Thus ended a wild 10-day ride for Hawkeye Nation. To be honest, it was unlike anything I have ever experienced before, from a news standpoint…and even from a ‘lack of hard news' standpoint.
Now, the speculation ends and the ‘get to know you' period will begin. It's already begun on the HawkeyeNation.com message boards, and fans are weighing with their thoughts on Athletic Director Gary Barta's decision, the first major decision of his tenure at Iowa.
Lickliter has a solid resume. He has taken Butler to two Sweet 16 appearances. Prior to the start of this season, one that saw Butler win 29 games, including wins against NCAA tourney qualifiers Indiana, Notre Dame, Gonzaga, Tennessee, Purdue, Old Dominion and Maryland, Butler was picked to finish 6th in the Horizon League. They wound up winning the regular season championship.
Lickliter has a 131-61 record in six years at Butler. They earned a #5 seed in this year's Big Dance. This year's Butler team was the first in Horizon League history to break into the Top 10 in the AP Poll, and Lickliter is the first coach in league history to earn Coach of the Year honors from the NABC, which is the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Lickliter had an extensive history at Butler, having played for the Bulldogs in the late 1970's. He began his coaching career there in 1988 as an assistant. He then went to the high school ranks before returning to Butler as an assistant in 1996 before taking an assistant position at Eastern Michigan in 1997. He was named head coach at Butler in 2001, after having come back to Butler in 1999 as an assistant to Barry Collier and then to Thad Matta.
The people that I spoke with tonight about Lickliter told me that he is a very good X's and O's coach, a direct coach whose players know where stand at all times.
The people that I spoke with also believe that whom Lickliter chooses as his assistants will be very, very important to his success in Iowa City.
Recruiting has been and always will be one of the most challenging aspects for the coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Lute Olson did a very good job of that in the mid to late 1970's and early 1980's. George Raveling was an exceptional recruiter. Tom Davis was not as strong as Raveling, and he was able to put up some impressive win totals because his system allowed his teams to be greater than the sum of their parts.
Some people will argue that recruiting was the downfall of the Davis era at Iowa.
Steve Alford had a couple of nationally respected recruited classes, but was not able to build the type of team chemistry needed to rise above some of the recruiting deficiencies that existed on his teams.
At Butler, Lickliter has not had to go head to head against Big Ten teams for his players. Butler is a private school, and they do things there ‘The Butler Way'. The Butler way is about being solid citizens, scholars and athletes.
That worked quite well in the Horizon League, as Butler has had a very strong tradition. Lickliter didn't turn around a moribund program at Butler, either. He inherited a pretty solid club from Thad Matta and Barry Collier. But in year's five and six of the Lickliter era, his last two years, his teams made it to the Sweet 16, and Mattta's players were long gone.
Did Gary Barta make the splash that some people were hoping he would make with this hire? On a national level, no.
What did Barta tell us that he was going to do? Here are some highlights of what he told the media back on March 23rd:
Barta said that he is looking for someone with "significant" coaching experience and although he wouldn't rule out an associate head coach or top assistant, he is looking for someone with head coaching under his belt.
Barta said that the most important thing in his search will be finding someone that fits in at Iowa and the culture here. He's looking for a winner that's competitive academically with the leadership to develop young men and a person to represent the university in a first-class manner and with integrity in any setting.
Lickliter meets the criteria that Barta set. Everyone I spoke with had nothing but very positive things to say about Lickliter and how he conducts himself as the head of a basketball program. Some people wondered how he would acquit himself on the I-Club circuit, but we can make such judgments another time. No one I spoke with suggested that Lickliter was aloof, which is what we heard about Rick Majerus and what some people said about Dana Altman.
Iowa just needs someone that is a hard worker, someone that is a very good X's and O's guy, and someone that can build a staff that as a whole can recruit the type of players he needs to execute his system, and execute that system on the Big Ten level.
Over the course of the next several days and weeks, we will hear and read all kinds of opinions on Todd Lickliter. We'll hear and read all kinds of opinions on Gary Barta's decision, one that will define his career as Iowa's Athletic Director.
Later today, we'll hear from Todd Lickliter, the Head Coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes, at 5:00pm. He leaves a relatively stocked cupboard at Butler, a squad that returns 75 percent of this season's points and 59 percent of the rebounds.
He saw something in Iowa, and Iowa saw something it him. It will be interesting to hear just what those things were, from both sides.
NOTE: The public is invited to a pep rally in Carver Hawkeye Arena to meet the new coach at 6pm on Wednesday. The North, South and West Entrances of the arena will open at 4:30 p.m. and the press conference will be broadcast live on the videowalls inside the arena.