Four Big 12 basketball teams made head coaching changes for the 2021-22 season. Here, HeartlandCollegeSports.com grades each of the four new hires.
T.J. Otzelberger, Iowa State
Replacing: Steve Prohm.
Bio: Otzelberger was an ISU assistant under Greg McDermott, Fred Hoiberg and Steve Prohm before taking over at South Dakota State for the 2016-17 season. In three seasons coaching the Jackrabbits, he won 70 games, led them to two NCAA Tournament berths and one NIT berth. He took the job at UNLV before the 2019-20 season, where he won 29 games in two seasons, and led the Runnin’ Rebels to a tie for second place in the Mountain West Conference in 2019-20.
His offseason? ‘Otz’ protected Prohm’s one recruit, Tyrese Hunter, and got the Top 50 2021 recruit to honor his commitment to ISU. The Cyclones’ top three scorers from last season left via transfer, and Otz worked the transfer market to bring in a half-dozen new players, three of which averaged at least nine points per game a year ago. One, Izaiah Brockington, has NBA aspirations and had his name in the Draft queue until July. Otz spent most of the summer pressing the flesh, managing summer camps and generating whatever buzz he could around a program that won two games last season.
Hiring grade: C-plus. Athletic director Jamie Pollard brought in a coach with ISU ties, which makes the alums and boosters happy. There was some thought that Pollard would do an extended search, but he settled on Otz in just a few days. This is Otz’s is the first chance to lead a high-major program. He has yet to win in the NCAA or NIT Tournaments. He has a reputation as a talented recruiter, but can he coach at a high-major level? That’s the big question mark.
Offseason grade: B-minus. Given what Otz had to work with, grabbing Brockington, one of the Big Ten’s best scorers, along with two that averaged nearly 10 points last season, was a solid haul. Getting Hunter to come to Ames will be key to rebuilding the backcourt.
Porter Moser, Oklahoma
Replacing: Lon Kruger (retired).
Bio: In a near-20 year head-coaching career, Moser has won 293 career games and led Loyola-Chicago to a magical run to the Final Four in 2018. In 2021, he took the Ramblers back to the Sweet 16. Before L-C, Moser spent three seasons at Arkansas-Little Rock and four at Southern Illinois, but never led either team to the NCAA or NIT Tournament.
His offseason? Moser inherited a tumultuous situation. The majority of the Sooners that were in the program upon Kruger’s retirement either transferred or went pro. Moser brought in five transfers and a solid recruiting class, but much of it had to be done immediately after he arrived in Norman.
Hiring grade: B. Athletic director Jim Castiglione went out and hired one of the more proven mid-major coaches on the market, and one that probably knew his time to join a high-major program was now.
Offseason grade: B-minus. Managing to convince the Groves brothers — Jacob and Tanner — along with Duke’s Jordan Goldwire to join the Sooners could be key to keeping the team competitive in 2021-22. But there isn’t much in the way of holdover talent, and the Sooners could struggle initially. Moser won just seven games in his first year at Loyola-Chicago. I don’t think the season will go like that, but .500 could be somewhat challenging a competitive Big 12.
Chris Beard, Texas
Replacing: Shaka Smart (left for Marquette).
Bio: Beard has coached in Division I for six seasons, winning 142 games and leading the Texas Tech Red Raiders to the 2019 NCAA National Championship game against Virginia. Before that, Beard was a head coach at Division II Angelo State, Division III McMurry and a Red Raiders assistant under Bobby and Pat Knight. He is an alum of the University of Texas.
His offseason? Beard caused shock waves by leaving Lubbock for Austin, but once he arrived he basically owned the transfer market as he remade the Longhorns roster, as the Longhorns saw the majority of its roster either transfer or leaving for the NBA. Two key players he was able to keep were guards Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey (though Ramey didn’t announce his return until July after flirting with the NBA Draft).
Hiring grade: A. Athletic director Chris Del Conte not only got the coach he wanted, but the coach every Longhorn alum wanted. Even if he wasn’t a Texas-Ex, given Beard’s success at Tech, he would have been a primary candidate for the job anyway.
Offseason grade: A-minus. Beard brought in a ton of transfers. He recruited well for this season and next season. He kept Jones and Ramey in town. The only thing that would have made it an ‘A’ is if he could have managed to keep one of last season’s three frontcourt players — Greg Brown, Kai Jones or Jericho Sims — in Austin for one more season. But all three opted to turn pro. Beard’s biggest task this season will be rebuilding the Longhorns’ frontcourt.
Mark Adams, Texas Tech
Replacing: Chris Beard (left for Texas).
Bio: Adams has 544 career wins as a head coach, but he’s never been a head coach at a program like Texas Tech. He’s a West Texas lifer, having grown up about 45 minutes from Lubbock and owning a Texas Tech undergraduate degree. His one stint at a Division I school, UT-Rio Grande Valley (then Pan American) wasn’t great, as he went 44-90.
His offseason? Adams was the last new coach hired, so he got the latest start. It was too late to stop the stream of transfers out of the program, nor the jump of Mac McClung to the professional ranks. But Adams’ hiring basically brought Marcus Santos-Silva back from the transfer portal. Adams worked the transfer portal well, though most of the talent he brought in was from the low-major or mid-major level, but the players were productive. Getting Daniel Batcho from Arizona could be a real coup.
Hiring grade: B. Athletic director Kirby Hocutt promised a two-week search and it lasted five days. Tech fans were happy with the hire. But, at 65, he’s the oldest of the four new hires and he could be more of a stop gap hiring than the long-term answer.
Offseason grade: B. Initially, this grade was a C. But some late transfers helped boost it back up. That includes Bryson Williams (UTEP), who had 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds last year, and Kevin Obanor (Oral Roberts), who was part of that team’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 run. Keeping Santos-Silva from transferring is a nice feather in Adams’ cap. Adams probably got the most of this offseason that he could, but the program will take a step back, talent-wise. Don’t underestimate Adams or his coaching ability, though. His work as a junior college head coach — where he won a national championship at Howard College — makes him uniquely qualified to build a team with high turnover.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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