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Otzelberger burns UNLV for return to Iowa State

Not even a full two years since its last head coaching hire, the UNLV men’s basketball program is looking for a new one.

It was recently announced that current head coach TJ Otzelberger has opted to leave the program for the same position at Iowa State.

News was broken by Sam Gordon of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The deal is a reported five years with incentives.

“These decisions are never easy,” Otzelberger said. “But [his wife] Allison and I are excited to return to Iowa State where we started our family and spent so many formative years.”

Otzelberger leaves UNLV with a 29-30 overall record over the last two seasons.

“I want to thank our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans for a memorable two years at UNLV and in the Las Vegas community,” he said. “I especially want to thank [UNLV Athletic Director] Desiree Reed-Francois for providing me with the incredible honor of leading the Runnin’ Rebels.”

In March 2019, Otzelberger signed a five-year, $6.5 million contract with an increase of $100,000 annually.

Prior to taking the Runnin’ Rebels job, he went 70-33 in three seasons as the head coach for the South Dakota Jackrabbits.

“When our coaches are being pursued by others, it is a testament to what we are building,” Reed-Francois said. “We appreciate Coach Otzelberger’s contributions to our men’s basketball program and we wish [him] and his family all the best as they continue their journey.”

During that time at SDSU, Otzelberger reached the NCAA tournament twice and the NIT once.

However, the move means a return to Ames for Otzelberger for a third stint in gold and cardinal.

He served as an assistant coach under Greg McDermott from 2006-10, going 66-68.

From 2010-13 under Fred Hoiberg, Otzelberger served as Associate Head Coach posting a 64-39 record.

Following the hiring, Hoiberg told Iowa State Athletic Director, Jamie Pollard,

Most recently, he went 23-12 as an assistant to Steve Prohm in 2015-16.

In the two years Otzelberger has been a member of the Runnin’ Rebels, the Cyclones have gone 14-42.

Earlier this week, Prohm was fired after serving six years with Iowa State.

This season, the program went 2-22 overall and 0-18 in the Big 12 conference, including losing 18 straight to close the year.

"He is a natural leader who understands how to recruit to Iowa State, values our department's culture of doing things the right way, and employs a work ethic that rivals anyone in this business," Pollard told ESPN. "The success and challenges he experienced at South Dakota State and UNLV prepared him to lead our program back to national prominence."

Though it’s early, Steve Lavin, Rick Pitino and Mike Woodson have all been named as possible replacements for Otzelberger.

Current assistant Kevin Kruger has also been named as a potential replacement.

Whoever becomes the next coach will become the fifth head coach for the program in the last seven years including Todd Simon’s interim run in 2016.

In addition, the next coach will be the 14th head coach since legendary Jerry Tarkanian coached his last game at UNLV 29 years ago.

According to an email from the UNLV Athletics Department, “a national search for Otzelberger’s replacement will commence immediately.”


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