Oct. 11, 2007
IOWA CITY — To understand the philosophy of the University of Iowa men’s basketball program, first you must realize two of Head Coach Todd Lickliter’s most influential role models. The first is his father, Arlan. The second is a brick mason friend named Bob Lee.
Symbolically, the Hawkeyes will embrace the family ideal and they will also be a roll-up-the sleeves, blue-collar batch of scrappers.
“The love of the game my father had, I grew up with,” Lickliter said at his Media Day press conference Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “(Lee) taught me when you do a job, you put your signature on it. You’re there, you’re dependable and you always stand by your work. I don’t know that I’ve ever learned anything more valuable from any coach or any individual than him.”
Lickliter is beginning his first season at Iowa after leading Butler to a six-year record of 131-61, two trips to the NCAA Sweet 16 and two berths in the NIT. Last season he was named Division I Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
The Hawkeyes return three starters and six letterwinners from a team that went 17-13 a year ago, 9-7 in the Big Ten Conference. Iowa was 14-2 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Gone are Adam Haluska (graduation) and Tyler Smith (transfer), who accounted for nearly 52 percent of the Hawkeye points last season. If losing that much offensive production is a concern, you would never be able to tell by listening to Lickliter.
If there is no “I” in team, as the ancient athletic axiom goes, then there certainly is no “I” in one of Lickliter’s pet phrases, “Team Ego,” which he respectfully borrowed from Bill Russell.
“A lot can be done when you pull together as a team,” Lickliter said. “What a beautiful aspect of sport. You don’t have to have individual gold medal winners to have a championship team if they complement one another, if they will understand one another’s strengths and if they set their goals and priorities properly. We’re going to try to do that.”
Lickliter promises that his teams will be in shape, on time, dependable and considerate.
“I don’t want (our players) to think that they are on scholarship at Iowa to play basketball. I want them on scholarship to play Hawkeye basketball. That’s my job to implement that.”
UI Coach Todd Lickliter
“The next thing we’ve been trying to do is to establish an identity,” Lickliter said. “I really want a team that shares the basketball. I really want a team that values the basketball and I really want a team that defends together and with great purpose.”
Returning starters for Iowa include senior forward/center Kurt Looby (3.8 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, 1.7 blocks per game), junior guard Tony Freeman (7.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.7 assists per game) and junior forward Cyrus Tate (4.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg). Other letterwinners are senior 7-footer Seth Gorney senior guard Justin Johnson and junior guard/forward J.R. Angle. Completing the roster are sophomores Dan Bothall (guard) and David Palmer (center) and freshmen Jarryd Cole (forward), Jake Kelly (guard) and Jeff Peterson (guard).
In Lickliter’s world of team concept, collectively this group could be referred to as 1 through 11 (the names and numbers may be interchanged).
“I don’t want (our players) to think that they are on scholarship at Iowa to play basketball,” Lickliter said. “I want them on scholarship to play Hawkeye basketball. That’s my job to implement that.”
One of the reasons Lickliter is intent on promoting the entire roster is because some of his finest Butler squads were lifted by the No. 8-14 players on the Bulldog bench.
“I’m going to tell you that the best teams I’ve had, eight through 14 were the best eight through 14 guys in the nation,” Lickliter said. “It’s so hard to single people out in a team sport. Right now we’re really focused on the whole.”
Lickliter said that his first few months in Iowa City have been “humbling” and that he has a “great appreciation” for the fans and their desire for the Hawkeyes to do well. He has had at least two conversations with former UI Coach Lute Olson since taking the position. Olson has relayed his appreciation of the University of Iowa, the state of Iowa and its fans, according to Lickliter.
The Team First, Team Ego philosophy has meant it will be very difficult to find a picture of an Iowa individual in the UI basketball office. All the individual photos (except one of Adam Haluska) have been replaced by team pictures.
“(Adam Haluska) has one up,” Lickliter said. “I think when you’re captain of the All-American team, then you deserve to have your picture up and if you graduate. After people graduate I don’t mind putting their individual picture up, but until that time, I think it should be team.”
Because of 2006-07 scoring attrition, many in the media have low expectations for this group of Hawkeyes. You will not convince Lickliter that great things are not attainable this season. Last season his Butler team was picked sixth in the Horizon League and ending up being ranked in the national top 10 for 16 consecutive weeks.
“You measure talent in a lot of different ways,” Lickliter said. “I like this group. I see some things in this group that could be special. We’ve just got to do it every day.”
Iowa opens the season with an exhibition game against Simpson College on Thursday, Nov. 1, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The first regular season game will be Friday, Nov. 9, against Idaho State.