Nobody wanted to see Matt Abdelmassih go.
The former Cyclone and now St. John’s assistant has a contagious personality. Anybody who has ever met the man has liked him – hence why he could recruit like Fred Hoiberg shoots free throws.
The same can be said about one of Abdelmassih’s mentors along the way, T.J. Otzelberger. It was announced on Wednesday that “Coach T.J.” is returning to Hoiberg’s staff after a two-year stint at Washington.
Otzelberger’s significance when it comes to the success of the Hoiberg era is irrefutable. He was the bridge between the McDermott and Hoiberg regimes, which might not seem like much but think about it this way: Would Melvin Ejim, one of the most important players in Iowa State’s basketball resurgence, have kept his commitment to the good guys without Otzelberger’s place on Hoiberg’s staff?
Maybe. Maybe not. But Otz being in town was vitally important there and that’s just one example.
Throughout his years eight years in Ames, Otzelberger has been at least partly responsible for bring the following men on board: Craig Brackins, Diante Garrett, Scott Christopherson, Melvin Ejim, Naz Long, Georges Niang and Matt Thomas.
And here’s the thing. Recruiting to Iowa State is a complex deal.
Ames isn’t exactly a destination location for 18-year olds, most of whom who have never seen a cornfield in their lives. When a coach doesn’t want to be here and is simply using Iowa State as a stepladder to his next gig, prospects can and do see right through that.
When Otzleberger left two years ago, he was newly married (to one of the greatest Iowa State women’s basketball players of all-time, Alison Lacey) and had one simple goal of someday becoming a head coach on his mind. That hasn’t changed. Of course he still wants to lead a program someday. Why wouldn’t he? But after the birth of his four-month old twins Jayce and Olivia, his perspective on life has taken a welcomed detour.
Abdelmassih gets to go home and live his dream.
Hoiberg gets the man back who he originally hired as his associate head coach.
And Otzelberger, a Wisconsin native, is returning to the place that he now calls home and has an unrivaled passion for.
Everybody wins here, and there’s no April Fools asterisk hidden in that statement.
Today is a great day to be a Cyclone.