Oct. 25, 2007
Editor’s Note:On April 3, 2007, Todd Lickliter became the 21st head men’s basketball coach in the history of the University of Iowa. Lickliter was named 2006-07 Division I Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. In six seasons at Butler, he compiled a record of 131-61 with two trips to the NCAA Sweet 16 and two NIT berths.
You said that it would take a special job for you to leave Butler. What makes the University of Iowa so special to you?
TL: Iowa has a wonderful tradition and a great foundation to build upon. There is a very passionate fan base and there is support within the department from fellow coaches and administration. You add all that up and you also are playing in the Big Ten. You’ve got the environment you want and an opportunity you would like to pursue.
You coached two teams to the Sweet 16 doing things the “Butler Way.” What will be components of the “Iowa Way?”
TL: We want to build on the foundation that’s already here. There are so many positive aspects about the University of Iowa and the state of Iowa. We would like to think that we could add to the positive aspects that are already in place. We will commit to developing and encouraging a team culture while implementing a winning system with the student-athletes that are here and the ones that we will attract. We want a culture that promotes winning on the court, in the classroom and in the community.
What was it like for you playing basketball for your father?
TL: It was very demanding. His expectations for me were very high, but I think that was a good thing because you develop an understanding of accountability. At the time I probably wasn’t mature enough to completely understand or appreciate his expectations, but as I reflect back, the lessons are obvious. He was a real proponent of team pride, he enjoyed competing for championships and his example instilled in me the belief that true satisfaction came through team accomplishment. But maybe most importantly, he instilled in me a love for the game and the joy of competition.
Can you describe the stereotypical player you want to recruit into your program?
TL: I want people who play in such a way that they elevate their teammates to actually play better than their abilities. The player is so involved in his team — he makes the right pass and he makes it at the right time. He does things that may not get the publicity that scoring brings. He may do things that people would term “little,” but I don’t consider them little because they add up to big accomplishments. So we’re looking at the overall player — his vision, his ability to work within the team and then also his skills and part of that is scoring. I greatly respect and admire the skill of scoring.
“I want people who play in such a way that they elevate their teammates to actually play better than their abilities. The player is so involved in his team — he makes the right pass and he makes it at the right time. He does things that may not get the publicity that scoring brings. He may do things that people would term “little,” but I don’t consider them little because they add up to big accomplishments. So we’re looking at the overall player — his vision, his ability to work within the team and then also his skills and part of that is scoring. I greatly respect and admire the skill of scoring.”
What advice will you give your son as he goes through the recruiting process?
TL: I would really like for him to put himself in a position to have options. He does that by working diligently in the classroom and on the court. So I’d like for him to have the options and then I’d like him to thoroughly investigate what those options entail and decide how they will affect his future. What does he want to do beyond his college career? I tell all of our recruits it’s not a four-year decision, it is a 40-year decision. How is it going to best prepare you? I want him to be aware of these aspects but I want him to play the game because he loves to play the game — not for any other reason — and I think he always has done that. I think anytime you pursue something because you have a passion for it, you’re going to have a greater chance of reaching your potential.
If you had to choose another profession to make a living, what would it be?
TL: Fortunately, I don’t have to. Even though I don’t have the ability, I guess I’d be a professional fisherman. I’m not a good fisherman, but I’d love to do it just for the joy of the challenge and the working environment. I don’t fish a whole lot because of the demands of coaching, but if I wasn’t coaching, then I’d fish a whole lot.
The term fishbowl has been used to describe a coach’s life at the University of Iowa. Do you see that as a positive?
TL: I really appreciate the passion our fans show and the enthusiasm and the support. If you want a strong fan base, then you need to accept that you’re going to be in the public eye. I wouldn’t trade the fishbowl for apathy, that’s for sure. My interests are simple, so when I’m away from the public, I’m with my family relaxing. I can balance it and I definitely prefer the attention to apathy.
What sort of basketball can Iowa fans expect to see this season?
TL: I really like a team that values and shares the basketball and a team that defends with a great spirit and purpose. We are in the process of developing this identity and I hope we will quickly become a team that Iowa fans will embrace as their own.
What emotions were you feeling on the days leading up to April 3, 2007, when you were named head coach at Iowa?
TL: Anytime that you are offered an advancement and an opportunity, you realize that there were a lot of people involved who helped make it possible. You have a pull because you’re leaving those people and I grew to really respect them and appreciate what they gave. But then the enthusiasm for the new opportunity and the excitement for what the future could be quickly take precedent and you move forward. What you want to do is leave the situation you’re at in a very positive way — a way you feel you’ve thanked them appropriately. Like I said, it would take a special situation to leave Butler, but Butler is in really good hands. The athletic director is a wonderful person and I trusted him. I knew he would make the right move for the program, so I knew I could move on and start to build here. Then the building process that you envisioned takes place and you start immediately making decisions that are going to help us succeed — hiring staff, meeting your players, introducing your ideas and of course the I-Club circuit. That was fun. I got to travel the state and meet so many dedicated Hawkeyes.
Your former team held the top graduation rate among NCAA Sweet 16 teams in 2003 and 2007. How important is the student to you in the term student-athlete?
TL: If you find somebody who respects the opportunity to earn a degree and pursues it diligently, they’re also going to give great effort in other areas. They understand the discipline that success requires. They have an appreciation for learning and growing and so I think you should be very thorough on the initial aspect of recruitment and be very up-front with the individual regarding your expectations. I don’t want them to be so tunnel-vision that they don’t understand the opportunity that they have to not only earn a degree, but to learn and to grow and take advantage of this opportunity that they’ve earned. We want it to be a privilege to attend class and to learn.
You were a head coach in high school and in Saudi Arabia before returning to the college ranks. How rewarding were those experiences?
TL: Any experience you have will give you something to draw upon, even the ones you think didn’t work out the way you had envisioned. There are reasons why things go right and there are reasons why things go wrong. What you need to do is keep growing through all experiences and in every circumstance be thankful for that opportunity. That’s not to say you would do it again, but use that experience to accomplish the next goal. What I found out was that I loved the game so much that I was willing to coach it at any level. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to work at this level because I think it is the right fit. But if I hadn’t had the other experiences, maybe I wouldn’t have appreciated this so much.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Division I basketball coach?
TL: There are many rewarding aspects. Coaching individuals who are highly proficient, the opportunity to recruit and build a team, and watching those individuals grow as players and students are just a few aspects that bring a college coach great satisfaction. It is also enjoyable to follow their successes after graduation and when they visit campus see the pride they display in knowing they had a part of building something special. All of these elements are positive aspects of the college game.
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