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Iowa State hires UNLV's T.J. Otzelberger to replace Steve Prohm as men's basketball coach

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DES MOINES — Iowa State has tabbed its next men's basketball coach.

T.J. Otzelberger, a former Cyclones assistant who just completed his second season as head coach at UNLV, has been hired to guide the Iowa State program back from one of its worst seasons in history, the university announced Thursday.

Otzelberger will take over for his former boss, Steve Prohm, who was fired Monday after six seasons with the Cyclones.

"There’s no athletic director in the country that can hire a coach and guarantee that coach is going to win," Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard said in a video statement produced and released by the school. "You can guarantee integrity. You can guarantee character. You can guarantee fit by doing due diligence. And in this particular case, TJ worked here for eight years.

"We know about his integrity. We know how he fits our culture. That really gave him a leg up."

Prohm led Iowa State to three NCAA tournaments, two Big 12 tournament titles and a Sweet 16, but faltered in his final four seasons, going 18-54 in Big 12 play, including an 0-18 mark this past season.

Iowa State finished the year 2-22 overall with a program-record 18-game losing streak. It was the first time they went winless in conference play since 1936-37.

Otzelberger has gone 29-30 overall and 20-6 in the Mountain West in two years at UNLV. Before joining the Runnin’ Rebels in 2019, Otzelberger helmed South Dakota State for three seasons. He led the Jackrabbits to two NCAA tournaments while winning the Summit League regular-season championship all three seasons during his tenure.

The 43-year-old coach came to Iowa State as an assistant under Greg McDermott in 2006, and he was elevated to associate head coach when Fred Hoiberg was hired to take over the program in 2010. Otzelberger left Iowa State in 2013 for a two-year stint as an assistant at Washington, but was hired back in the spring of 2015 by Hoiberg. Just months later, though, Hoiberg was hired by the Chicago Bulls, and Otzelberger was a leading contender to replace him.

Instead, Iowa State hired Murray State’s Prohm, who retained Otzelberger as an assistant for one season before he was hired by South Dakota State. Pollard, in his taped statement, cited Otzelberger's lack of head coaching experience as a factor.

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Iowa State coach Steve Prohm and assistant T.J. Otzelberger visit during a timeout against the Buffalo Bulls on Dec. 7, 2015.
Iowa State coach Steve Prohm and assistant T.J. Otzelberger visit during a timeout against the Buffalo Bulls on Dec. 7, 2015.

Even after leaving the program in 2016, Otzelberger has maintained a close relationship with Pollard, who often attended Jackrabbits games and posted frequently on social media about cheering on Otzelberger’s teams.

"If you combine his integrity, his recruiting experience, his knowledge of our culture and his experience as a head coach," Pollard said in his video, "with the fact that T.J. and (his wife, former Iowa State women's basketball star) Alison want to be at Iowa State, it became really obvious to us that T.J. Otzelberger was the perfect coach and the perfect fit for Iowa State University at this particular time."

How Iowa State navigates the finances of the coaching change remains to be seen.

The athletics department has reported a $25 million shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that was before firing Prohm, who is due a $5 million buyout. His 2020-21 salary was $2.4 million.

Otzelberger was slated to make $1.3 million next season with UNLV, and has a buyout of $3,412,500 million, according to the contract obtained by USA TODAY Sports in partnership with Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Contributing: Steve Berkowitz

Follow Travis Hines on Twitter @TravisHines21

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: College basketball: Iowa State hires former assistant T.J. Otzelberger