South Dakota State Hires Iowa State Assistant T.J. Otzelberger as Men’s Basketball Coach
Depending on who you ask, the naming of T.J. Otzelberger as South Dakota State's new men's basketball coach was either a quick process or was years in the making.
It took SDSU less than a month to find a new coach, landing a man who's been waiting years for his first head coaching job, despite being considered one of the top coaching prospects in college basketball.
Otzelberger, most recently an assistant at Iowa State, was officially introduced at a press conference inside Frost Arena Thursday afternoon. He becomes the 21st men's basketball coach in school history, filling the void left when Scott Nagy left after 21 seasons to take over at Wright State earlier this month.
Otzelberger, a 38-year old native of Milwaukee, has been on the Cyclones staff for eight years overall. The first seven of those years came from 2006 to 2013, before leaving to become associate head coach at Washington for two seasons. At the time, Otzelberger said he made the move to Seattle in the hopes that adding a position at a second Division I school to his resume' would expedite his chances of landing a head coaching job.
After the 2014-15 season, Otzelberger agreed to return to Ames to re-join Fred Hoiberg's staff, but shortly after that, Hoiberg was hired as head coach of the NBA's Chicago Bulls. Otzelberger then applied for the ISU head coaching job, losing out to Murray State head coach Steve Prohm. Prohm eventually convinced Otzelberger to join his staff, and made him the Cyclones highest paid assistant, with an annual salary of $285,000.
Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar calls Otzelberger a 'tenacious recruiter', and in May two years ago, Otzelberger was named as one of ESPN's 'Top Head Coaching Candidates'. He has no college head coaching experience, but was the head coach at Central Catholic High School in Burlington, Wisconsin for the 2003-04 season. He played college basketball at Division III's University of Wisconsin - Whitewater.
Otzelberger almost wasn't available to take the South Dakota State job. Earlier this month, he was a finalist for the heading coaching job in his hometown, at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.
According to Milwaukee radio station WTMJ, Otzelberger was told by UWM athletic director Amanda Braun that he was going to be hired. Otzelberger even got the OK from the school to drive his family to Milwaukee for an introductory press conference. But according to WTMJ, before that could happen, UWM chancellor Mark Mone overruled the decision, and the Panthers hired Michigan assistant coach LaVall Jordan.
There may be a racial component to the story. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently reported that the Wisconsin - Milwaukee athletic department has been criticized by state officials for a lack of diversity. Rob Jeter, who was fired by UWM after 11 seasons, is African-American, as is Jordan, his replacement.
At South Dakota State, Otzelberger takes over a program that has played in the NCAA Tournament three times in the last five seasons, won 20 or more games in four of the last five seasons, and shared the Summit League regular season championship three times in the last four years.
The Jackrabbits return All-Summit League forward Mike Daum next season. As a redshirt freshman, Daum was the conference's Sixth Man of the Year and Freshman of the Year after averaging 17 points per league game and ranking third in field goal percentage (59%) and fourth in rebounding (7 per game).
Reed Tellinghuisen and Ian Theisen each started 34 games as sophomores. Tellinghuisen averaged nine points and five rebounds a game, Theisen six points and three rebounds per game.