WILLIAMS: Kicking the tires on P.J. Fleck; basketball observations

Friday was fairly quiet when it came to Iowa State’s football coaching search, other than the fact that Jamie Pollard was reportedly seen on a flight from Chicago to Detroit

Why Detroit? And why is Pollard zipping around the country flying commercial during a coaching search? 

Beats me.

It could be a number of things.

Perhaps Iowa State’s athletics director is flying from Detroit to Pittsburgh for Saturday morning’s game at West Virginia?

I’d say that’s doubtful.

Maybe it is to interview Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck, Toledo head coach Matt Campbell, or both of them. Perhaps an additional like Bowling Green’s Dino Babers will meet Pollard there too?

Considering we think we know whom a handful of the candidates are and where they are coaching, the center of the MAC universe makes sense for interviews.

I’ll be surprised if Pollard makes it to Morgantown because he knows how urgent making this hire in a timely fashion is for two main reasons, recruiting and competition.  

I feel like Friday was the first time that we got a glimpse of just how competitive this market is going to be for Iowa State. Watching Fleck’s team beat Campbell’s by a 35-30 final was a good example.

In a normal year, Iowa State would have a GOOD chance to land either one of those guys. But Campbell is reportedly interviewing with Missouri and trust me when I write that he will take the Missouri job over Iowa State any day if he has the chance. (Have you guys watched any SEC East football lately?) 

Fleck’s name is being tossed around with a number of other jobs as well. 

Been thinking a lot about Fleck

The trademark play from the Western Michigan/Toledo games was when Fleck called a fake PAT to put Western Michigan up 8-0 early in the contest. It was at that point when my Twitter feed blew up with folks wanting to “row the boat.” 

(If you don’t know what that means, I highly suggest CLICKING HERE and reading this)

Funny story about P.J. Fleck: Brent Blum, a frequent contributor to CF, was over at my house the Friday night of college football’s opening weekend. We were having beers while watching some bad non-conference football when he pointed out a charismatic young coach at Western Michigan. That was the first time that Fleck, age 34, ever came onto my radar. Because of that night, I’ve quietly observed Fleck all year and I would be a total hypocrite if I didn’t like this option for Iowa State.

My biggest gripe with Rhoads over the years had way more to do with the branding of the program than anything on the field because let’s face it, hardly anyone has won consistently at Iowa State.    

My big beef was always this: If you are a Big 12 football coach who heavily recruits Texas while being stationed in the northern post of the Big 12, why would you not be on Twitter? Why would you not use this very important branding tool to your advantage? Iowa State isn’t Baylor, who can send every assistant on staff out to a game on Friday nights to cover hundreds of potential recruits. 

This never made any sense to me.

Fleck is the polar opposite. He is an animal on social media.

If he eventually is the guy, I’ll guarantee you that “Smoke on the Water” will never be played in Jack Trice Stadium again. We’re talking about a guy who installed a DJ booth at Western Michigan’s stadium to amp up the atmosphere and make it more youthful. He’s hip. As the rankings prove (Fleck’s 2016 class is currently ranked 56th nationally by compared to Iowa State’s at 91), he’s a hell of a recruiter. 

You don’t hire Big 12 football coaches because of their taste in music though.

Can P.J. Fleck coach? 

I honestly don’t know the answer to that. 

He is a fiery guy though and if this video tells us anything, he would expect a culture change in Ames. 

What does Iowa State want?

Here’s what makes this search so interesting. 

There are other names out there – Toledo’s Matt Campbell and Northern Illinois head man Rod Carey – who we know we can coach because they have consistently won.

He hasn’t had much of a chance to prove himself at the FBS level, but Lance Leipold’s track record (six NCAA Division III championships) strictly as a football coach speaks for itself.

Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo is legit.

These guys are all more proven commodities at their level but also probably lack the upside of Fleck. 

— I’m seeing two reactions to fans about Fleck, whose team went 7-5 this season. You guys seem to be super jacked up about him or there is also the “all flash, no substance” crowd.

Fleck seems to fit the Jamie Pollard profile. He’s an up and comer with head coaching experience. It would be much more of a splash than a guy like Rod Carey. The Iowa State marketing department would do wonders with P.J. Fleck.

And I’d also make the point that he took over a program that went 4-8 and was going downhill fast. Fleck’s first team went 1-11 and improved to 8-5 in year two. Of course, the Broncos finished 2015 at 7-5 and will go bowling for the second year in a row.

Personally, I think that Iowa State could do a lot worse.

However, he’s only 34 years old, which I’m guessing is a sticky point for Pollard.

The option in the Big 12

I had a conversation with a very smart football guy last night who has major concerns about Iowa State moving to an option scheme with its new coach should that be a guy like Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo.

His concern came from the amount of points that are generally scored in the Big 12. 

“What happens if you get behind by a couple of scores early,” he said.

The source went on to point out that it works for a program like Georgia Tech because Paul Johnson’s team usually only needs 30 points or so to win games in the ACC. We all know that isn’t the case in the Big 12.

However, I could make an argument that if you implement the scheme well enough, you would control the ball enough to neutralize the Baylor’s of the world.

Regardless, it was an interesting take from somebody I really respect and I thought I would share it with you guys. 

Cyclones route Virginia Tech, will face Illinois on Saturday 

Man alive, the 4th ranked (I love writing that) Cyclones were on fire Friday night.

For 30 minutes or so, Iowa State put on an offensive clinic (making 13-of-21 3-pointers) in a 99-77 rout over Virginia Tech. 

For a complete recap, CLICK HERE to view Rob Gray’s piece

A couple of quick observations from me and then I’m going to get out of here. 

1 – Iowa State was leading an ACC team by 30 with 12 minutes to go. Virginia Tech isn’t very good, but those are still high-major bodies that were defending the Cyclones. Dropping 99 against Chicago State is expected. Dropping 99 against an ACC team is impressive.

2 – I loved Hallice Cooke’s game tonight. The Oregon State transfer went 3-for-4 from 3-point range and you can just see his confidence building each and every game. That’s big too with Deonte Burton becoming eligible to play in a few weeks. Sure, the Cyclones will be deeper but will Prohm want to go eight deep consistently? It’s good for Cooke to show that he is capable before Burton is around. It’s good for everybody. 

3 – Another tip of the hat to Abdel Nader. He had 16 and 11 vs. Virginia Tech, which leads me to this question: Has he been Iowa State’s most valuable player so far this season? 

Cheers to you and yours.

It will be another busy day on Saturday.

I don’t know about you guys but for three hours, I’m going to focus on the actual football game and let the coaching search take care of itself.

I think we all owe that to Coach Rhoads, his staff and the seniors who will wear the colors for the final time.