As Iowa State’s seasons spiraled into an 2-22 disaster, Desiree Reed-Francois was watching, knowing she might lose her basketball coach to his dream job.
T.J. Otzelberger had spent eight seasons as an assistant at Iowa State and maintained a close relationship with the Cyclones athletic director Jamie Pollard.
“He met his wife out at Iowa State. She’s an incredibly decorated women’s basketball player there. She’s in their hall of fame. That’s a special place for him. As I was watching Iowa State’s season and the results, I was paying a lot of attention. I spoke with T.J. about it several times. We had a lot of conversations in earnest and he was very transparent. It was very clear to him that this was a heart move. If that were to come his way that was going to be a hard one for him to turn down because of how much Iowa State meant to his family,” Reed-Francois said to Cofield and Company on ESPN Las Vegas.
(Listen to the full interview here.)
When Iowa State fired Steve Prohm and offered the job to Otzelberger last week, he took it. But it didn’t catch Reed-Francois by surprise. She said she had a conversation with her husband back in February (around her anniversary on February 16) about Otzelberger potentially ditching Las Vegas.
As a quick pat on the back to myself, this story on Iowa State fans wanting Otzelberger was published on February 14. I am honored to know I can influence Reed-Francois’ anniversary dinner conversations.
But that means UNLV did not simply spend a few days searching for a coach.
“We were able to get really, really prepared and start vetting candidates before we had an opening. So, then you could do a lot of watching and a lot of analysis before you were really under the gun,” Reed-Francois said.
Now she did not detail how early they started vetting candidates. Was it as early as February? Or later in March? But she did reveal they had 14-17 candidates and started interviewing on Thursday just a few hours after Otzelberger officially resigned.
The process led UNLV to Kevin Kruger and a $3.36 million buyout.
“We did have a nice buyout that was able to ease some of our heartache,” Reed-Francois said.
We also may have gotten a scheduling hint from Reed-Francois, who cut herself off before disclosing some secret.
“I appreciate what T.J. did while he was here. I wish him the absolute best with his new team in Iowa State in Ames, Iowa. And maybe in December it’s going… Well anyway, I’ll let that go.”
A T.J. Otzelberger return game to Thomas & Mack this December? I just hope fans are able to go.
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