Hard Questions Start for Lickliter On Return

Todd Lickliter returned to practice this week following a surgery earlier this month. During his first in-person interview with the media on Thursday he was asked about players transferring. It might just be the beginning for the coach of a young, struggling Hawkeye squad.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - After the niceties were completed, the gloves came off a bit at Todd Lickliter's press conference here on Thursday afternoon. Following questions about his health and some housekeeping matters , the Iowa coach was asked about rumors floating around that some players were considering a transfer.

Lickliter, who held his first in-person media meeting since having surgery on Dec. 5, wasn't thrilled with the line of questioning, which went like this:

Reporter: There was a posting on a message board yesterday (Wednesday) that a few of your current players were contemplating transferring. Has any of your guys talked to you about that?

Lickliter: Was that a pretty reliable source?

Reporter and coach stumble through a few quick exchanges.

Lickliter: I just wonder who signed (wrote) it.

Lickliter and reporter stumble through a few more sentences.

Reporter: Yeah, I don't read message boards, either. I'm asking you.

Lickliter: You're asking me to comment on a message board post?

Reporter: I'm asking if any of your players have talked to you or hinted to you if they are considering transferring at the end of the semester.

Lickliter: You know, if they had, I don't think that it would be acceptable for me to announce it. But, no, this is the first I've heard of it. I usually don't comment unless somebody signs their name to something (an article with on-record source(s)).

The press conference fell eerily silent as the air from that balloon escaped the room. There would be one more, non-related question, but for all intents and purposes, that puppy was over.

It's probably fair to say that a program with a head coaching making more than a million dollars a year would be under a microscope. Healthy or ailing, the tough questions will come.

Fair or not, rumor mongering will run more rampant when times are troubled. And, fair or not, reporters will ask the questions - let Kirk Ferentz tell you what it was like two years ago.

I'm not saying one way or the other if guys will leave. Unless they or someone close to the program tells me they‘re gone, I'm not going down that road. How hard is it to start a rumor about someone transferring when a team sits at 3-7?

Jarryd Cole was asked on Thursday if any of his teammates had spoken to him about transferring. The junior captain said he had not.

Anthony Tucker, Cully Payne and Brennan Cougill also seemed upbeat on Thursday. They weren't running around giving high fives, but they also weren't wearing masks of embarrassment.

Of course, the good moods could be related to finals ending tomorrow. That means nothing but hoops for the next month plus. These guys can kick up their feet a bit in terms of academics.

Tucker was asked about the team camaraderie and if the guys were sticking together during a difficult time. Seven losses this season are more than some of these guys suffered through in a high school season. It's been 10 games.

"I think it's because we're young," Tucker said. "We have guys that are still learning. It's not like everyone knows what to do and are incapable of doing it. There's guys that are still learning what to do and still trying to figure out the system.

"We have to stick together. And the guys that have done it before have to help out the younger guys so that we can all get on the same page."

Here's the thing for me with the Tucker rumor. This is the same kid that stood in the room with Matt Gatens in support of Lickliter at the press conference announcing that four players were transferring out last spring. (to my grammatically stringent friends, long sentence, sorry).

Lickiter afforded Tucker a second chance and third chance after the Minnesota native slipped up as a freshman last winter. Tucker was arrested for public intoxication last December. Later in that month, he was ruled academically ineligible for the second semester.

I'm not saying Tucker definitely is staying, but he's been nothing but complimentary toward Lickliter since her served his time (no, he wasn't in jail).

I've also heard Aaron Fuller's name.

Maybe, but he's been hurt. He tried coming back against Texas and re-injured himself. Yes, he hasn't received the minutes he expected before the season, but he's not in the coach's doghouse. In addition, I saw him running around with John Lickliter a lot last year and he has always seemed happy at Iowa.

The third name out there is Andrew Brommer's. The little used sophomore from Minnesota might jet, but he also could stay for four years and get a solid education. He does very well in the classroom.

I asked Cole about the team moral with the losing, and he didn't sound like a guy surprised about the struggles.

"This is the highest level of basketball you can play and it's not going to be easy," the captain said. "(The young players) knew that coming in. They knew the consequences of it and they knew they were going to have to contribute and step up.

"I think they've done it pretty well. They've taken our failings pretty well. They'll take the success well, also."

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