Dawgman.com: How did this all come about? Did you and coach Romar have a relationship prior to this?
T.J. Otzelberger: We did. We had known each other for 9 or 10 years from the recruiting trail. I think there's always been a mutual respect that's been in place and we've recruited some of the same players over time so we got to know each other that way. We've had a lot of mutual friends and I think that when coach Romar made some changes on the staff, I think that what he was looking for matched my skillset and some of the strengths that I've had, so then conversations initiated and things took off fairly quickly from there.
DMC: People are looking at you and one of the things you are known for is that you are a good recruiter and they're going, "how is a guy from Iowa State going to recruit to Washington?" But you have some connections on the west coast as well.
TJ: Yeah I do. Nine or ten years ago I spent some time in LA coaching for Pump n' Run basketball, one of the predominant AAU teams on the West coast. Also, at Iowa State I recruited the west coast the first three or four years and I was out there quite a bit. I think that for me, from a recruiting standpoint, the benefit will come and I think that I have strong relationships especially in southern California that hopefully we can utilize, but also from time to time be able to break off into the Midwest and some of those areas as well and see if we can't get involved with a player.
DMC: That was one of the concerns, "he doesn't know the west coast," but Husky fans can be rest assured that you have the recruiting ties on the west coast and recruiting is recruiting and it will be fine.
TJ: Yeah I agree. Recruiting is something that I think those relationships can translate. Obviously, it's nice to say that you are closely affiliated and that you have these close friends in these areas, but I think that if you're a people person and treat people the right way, over time those things will play to your favor in recruiting. We have a tremendous amount to sell here. Coach Romar is an phenomenal head coach, great character guy, coached a lot of NBA guys, won a lot of games, three Sweet 16's and Seattle is an unbelievable city so we have a lot to sell.
DMC: When you're a young coach, your reputation always comes first as a recruiter it seems like, but you're more than a recruiter. Tell people what kind of a coach you are.
TJ: I think since I've been at Iowa State, I've always been involved in the game planning. The last few years I've done all the pre-game scouting reports on opponents, so I've been quite involved in that part of the game. I think with coach Hoiberg coming from the NBA, my boss at Iowa State, he hadn't really worked in college so it gave me a chance to try some of the ideas I had to and have some influence on how we prepared for opponents so that's been a really big part of my job responsibility for the last four years at Iowa State.
DMC: If I were to watch you in practice or watch you at the games, are you more of a guy who sits on the bench and looks at things or are you more of a vocal guy?
TJ: I'm probably more of a calm guy. I think I fed off coach Hoiberg a little bit in that way and I think as an assistant, your job is to be what the head coach feels like you should be and also what the team needs you to be. I'd like to think that I can be adaptable to what is best suited, but I'm probably more by nature someone that is more cerebral than a "rah-rah" type of guy from feeling like you know what, when you're in the game, you've prepared for it, you've been in those situations that you need to keep the players calm and relaxed with a clear mind so they can go out and execute the game plan.
DMC: Being an assistant coach for UW is a very desirable position. Why did coach Romar hire you? What are your strengths?
TJ: I would say that my people skills and my ability to build relationships, whether that is with a recruit, with a program we need to recruit from, on campus or in the community. I think my greatest strength is being around people and being able to connect. I think from a player's standpoint, I am pretty strong at being able to build relationships with our players as well so I can help them with their development and help them grow as a player as well. And then from a basketball standpoint, coach has obviously been able to help them win a lot of games. He has got his system in place and it has worked for him. I think offensively, out of timeouts or in special situations, which are some areas we really focused on at Iowa State, he could call on me to provide some new ideas as well.
DMC: You have to give me a little bit of insight when you tell your wife, "hey, no disrespect to Ames, Iowa and Iowa State, but hey, we've got a chance to go to Seattle." What was your wife's reaction?
TJ: She was elated. You know, in this profession, there are so many things that are always changing. It is uncommon to be in the same place for eight years like I was at Iowa State, but with my wife, she played in the WNBA for the Seattle Storm, her family is in Australia so it is a much shorter flight, she loves the city, she has friends here, she was absolutely thrilled. Of all the scenarios that have been brought up over the last couple years, I could see when this one came up, she had a grin ear to ear and she was excited.
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