IOWA CITY — Few people can gauge a basketball program’s needs more than its ex-players.
That holds true at Iowa. If you meet a former Hawkeye, you know they’ll have an opinion about the ongoing coaching search. To no one’s surprise, playing style and personality are two traits that are important to them.
Mike Henderson finished his Iowa playing career in 2007 and would like to see Iowa return to an up-tempo style of play, like he enjoyed in mid-decade. He hopes the next coach’s personality reflects that style of play as well.
“Just an outgoing guy, a guy who’s going to work the sidelines with the players, and definitely be a motivational speaker-type of guy,” said Henderson, who completed his college career in Steve Alford’s final season as coach and lives in Waterloo. “A coach that’s young enough that can almost get out there and compete. That was the one thing with Alford that really inspired us.”
Iowa fired Todd Lickliter on Monday after three seasons as coach. Lickliter compiled a 38-58 record, including a school-record 22 losses this season.
Kenyon Murray played at Iowa under Tom Davis in the 1990s and now serves as an analyst with the Big Ten Network, He said the next coach’s style of play needs to adapt with the opponent.
“I think you’ve got to have somebody who’s got a variety of styles because in the Big Ten you have to win in different ways,” said Murray, who lives in Cedar Rapids. “There’s going to be days when you’ve got to slow it down and be methodical … but if you’ve got a team like an Ohio State or a Michigan State that can get up and down, you’ve got to be able to play that way, too.”
“I think what we need is somebody that’s very, very adaptable and can put together a roster that can play a multitude of different ways.”
Under Lickliter, Iowa played a deliberate offensive style that moved the ball around the perimeter and searched for the right shot. But it didn’t translate into success. Iowa finished last in the Big Ten in scoring, field-goal percentage and scoring margin.
Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta was asked Monday if a prospective coach needs to change the team’s style of play to be considered.
“That’s making an assumption that Todd’s style of play was not entertaining,” Barta said. “I don’t agree with that. I do agree that we haven’t been exciting to watch, especially this past season. We’ve had moments, but we haven’t had consistency.”
Public relations also is an important part of the job, Henderson and Murray said. Henderson described Lickliter as a “genuine guy” in his interactions with the former coach. But he also felt like there was an intentional “border” between former players and the program under Lickliter.
Murray said interacting with the public should be a prerequisite as well.
“I think it’s very, very important that we have somebody who’s very public relations-oriented,” Murray said. “The reality of the whole situation is that it is a business. It’s not only coaching basketball and developing players and recruiting, but it’s also being the public face of the basketball program and a big part of that is the I-Club circuit and speaking engagements. We do have to have somebody who wants to do that and wants to be out there.”