New Chicago Bulls head basketball coach Fred Hoiberg speaks during a news conference, Friday, June 5, 2015, at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Hoiberg coached at Iowa State for the past five seasons. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall
June 05, 2015

AMES, Iowa (AP) Former Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg on Friday dismissed the idea that he recently rehired top assistant T.J. Otzelberger to be his eventual successor.

But Hoiberg thinks Otzelberger will make a great coach someday.

Whether that opportunity comes with the Cyclones next season should be known soon.

Otzelberger is expected to be the top in-house candidate to replace Hoiberg, who took over the NBA's Chicago Bulls on Monday.

''I brought T.J. back because of the great amount of respect that I had for him, and the great job that he did here for me when I was early in my career,'' Hoiberg said Friday at a farewell news conference in Ames. ''I have no doubt in my mind that T.J. will be a terrific coach. But (athletic director) Jamie (Pollard) is the guy that I'm confident will make the right hire.''

The speculation regarding Hoiberg's replacement has dominated the conversation in Iowa in recent days. Since Otzelberger is the only obvious candidate so far - at least publicly - his name has been discussed constantly by Cyclones fans who wonder if he's ready.

Even though he's never been a head coach, Otzelberger has certainly had a lot to do with Iowa State's success in recent years.

Otzelberger, 37, originally came to Iowa State in 2006 with former coach Greg McDermott.

The Cyclones never broke through under McDermott, who bolted for Creighton after four underwhelming seasons. But they always had talent thanks largely to Otzelberger, who helped bring in future NBA players like Mike Taylor, Craig Brackins and Wesley Johnson.

Hoiberg kept Otzelberger on when he was hired in 2010, and Otzelberger kept the talent pipeline flowing with guys like Will Clyburn and Melvin Ejim, the Big 12's Player of the Year in 2014. Otzelberger was also in charge of scouting opponents and implementing game plans.

Otzelberger left to become the associate head coach at Washington in hopes of moving closer to a head coaching job.

He was there for two seasons - helping the Huskies land a top-10 recruiting class in 2015 - but he and his wife Allison Lacey, perhaps the best women's basketball player Iowa State has ever had, jumped at the chance to return to Ames.

Though Hoiberg stopped short of endorsing Otzelberger specifically for the job, he did have a lot of nice things to say about arguably the most important assistant of his five years at Iowa State.

''I think T.J.'s got a lot of great qualities to him. He's energetic. He's young. He's an excellent recruiter. I think he's a very good X's and O's coach,'' Hoiberg said. ''That's part of the search, and I'm sure that's something that's going to go through Jamie's mind...it's happened before with guys with no experience. But again I'm going to go back to the fact that I'm 100 percent confident that Jamie Pollard and (school president) Steven Leath will make the right choice.''

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Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

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