It's inaccurate to call this the "No-Name'' basketball team.
It's better to call it the "One-Name'' team.
"We've made sure the only name on our uniforms this year is ‘IOWA,''' Coach Steve Alford said today. "We need to learn what the University of Iowa means and the importance of putting that on your chest.
That's what happens after a season when the record was 19-16.
That's what happens after the team finishes 0-8 on the road in the Big Ten.
That's what happens when the players think they'll be playing in the NCAA tournament, but wind up playing and losing in the first round in the NIT.
That's what happens when the basketball season ends in March and fans can't wait for spring football practice to start in April.
That's what happens when four players who were expected to be part of the team bailed out for various reasons during the summer.
That's what happens when Pierre Pierce, who started 32 games last season, is booked on a third-degree sexual assault charge on the first day of October. He's suspended from the team.
That's what happens when Alford spends three days visiting Bobby Knight, his old college coach, in Lubbock, Texas. [Don't forget, Knight never permitted the players' names to appear on the back of their jerseys at Indiana or Texas Tech].
The players don't seem to mind that they won't be identified by their names on the uniforms.
"This is all about Iowa basketball, not about individuals,'' said 6-11 Jared Reiner, a junior center.
"We're a team and we're together,'' said freshman guard Jeff Horner.
Time will tell if the new attitude pays off.
But let's be realistic. With Pierce now in a personal and basketball no-man's-land, Alford is down to seven recruited scholarship players. An eighth, Josh Kimm, was recently given a scholarship.
The rest of the team will be made up of walk-ons. Alford has two now, and may add another one or two.
It would take someone smoking funny tobacco to think this team could finish anywhere but in the second division of the Big Ten. Maybe deep in the second division.
But Alford is trying to say the right things.
"This is, as basketball IQ goes, one of our smartest teams,'' he said. "If this team can stay healthy and focused, I think we have a chance to be competitive.
"I'm motivated, I'm challenged, I'm fired up about this season because I spent three days in Lubbock with a guy with whom I have an incredible amount of respect.''
About last season, Alford said, "I'm my own worst critic. I did it as a player and I'm doing it as a coach. We didn't communicate last season. The staff didn't communicate with the players. We got distracted.
We were 13-4 and things were going pretty smoothly, then we lost a couple of Big Ten games in a row. We started trying different things that weren't in our system."
Alford said his junior class "has seen the good and the bad. They saw the good two years ago in the championship year and the bad last year when they had high expectations and didn't meet them.
"Now, because of the combination of those things and distractions over the summer, they've seen the ugly. So there's a Clint Eastwood flavor of the good, the bad and the ugly. Now it's a matter of what they want to do.''
By "the championship year,'' Alford was referring to the Big Ten tournament title his team won two seasons ago.
He feels some critics "are trying to diminish'' that achievement, regarding it as something no bigger than winning a four-team tournament in December. "We're the winningest coaching staff in Big Ten tournament history,'' Alford said.
Horner, the 6-3 guard from Mason City who committed to Iowa when he was a 15-year-old high school freshman, said he is 90 percent recovered from the stress fracture in his right foot.
"It hurts a little bit after workouts,'' he said, "but I'll be back to normal soon.''
Horner called it "a dream come true'' that he's finally part of the Hawkeye program.
Kimm, a 6-1 junior guard from Norway, Ia., transferred to Iowa from Kansas State, where he was an occasional starter.
His dad is Bruce Kimm, who has managed the Iowa Cubs and the Chicago Cubs. He was elevated to Chicago this past summer, but wasn't retained when the team played no better under him than it did under Don Baylor.
"My dad is back home now,'' Kimm said. "He's been playing golf, hunting and fishing, and really enjoying it.
"He hasn't made any decisions on what he'll do next. He has some options. Maybe he could be in the big leagues, maybe back with the Iowa Cubs next season.''
Josh Kimm said he visited his dad a number of times when he was managing the Chicago Cubs.
"I went to Atlanta for his first couple of games,'' he said, "and also made trips to Colorado and St. Louis. At Wrigley Field, I sat on the Cubs' bench for two games at the end of the season, and they had a 2-0 record while I was there.''
Vol. 2, No. 74
Oct. 10, 2002
[Ron Maly's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org ]