DES MOINES, Iowa — After eight years at Iowa State, assistant men’s basketball coach T.J. Otzelberger said it was time for a new challenge.
Otzelberger is hoping his next move will be the last one before becoming a head coach.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar announced Tuesday that he had hired Otzelberger as an assistant, calling him a “tenacious recruiter.” Otzelberger told The Associated Press that Romar convinced him a move to Seattle would help him earn a head-coaching job someday.
Romar “really said ‘I look at you as somebody that’s on the brink of taking that next step,”’ Otzelberger said.
Otzelberger’s departure is the biggest blow that Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg’s staff has suffered in Hoiberg’s three seasons in Ames.
The 36-year-old Otzelberger had been with Iowa State since 2006, arriving with former head coach Greg McDermott. Otzelberger was promoted to associate head coach in 2010 under Hoiberg, who at the time cited Otzelberger’s presence as critical in rebuilding the program.
Though Otzelberger’s strength is recruiting, he also was responsible for Iowa State’s game plans over the past two seasons and he helped Hoiberg lead the Cyclones to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for the first time in 12 years.
“The way Fred approaches basketball is really creative,” Otzelberger said. “Fred also showed me a lot about believing in the guys and building their confidence.”
But Otzelberger was concerned that having NCAA Division I experience at only one school, Iowa State, would ultimately hurt his chances of landing a head coaching job. Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett and Seattle’s Cameron Dollar were both former assistants under Romar, and Otzelberger hopes he’ll soon join them as head coaches.
“I just felt like this was the next step in my progression,” Otzelberger said.
The Huskies have fallen short of the NCAA tournament in each of the past three seasons. Before that, Washington made the NCAAs three years in a row and reached the regional semifinals in 2010.