Photo courtesy of South Dakota State University athletics.
DES MOINES — If you’re bored tonight and love college basketball, two former Iowa State assistant coaches will be going head-to-head at the Knapp Center.
Personally, I think this will be pretty cool.
Former Greg McDermott and Fred Hoiberg staffers Jeff Rutter (Drake) and T.J. Otzelberger (South Dakota State) spent close to a combined two decades roaming the sidelines of Hilton Coliseum together and are set to meet as head coaches for the first time.
Otzelberger, who also coached under Steve Prohm last season, has the Jackrabbits off to a 6-7 start in his first season as a head coach. South Dakota State has won five of its last six games, with the one loss coming to Northern Iowa on Dec. 7.
Rutter, who replaced Ray Giacoletti (who resigned) at Drake on Dec. 6, gave Iowa State a real scare on Saturday.
This is a relationship that goes way beyond their years at Iowa State though.
“It’s special,” Rutter said. “I had a chance to coach T.J. what seems like 100 years ago. Then we coached together for seven years.”
Rutter is referring to his time as the head coach at UW-Parkside (D-2), where he recruited Otzelberger.
“Jeff Rutter has been a mentor to me and someone that I have looked up to for over 20 years,” Otzelberger said. “I wouldn’t be in the position that I am in today if Jeff Rutter hadn’t taken an interest in me. He’s a phenomenal basketball coach but an even better man of character.”
There’s a lot of mutual respect between these former colleagues, who have are a big reason for Iowa State’s five straight NCAA Tournament berths.
“He is a hustler,” Rutter said. “He is an incredibly hard worker. He has paid his dues. I am happy that he has gotten the chance. That South Dakota State program is in great hands and they have bright days ahead. But we would love nothing more than to hand him a loss come Monday night.”
Tonight’s game tips off at 7 and will be televised on MC22.