Men's basketball Head Coach T.J. Otzelberger joined Jon Rothstein's podcast College Hoops Today on Monday and gave some of his thoughts on his upcoming season and future at Iowa State.
The 43-year-old agreed to a five-year contract this past spring after recently coaching at South Dakota State and UNLV. He served two stints as an Iowa State assistant under all three of the past head coaches before him. He has made his return to Iowa State and is looking to right the ship in the coming years.
“Iowa State means the world to me, my wife played here, we even met at Iowa State," Otzelberger said to Rothstein. “I was certainly excited to get the call. There are certain places that are special to you."
Otzelberger will face six coaches in the Big 12 who have appeared in a Final Four in the coming season.
“It’s an honor, you know, there’s a lot of Hall of Famers in this league," Otzelberger said. "Some I have respect for, some I have learned from, and I couldn’t have a higher opinion of those coaches. You want to compete against the best, and doing that will make you work harder.”
The Cyclones returned six players from their roster last year and added highly talented freshman Tyrese Hunter. Iowa State has six transfers coming in as well.
Otzelberger went out and made moves to bring in some of these transfers, including some defensive-minded players like Gabe Kalscheur from Minnesota, Izaiah Brockington from Penn State and Robert Jones from Denver.
“I really like the group we assembled," Otzelberger said. "You gotta have depth, compete on the glass and a physical mentality to win in the Big 12. Gabe Kalscheur and Izaiah Brockington, those two guys have already proven that they can be production guys."
The last three champions have all had great defenses and could switch one through five. Villanova, Virginia and Baylor were great defensive teams, and it seems Otzelberger is pursuing that same play style. Iowa State will face Creighton on Dec. 4, which is where Otzelberger will face good friend and mentor Greg McDermott.
“Its a tough situation," Otzelberger said. "Greg is a mentor and one of my best friends. I hate that we have to play a game where one of us has to take a loss. However, it's an exciting opportunity for both fan bases, just a couple hours down the road."
Otzelberger was an assistant under McDermott from 2006-10. With these two friends facing off, fans may tend to wonder if another matchup between an old Iowa State coach in Fred Hoiberg is in the future.
“That’s something at this point that Fred and I haven’t discussed,” Otzelberger explained to Rothstein. “We want to have rivalry games with teams that are local so the travel isn’t as far and there’s exciting opportunities for our fans. That’s something that as time moves forward, if the schedule lines up the right way, it works for them and it works for us, it’s certainly something we’d be open to.”
Otzelberger is excited for this chapter of his life, and Cyclone fans are sharing his excitement.