during his time in Iowa City, especially this past off season and during this past season. He got the better of Greg Brunner more than a few times and those very close to the program wanted to be sure that Thompson's abilities made their way into the public setting.

There was hope that Thompson would have his ‘switch flipped' this off season much in the same way that former Hawkeye Ryan Bowen did between his sophomore and junior seasons. Thompson probably has all around better skills than Bowen had at the same point in time in college, if the truth be told. It's just that Thompson has failed to perform consistently once the lights are on and the stands are filled.

Whether or not he ever breaks free of that rut is yet to be determined. There have been players with more talent than he has who have not been able to shed those shackles, so there were no guarantees that those things were going to happen during his time in Iowa. Not everyone has the 'Bowen-like' transformation, so there was some betting on the come there.

So where does that leave the Iowa program heading into this off season?

If Iowa can sign Tyler Smith on Wednesday or sometime this month, it will certainly help calm the stormy waters to some degree, as he is one of the best unsigned freshmen to be in the nation. With the loss of Thompson and his hoped for production for next year, Smith's importance is all the more underscored if Iowa is going to compete for an upper division finish in what will be a much weaker Big Ten conference next season; Thompson was being slated as a potential starter by most Iowa pundits.

It would seem that Iowa will start Mike Henderson, Adam Haluska and Tony Freeman, featuring a three guard starting lineup once again. As for whom will flesh out the low blocks, the candidates are Seth Gorney and Kurt Looby from the current roster and Juco transfer Cyrus Tate. Forward Malik Perry is expected to sign a letter of intent with Iowa on Wednesday, joining Justin Johnson of Tyler Junior College and Jamie Vanderbeken from Canada in this class.

When you throw in Reed and Thompson, Iowa will lose six of its twelve players from this year's roster that were recruited scholarship athletes; half the team is gone, leaving just three players that have played any significant minutes in a Big Ten basketball game.

Alford may be excited about the direction of the program, per his statement in his release, but I can understand the voices from the fans that might not share the same enthusiasm.

I wish Alford no ill will, though some in the 319 area code might disagree with that statement, and have.

In the spirit of full disclosure, as well as perhaps beating some to the punch, I would be less than honest if I did not admit that I am sorry to see Greg Lansing let go from the staff. I got to know him to some degree through the years, as he was always available for an interview for the website, magazine and the occasional fill in role I have had on 1460 KXNO radio. So my mild disappointment stems from that relationship, while at the same time admitting that I have very little knowledge of the workings of a college basketball program or the reasonings behind the contract not being renewed.

Coach Alford is the Head Coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes, and for that I will comment on his team the same way that I have in the past; as honest as I know how to be. And since I do not have day to day working knowledge of what has gone on over there, I am not going to carry any ill feelings into the future of the program, not that I have many of those to begin with.

It appears that former Ball State Head Coach Tim Buckley may be joining the Iowa staff. He was an assistant for Tom Crean at Marquette.

The other rumored replacement is Billy Garrett, formerly an assistant at Seton Hall. Garrett was head coach at Providence St. Mel of the Chicago area for six years before entering the college coaching ranks. He played football for Illinois State and is a native of Indianapolis; his father was Indiana's Mr. Basketball in 1947.

Here's to hoping that Steve Alford's excitement about the direction of the program comes to fruition.


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