Lickliter to bring 'winning' brand of basketball to Iowa

Updated: April 4, 2007, 10:55 AM ET
Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa athletic director Gary Barta had no idea the man he was about to ask to be his new basketball coach had won a national coach of the year award the night before.

In three meetings with Iowa officials at the Final Four, Todd Lickliter never mentioned the honor. That show of humility cinched it for Barta, who moved quickly to bring the architect of Butler's recent success to Iowa.

Closer Look: Todd Lickliter's Record
Todd Lickliter

Todd Lickliter enjoyed great success in his six seasons at Butler and led the Bulldogs to the Sweet 16 twice (2003, 2007).

School Years Overall NCAAs
Butler 2002-07 131-61 4-2

"That told me a lot about the person we had been meeting with," Barta said.

The 51-year-old Lickliter was introduced as Iowa's coach Tuesday, having agreed on a seven-year deal worth $1.2 million annually.

Lickliter was 131-61 in six years at Butler, leading the Bulldogs to a pair of appearances in the NCAA Tournament's round of 16 and 29 wins last season. He takes over for Steve Alford, who left for New Mexico on March 23 after eight up-and-down seasons.

"I'm thrilled," Lickliter said. "It had to be an awfully good resume to catch Iowa's attention."

It's hard to escape the parallels between Lickliter's arrival and Alford's back in 1999. Both were Indiana-born, mid-major coaches who used an appearance in the NCAA Tournament run to the regional semifinals as a springboard to Iowa.

That's where the similarities end.

Lickliter worked as a high school coach in Indiana for well over a decade, even spending part of one season coaching in Saudi Arabia. He got back in college ball by taking a job as an administrative assistant under Barry Collier at Butler in 1996, and produced immediate results upon being elevated to head coach in 2001.

He led the Bulldogs to 26 wins and the Horizon League regular season title in his first season, then guided them to two NCAA Tournament victories as a No. 12 seed a year later.

This season, Lickliter and the Bulldogs proved early on they were too good to be considered underdogs.

Butler knocked off Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee and Gonzaga to win the NIT Season Tip-off championship and earn a spot in The Associated Press Top 25. Butler then beat Old Dominion and Maryland in this year's NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual national champions Florida.

For his efforts, Lickliter was honored as Division I Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

"I felt like I had a good job." Lickliter said. "I would not have left there unless it was a unique and special opportunity."

Iowa had initially turned to Tennessee's Bruce Pearl, who was an assistant with the Hawkeyes from 1986-92. The Hawkeyes received permission from Tennessee to formally interview Pearl, but Pearl quickly turned them down.

Lickliter is Barta's first major hire at Iowa since succeeding Bob Bowlsby, who left last summer to take the AD job at Stanford.

"I had a plan, and I'm very happy to say that the plan worked well," Barta said. "Everybody I was interested in already had a very good job."

Barta, who said the only offer he made was to Lickliter, is hoping the former Butler coach can jolt a program that sorely needs it. Asked what brand of basketball he planned to bring to Iowa, Lickliter said simply, "a winning" one.

"Our style is opportunistic. We want to seize opportunities. We want to attack with poise and great ball-handing. We're not concerned with tempo. We're going to take what's given to us," Lickliter said.

Iowa won just one NCAA Tournament game in eight seasons under Alford, whose tipping point at Iowa just may have been the desperation buzzer beater by Northwestern State's Jermaine Wallace that beat the third-seeded Hawkeyes in the first-round of the 2006 tournament.

Attendance has been on a steady decline at Carver-Hawkeye -- despite Iowa's 31-2 home record over the last two years -- as the relationship between Alford and Hawkeyes fans soured. Alford even hinted upon his arrival in New Mexico that Iowa favored football over basketball.

Lickliter dismissed that notion, adding that he was so excited about getting to Iowa his car is still in Atlanta.

"If Florida and Ohio State are football schools, I'll take that label," he said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press