The interview took place on Monday, April 9th on The Jon Miller Show on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines. The program can also be heard online each day at www.kxno.com.
Q: You spent several years coaching at the high school level, and you weren't born with a silver spoon in your mouth. Your background reminds me a little bit of Lute Olson, a very successful coach at Iowa and obviously, at Arizona. Do you think all those years away from the limelight have made you a better coach, honing your skills at lower levels?
Todd Lickliter: Well first, I want to thank you for mentioning me in the same breath as Lute Olson. What a great coach. I have the utmost respect for him. I think not only coaching at the high schools but teaching there was helpful. It really drove you to learn how to communicate better and the only reason that you teach and coach at that level is because you have a great passion for the subject matter and young people. My father was a longtime high school coach and I saw all of the pleasure he derived from helping his student athletes. I never had a question as to what I was going to do in life, that was it. Fortunately for me, I was able to meet a lot of people through the years and I was able to secure a position in division one. I love this level, and I am thankful to be in it, but I do think that the early years, and some of the setbacks that you have and the different things that go on can be a real benefit as you are growing in this profession.
Q: I have been reading up on ‘The Butler Way', and the dedication to being a scholar and an athlete. How will that apply at Iowa, and what will the Iowa Way be?
Lickliter: One thing is that I want young men that want to be great at what they do. As I tell them, if you aspire to be a professional in basketball, that is great and we want to help you, but we want to help you do that as you earn a degree. We think that you can do two things real well; you can be a great player and a great student. For those people that are serious about that and they should take the privilege of earning a degree from the University of Iowa very seriously. What we try to do is emphasize it, help them prioritize and we encourage them every step of the way. The thing I am most proud of is that all but one of my seniors at Butler graduated, and he has assured me he is coming back and the guys that are coming back are on track to graduate next year. It's important to us and very doable, and not only doable, but it's a necessity. And as we recruit, that is what we are looking for.
Q: I spoke with one of your former co-workers from your days at Eastern Michigan, Chad Walthall from Loras, to get a Todd Lickliter 101 as far as your coaching acumen and style. He said that coaching is coaching and recruiting is recruiting, regardless of the level. Iowa State coach Greg McDermott came in last year with questions about his ability to recruit at the Big 12 level. I will ask you the same question as you are coming to the Big Ten level; is coaching, coaching? Is recruiting, recruiting?
Lickliter: I think so. I do think that what you have is that Iowa is going to afford us an opportunity to recruit a higher rated player. You still have to find people that you can project out that have potential that will improve for you. We were really able to do that at Butler. But we will not only recruit skilled players, but the right person that fits in and what we call has a team ego, that wants to advance the team and Iowa basketball, that knows there is more to life and the game than themselves. Those players are self motivated and want to improve. It's a balancing act. I don't think we will have a problem with that. I have been around the game quite a while and I think that I can spot someone who can play the game the way we want. Beyond that, as I learn about Iowa, I think it is a great sell and I think young people are going to be thrilled to be a part of this. Time will tell, but we were able to recruit young people to Butler University, a small, Division one team, 3,000 students and we were good enough to be ranked all year and finish 13th in the polls. If we can advance that a little bit, I think that we can be real competitive in the Big Ten and nationally.
Q: I watched your four games in the preseason NIT and those wins put Butler in the national conscience. We saw a style of basketball that is about fundamentals and executing, almost a little bit of Norman Dale from Hoosiers. Is that a brand of basketball that we will see at Iowa and have you given any thoughts of the application from the Horizon League to the Big Ten?
Lickliter: We have two guys from that league in the Big Ten in Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) and Thad Matta (Ohio State), and they have been successful. They haven't changed much of what they do, but personnel is key. I have been fortunate to have had skilled players who are tough, and that means doing what is right and making sacrifices. Then they have been very smart in the way they play. They know their strengths and their teammates strengths. We will not only encourage and insist on playing the game with a team vision. I think we can accomplish it. I believe that it's a brand that Hawkeye fans will embrace and enjoy and the other thing is, I have heard many times what a great arena this is and that our fans are second to none. I want to make this a tough place to play in. I was telling our players the other day that when we go on the road, we want to take care of business there so our fans are thrilled to have us back. There are a lot of factors, and I think they are all here. We just have to enhance them.
There is much more to this interview, such as why Coach Lickliter chose to leave Butler for Iowa, how he gets his teams to place such a high value on the basketball, if his age (51) and maturity can be a great bonus, how he is reacting to the attention that goes with being the head coach at Iowa, the transition that his family will have and more. You can download the podcast by clicking on THIS LINK. It's free, and you can listen to the entire 20:00 minute interview on your computer or mp3 player. The file you will download is in an mp3 format. Thanks to 1460 KXNO for granting us permission to transcribe a portion of this interview for our HawkeyeNation.com readers.