Friday, March 29, 2013

Nice going, Sandy


At first glance, Ray Giacoletti looks like a good hire as Drake's new basketball coach. He's got head coaching experience and he knows the Missouri Valley Conference. And it won't take him long to know about Drake, which has never been an easy place to coach. I had the fortune of covering the Bulldogs when they played the best basketball in the history of the university. That was in the Maury John coaching era, when the 1968-69 team almost upset eventual national champion UCLA and finished third in the Final Four. I was also fortunate to be able to watch Keno Davis' 2007-2008 team that had a 28-5 record and went to the NCAA tournament. So it can be done at Drake. But it's difficult.  Giacoletti was asked yesterday at his opening press conference what type of athletes he's looking for at Drake. "The first thing we need is to keep the best young men, student-athletes, at Drake University," he said. "This is the first piece of the puzzle that we need to establish. I think that it as important a piece as there is, establishing new relationships and reacquainting myself with high school coaches in the state, AAU coaches, and making that a priority. Then you start to branch a bit, getting into Minnesota, the Chicagoland area, Wisconsin, because I think the midwest has the right values and character that we're looking for in our program. The first step needs to be making a huge impact in the state." It's a nice goal for a major-college coach to zero in on high school recruiting in the state of Iowa, but that's never been a strength at Drake. Maury John had to go far and wide--to Gary, Ind., to get Willie McCarter and Dolph Pulliam out of a high school program, and to junior colleges across America. It was never easy. It won't be easy for Giacoletti. Right now, when it comes to the four major-college programs in the state of Iowa, Drake is No. 4. Obviously, the only way to go is up. It can be done at Drake. I think  athletic director Sandy Hatfield Clubb made a good choice in Giacoletti, and I wish him well. Other than when coaches such as Maury John, Gary Garner, Tom Davis and Keno Davis were running the show, Drake basketball has suffered much too often in modern times
Courtesy of

Thursday, March 28, 2013

'I'm Looking Forward To Making Drake Basketball the Best It can Be,' New Coach Ray Giacoletti Says. Athletic Director Sandy Hatfield Clubb Says She's 'Ecstatic' That the Man Who Has Been An Assistant At Gonzaga Is the New Guy In Charge Of the Bulldogs' Ship

There are lots of great things about being in my place in life.

One of them is that when I want to go to Hy-Vee to do the rest of my grocery shopping for the Easter weekend, I never have to be concerned about what else is going on in the world.

Like Drake naming a new basketball coach.

I was in the process of rolling up a bill for more than $140 this afternoon when Ty Patton, Drake's assistant athletic director in charge of athletic department public relations, sent an e-mail to me that said the university was planning a 2:30 p.m. press conference to announce Ray Giacoletti as the new men's basketball coach.

I didn't see :Patton's e-mail until after I had carried all of the groceries from the trunk of my 1989 Toyota Camry [the official car of this and every other one of my websites] into my home.

Then I turned on the computer and saw Patton's e-mail.

I, of course, didn't make it to the press conference. I wasn't home to see the streaming of the press conference either. But here's Patton's release, which he e-mailed to me:

Drake University will introduce Ray Giacoletti as the Bulldogs’ men’s basketball head coach during a press conference Thursday, March 28 at 2:30 p.m. The introductory press conference will take place in Levitt Hall located in Old Main on the Drake Campus. The press conference will also be streamed live on

“I’m ecstatic to announce Ray Giacoletti as our men’s basketball coach,” Drake director of athletics Sandy Hatfield Clubb said. “He has an extraordinary combination of experience as a head coach and has spent the last six seasons as an integral part of one of the winningest basketball programs in the nation. Ray shares our commitment to the holistic development of our student-athletes. He has a firm grasp on the potential of our program and the level of sustainable competitive excellence we aspire to achieve. Our goal is for the men's basketball program to serve as a catalyst for the Bulldogs to become a source of pride and joy for the campus and our community.”

“We are delighted that Ray Giacoletti has agreed to be the men's basketball coach at Drake University,” Drake president David Maxwell said. “His coaching experience, his values and his aspirations for Drake basketball are in perfect alignment with ours—to have a highly competitive men's basketball program with young men of high character who excel in the classroom as well as on the court.  We demonstrated in the 2007-08 season that it's a realistic and attainable model, and we know that Coach Giacoletti is the right person to guide the program in achieving and sustaining that level of competitive success.”

Giacoletti [pronunciation: JACK-o-let-ee] has served as an assistant coach at Gonzaga University for the past six seasons, where he helped lead the perennial basketball power to six straight NCAA appearances, five West Coast Conference titles and a 163-41 (.799) record during his time on campus in Spokane, Wash.

“I’m excited to be a part of the Drake family and Des Moines community,” Giacoletti said. “I’ve followed Missouri Valley Conference basketball my whole life and I’m looking forward to making Drake basketball the best it can be. There are a lot of similarities to where I’ve been and this is a similar situation where there is the potential to grow a program. My wife and I are both Midwest natives, so the opportunity to return to the area is an added bonus.”

This past season, Gonzaga marched to a 32-3 record and spent the final three weeks of the season ranked No. 1 in both the Associated Press and USA Coaches Polls to earn a No. 1 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament.

Giacoletti came to Gonzaga after with 10 total years of head coaching experience and a three-year tenure as the head coach at the University of Utah where he led the Utes to a 29-6 record in his first season to tie for the third-most win in program history and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. That squad won 18-straight games to win the Mountain West Conference regular-season title and recorded the best league record to date (13-1) in the six-year history of the league.

As a result, Giacoletti was named the NABC District 13, USBWA District 8, and Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year. Sophomore center Andrew Bogut became Utah's first consensus national Player of the Year, winning the John R. Wooden Award, Naismith, National Association of Basketball Coaches and Associated Press Player of the Year honors. In three seasons on the Utah bench, he amassed a 54-40 record.

Prior to taking the reins at Utah, he served as the head coach at Eastern Washington University where he went 69-50 in four seasons, the best mark of any coach in the school's NCAA Division I history. He guided the Eagles to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004, as well as the Big Sky Conference regular-season and tournament titles. In each of Giacoletti's first three years, the Eagles placed second in the Big Sky during the regular season and advanced to the tournament championship game. In 2002-03, Giacoletti led EWU to the NIT for the program's first postseason bid since 1947 when it was a NAIA program.

The 2004 Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year, Giacoletti directed EWU to a 17-13 overall record and an 11-3 mark in conference play that season as the Eagles won 14 of their last 18 games en route to winning the Big Sky Tournament. In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, EWU fell to eventual Final Four participant Oklahoma State.

In four seasons under Giacoletti, EWU posted a 41-17 record in Big Sky Conference games for a .707 winning percentage, eighth in the league's 41-year history of the league that has produced notable coaches such as Don Monson, Mike Montgomery, Larry Eustachy, Jug Heathcote, Tim Floyd and Ben Howland.

Giacoletti's first head coaching job was a three-year stint (1998-2000) at North Dakota State University, a Division II program at the time, where he went 48-33. In his 10 seasons as a head coach, he has amassed a 171-123 (.582) record.

Before assuming his first head coaching assignment, Giacoletti was an assistant for four years at both at Missouri Valley Conference member Illinois State University (1990-93) and the University of Washington (1994-97) under mentor Bob Bender.

Giacoletti, a native of Peoria, Ill., graduated from Minot State University with a degree in physical education in 1985. There he was a 4-year letterman on the court, started three seasons and served as team captain twice. His coaching career began as a student assistant coach at Minot State in 1984-85 while he finished his degree. He was also a graduate assistant at Western Illinois University in 1985-86 and an assistant at Oral Roberts University in 1986-87. His resume also includes one season of professional basketball experience as an assistant coach and director of player personnel for the Fresno Flames of the World Basketball League from 1988-89.

Giacoletti is married to Kim Lankford.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Yes, Virginia, the Hawkeyes have the Big Apple in their future. And, in Ron Maly's opinion, the NIT championship, too. Iowa ended Virginia's 19-game home-court winning steak with a 75-64 victory in the quarterfinal round of the NIT. Devyn Marble scored 24 points for the 24-12 Hawkeyes, who play Maryland in the next round at Madison Suqare Garden in New York City. Iowa had won just two road games all season, but was clearly the better team against Virginia [23-12]. The way Fran McCaffery's team is playing, Ron Maly looks for the Hawkeyes to win the NIT championship.

Devyn Marble tweeted: "Me and my guy Dan Dakich [left] of ESPN2 after the big win against Virginia. Words can't explain how I feel …'' [Photo courtesy of Iowa Basketball/Twitter].

Ferentz Says Hawkeyes' Spring Scrimmage In W.D.M. 'Is Our Way Of Saying Thank You' To Fans

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz met with reporters today prior to the start of spring practice nside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. The transcript of his comments:

COACH FERENTZ: Welcome to everybody and just start out on a somber note. Tommy Thompson, who is normally here, obviously passed last week. We lost a great fan in Tommy, just a tremendous fan of all sports and certainly football. I think 751 games he attended. So our condolences to his entire family certainly.
Steve just alluded to, you know, we're all excited about the construction. It's going to be an inconvenience, one more inconvenience, kind of like when they built the indoor facility. Excited to see that get started. Right now the target date is next July, I believe a year from now July. So we're certainly looking forward to that. That's something that everybody involved in the program is really thrilled about and very, very excited about and appreciative of.
So that being said, we're eager to get started here. I think we've already had a good offseason. The players have worked hard. The staff has worked hard. I think we've made some gains and taken some positive steps. Today is the start of the next phase, obviously, and one of the important phases we have, spring practice. Basically we have 15 days here to see how the team develops out, comes along, get a checkup on just see what kind of progress we've made and see how we look different than we were in November, certainly. And I imagine there'll be a couple of questions about the quarterback position most notably that being open. But really springtime, it's that way everywhere you go. Every position is open right now. You would think some of the veteran guys, hopefully they've improved and they should be able to hold their ground have earn their positions back. Basically all spots are open right now. You have a lot of different levels of competition going on. Guys that are older that have played; played that have played that are younger. Look at our two guys in the kicking game, they are like that. Mike Meyers has played a lot of football now; he's a senior. Contrast that with Connor Kornbrath, who is only a freshman. He'll be a sophomore next year. He's got one year under his belt. Couple different levels of development there.
Then you have guys that played on special teams last year that really haven't played a lot offensively or defensively that you hope grow into a more significant role. A guy like Jordan Cotton comes to mind on that front. A lot of other guys that haven't been on the field yet. We're eager to see what they look like and see how they fit in with the guys that have played a little bit. It's an exciting time for all of us, and you don't get those answers until you get out of the field. And typically the longer it goes, the more you learn certainly.
So that being said, we do have a couple of positions changes. We're looking at a couple of guys. Macon Plewa has moved from linebacker over to the fullback spot. So he'll work there. Macon is guy who's been with us couple of years, great attitude, really a tough hard nosed guy. I think he might be able to give us a supplement at a position, give us a little more flexibility with Mark Weisman. Greg Mabin is moved from the receiver position over to safety. That is something we considered when we recruited him. We liked him both sides of the ball. I think he might be a fit there and eager to see what he does this spring. Certainly Nate Meier is a guy down the road a little bit. A little bit younger player. Nate Meier, we're thinking about fooling around with him a little bit at the defensive end position. See how that goes. And then Steve is moving from tight end into the center position. So those are probably the four changes that we're looking at right now.
Medically, I think last time we talked, Nolan MacMillan and Louis Trinca-Pasat will both be out. They both had surgeries in the out of season. And Mike Malloy unfortunately had an ankle injury probably about two weeks ago. Fortunately, there's no surgery involved there, but I think he's going to be in a boot here for at least two more weeks, this week plus one more. And to think that he'll be back at full speed is probably not realistic. He's going to be fine, but I don't know that we're going to get much of a look at him this spring. That is kind of unfortunate. Everybody else is in pretty good shape. We've got a couple of guys coming off knee injuries, Rubin Lile and Barkley Hill, certainly from the fall. We'll be careful with those guys this spring, but they were both doing really well.
That's kind of where we're at right now. Eager to get on the field this afternoon. With that, I'll throw it out to questions.
Q. You mentioned fullback, but you don't have a fullback listed anymore. Is that something that you are just gradually moving away from having a fullback full time?
COACH FERENTZ: Not necessarily. I think that's one of the things too that we'll do this spring. A lot of things we're looking at. Just what is our best combination of players out there? And obviously the goal is to get your best 11 out there. Down and distance plays into that, but just intense situations where you like the last year, we wanted to use both Weisman and Bullock in there at the same time, didn't have that chance. That's something still that we're interested in, but I think we're thin a fullback for sure right now. We'd like to develop that position. I envision us playing with a fullback. I envision with two tight ends at times. Also three wides, that type of thing, the things that we've done in the past. It's just a matter of seeing what we can piece together.
Q. You talked about putting Bullock and Weisman out there at the same time. Are they necessarily going to both be in the back field?
COACH FERENTZ: The nice thing about those guys, if you have both of them out there you can do both and still have a threat. I think Mark is a legitimate threat running the football. He's demonstrated that. Damon is a legitimate threat outside.
A year ago at this time we were just wondering if Weisman could block. That's funny how a year's time goes by. The nice thing is now that we know he can block, we've got an additional bonus if he can run. If you can have those two guys out there, I think it gives us a little bit more fire power which is something we lacked last year for sure.
Q. Is Brandon Scherff 100 percent?
COACH FERENTZ: He appears to be. He's been going through the out of season program. A big part of it is attitude; his attitude has been great. I joked about him being ready even with a boot on. He would have tried it. That's just the way he's built. He seems to be moving around really well. Andrew Donnal is a little bit behind, but he'll be practicing full. He may not look as good as he did before he got injured, but it's just a matter of time. We're working through that and he's doing real well.
Q. What do you want to see from your quarterbacks? Is there a chance you can settle on someone?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, I mean, we're open to that. It could be this week. I doubt it. My guess is probably going to be longer than shorter. It's not often where this happens, but we're going in really with a truly open mind. It's not like there's an incumbent there. I don't think anybody has a clear advantage or edge. Jake has had the most repetitions. Being the number two guy last year, he took the most reps in the offense, so that's an advantage for him. But we're really you know, he'll start out because that's how we finished up. We're probably going to alternate every couple of plays with all three guys, so they'll all work with the ones, twos or threes and have an equal opportunity. Whenever the picture becomes clearer, that is when we'll move on it. A lot of times it goes a long ways.
In '08, we went through that with Jake and Ricky. That went a couple of games into it. Go back to '87, the only thing I was sure of at the end of spring ball was Chuck Hartlieb was our third guy. So whoever I vote for third this spring, you guys might put your money on him. That just shows you what I know. I think everybody was kind of on that same page. It's going to be interesting to see how it goes.
Q. Are there different quarterback traits you want to see in this offense?
COACH FERENTZ: I don't think so. I think it's just being able to operate and being efficient, being proficient. That's a hard position to play mentally anyway, basically in any offense, I think. So there's a lot that goes into being a quarterback certainly, and how you handle all the challenges of that position. Ultimately it's about moving the team and, you know, getting the ball in the end zone somehow, some way. I think all three guys have different attributes, but they all have attributes. Like all of us, everybody has got weaknesses and what have you. It's kind of an exciting thing for us. We really like all three guys. All three of them have some things about them that really intrigue you and excite you and make you feel good. They've got good football mentalities. They like the game. They like each other, and I think they are all respected by their teammates. It's going to be obviously interesting to watch it. A lot of those things going on, but the quarterback is a little bit more focal for a lot of folks.
Q. How much were you able to get to know Beathard last year?
COACH FERENTZ: You know pretty well because we still do work even in season against each other minus the starters, and so he was a scout team quarterback. He ran our offense and was in on every meeting, traveled to every game, all those types of things. When you are around people on a continual basis, seven days a week or six days a week, you really get a pretty good feel for what they are. Needless to say, the circumstances are going to change for all those guys now. Really all of us have a positive feeling about all three guys.
Q. Does one stand out as a runner?
COACH FERENTZ: All three of them are fairly athletic. Athletic to what degree? RG3? No. We don't have one of those, and not many people do. I would say they are all fairly mobile.
Q. So one won't have an advantage in that area?
COACH FERENTZ: I don't think great advantage, no.
Q. What does it mean for James Vanderberg to be invited to the combine?
COACH FERENTZ: First of all, it was great. It was real positive for him. Any time you get invited to the combine, that's a good thing. I think James has made the most of every opportunity in front of him, be it the combine, what he did on Monday at the Pro Day. The interviewing part of things, all of those things, that's his strength. I mean, he's really a guy that's going to be prepared and do his best. And you know, you just never know what's going to happen with quarterbacks and what's going to happen down the road.
If you look at the NFL, there are a lot of interesting guys that are on rosters or are playing down the road. I was talking to Ken O'Keefe at some point this winter. We were talking about Pat Devlin, the guy that was at Penn State, maybe Ohio State, whatever year that was. He came in and played and finished the game and they beat Ohio State over at Ohio State and transferred to Delaware. I believe he's on their roster now, and he's got a legitimate chance to stick and maybe develop into a guy.
And James has all those attributes. He's totally invested. He's smart, works hard, has talent and ability. Never know what's going to happen.
Q. You have the open practice [April 20] in West Des Moines next month. Who came to you with the idea?
COACH FERENTZ: Still hasn't been finalized. We're working on some details there. Basically, it's just something you know, we talk about a lot of things year around, especially after the season. What can we do better? What might work, what might not. What do we want to change, basically good, bad, and indifferent, that type of thing. Kind of kicked around a couple of factors. We're on five weeks here, so we have got a prolonged period of time.
I do worry in spring ball a little bit, you know, left foot, right foot, left foot, you know, guys getting kind of like being one of those dogs on the dog sled train, whatever they call it. You're the fourth dog, just looking at the other dog's backside. So maybe break the routine a little bit. The other thing is a little bit of an outreach effort. In the springtime it's hard for people. I know people on the western side of the state do a great job of getting over here during the fall. We really appreciate that. That's a sacrifice. Maybe we can reciprocate a little bit here and cut the drive down for people in the far west and give them a little bit of access. And certainly the Des Moines population basis is important to us as well. So maybe our way to say thank you.
Q. If it ends up being successful for you, will you build on it and have a fall football camp?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, I hadn't thought about fall camp. You just threw that one on the board. I'll take that upstairs. I may not be as interested in the fall. I won't say no. But spring is down the road. It's something we would entertain for sure. To me it's a little bit like the I Club circuit. It's a chance to get out and say thank you to folks.
Q. Has there been a time in your tenure where you've had so many offensive pieces to figure out?
COACH FERENTZ: I don't know if I look at it that way. To me we had more last year, more questions last year. You know, the good thing about last year is there were some positives. One of them is a lot of guys got out there on the field. We know more about them. As recently as the end of August last year, I had no idea if we had anybody that could carry the ball and hang on to the ball in a Big Ten game.
It's funny how things change. At the end of spring last year, Damon Bullock, I wasn't sure if he could block well enough to play in the Big Ten. We really didn't know if he'd run, because we were afraid to tackle him. We only had a couple of backs out there. So I think all of us are a lot more excited about where he is now and what his future and potential are.
Last year at this time, we were wondering if Weisman would block anybody, if he could play fullback. And then we kind of stumbled into him as the running back later in the fall.
Our receiver position I think is a year older. Jordan had a year of not knowing what to do and being tentative. I think Tevaun Smith is the same way. Kevonte, we're counting on him. He's played. He played significantly two years ago and now a starter last year. So he's a guy that's got a chance to be a leader for us. Not only a good player but a leader. Same thing about CJ, having him back and the group of guys underneath him. A year ago Brandon Scherff played okay as guard in '11 and really was playing well before he got injured last year. I think we're a lot further down the tracks right now. Obviously the quarterback position is unsettled. Obviously the center position, James started 38 games, I think I read. So two guys there. But I think in both positions we have more than one candidate that can go in there and play. I think we've got three guys that have a chance to be really good centers, maybe four. So it's just a matter now of getting that work done where the guys play competently.
Q. Even without James, can the offensive line be the strength of this team?
COACH FERENTZ: I think we have a really veteran group there. Again, different levels. You have Van Sloten and Scherff, who I think we all know who they are. As coaches, we really if one of those guys gets beat out, that's going to be interesting because it means somebody else is really stepping it up. Those two guys are ready to go. Austin played like a young guy, and then he got hurt, and then he had to go back to like monopoly where you go back to go. He had one of those shots. A year or two when you get there, it's a little different story. Donnal really played well when he got in there. So that's intriguing and fun to watch. Jordan Walsh, he had some injury issues last year, but he's a good prospect. We've got some guys that hopefully can line up. The key thing is keeping everybody healthy and keeping them moving forward.
Q. In the offseason, what kind of reaction did you get this offseason in terms of fans?
COACH FERENTZ: You know, I get head coach behavior a lot everywhere I go, so everything is fine usually that way. I mean, I realize everybody was disappointed last year. I think disappointed and probably at times frustrated. And I would emphasize nobody more so than the players. They're the ones who work harder than anybody and coaches, as well. So our goal is never to be 4 8 here. That probably would have looked good in '99. That's never been our goal and none of us are happy and all of us take ownership. There's not much else we can say.
The one thing I told the guys we got going there in November after the last ball game, you flip the calendar, it's a new year, a new opportunity. That's how we're looking at it. I don't think it's anything magical that's going to take us to where we want to go. It's just a matter of doing the work that you have to do and doing it better and obviously the end result is playing better on Saturdays. That is going to be our goal.
Q. You have a new special teams coach. I imagine there is going to be a change to the team thinking.
COACH FERENTZ: What we're going to continue to emphasize and we'll probably because there is going to be some change, and as much as anything, I don't know how different it will look. But the big thing for Chris, LeVar and Kelvin Bell is really and last year we were allowed to have four GAs, so Kelvin, that's what he's really focused on right now. LeVar has been working in that area. Those are the three guys really doing the nitty gritty work. The biggest thing, especially for Chris, is he's new and really getting to learn the players and who the guys are. The good thing is he comes in with a fresh eye. He doesn't have any preconceived notions about anybody. Anybody is going to have a chance to get on that punt team right now, the kickoff team. I think really the bottom line on all of that stuff is not so much team as just us doing a better job. Our kickoff team is probably a good example. We were riding the roller coaster there for over a year, probably bottomed out in the Central Michigan game. And after that we kind of made up our minds. We ended up leading the league. That's one of the few things we led the league in last year. A lot of it is just mindset and doing a better job. That's what we need to do.
Q. A year ago people said this is a schedule Iowa can make a move with. Now they're saying the opposite. Would you rather have it this way?
COACH FERENTZ: I'm pretty sure it was '07 when we had one of those great schedules, too. We know how that came out. You play the games that are on your schedule. Typically every season, there are three or four teams you can predict are going to be good every year. Over the last half decade, I think we can cite examples where those teams weren't what they typically are. But on the other flip side, there is always somebody that emerges that nobody counts on. And you know, to sit here in March or April and worry too much about what we have on our schedule next fall, all the things that can happen, chances are Ohio State will have a good team. I'll lay that one out there. Outside of that, you have got to usual suspects, but the big thing is worrying about who we are and what we can do to get better. If we do that history has shown that we can play okay against basically anybody.
Q. How much do you think you can learn about the wide receivers?
COACH FERENTZ: Hopefully that was our intent to find a role for Damon at any position right now. And last year we were counting on a punter to come in. We were hoping a punter could come in and take that job. There's really no incoming player that we're counting on to come in and be a starter or be a guy we have to count on. If we get something out of it that we didn't maybe count on, that would be great. Maybe supplement the group that we have, fantastic. Our focus is working on the guys out there in the field and trying to develop the guys that we already know about.
Hopefully maybe we get another Weisman story. Weisman was a guy we were close to but we didn't know who he was or what he was. We feel really good about the guy. Those kinds of stories are fun, too. I'm sure we have got one or two or three on the team right now. Hopefully we do.
Q. How do you feel about the defensive line going into spring?
COACH FERENTZ: You know, it's a little bit like the offensive line a couple of years ago. We had a two year period, '08 '09, where we were veteran up front and pretty stout. Then 2010, it was a little bit of a turnover. And you think about guys like Dennis in 2010, they played well. And 2011, they played really well.
Both are on NFL rosters right now and I think they will both be in the league a long time. They developed into those really good Big Ten players.
I think we've kind of gone through that with the defensive line. We had a really unusual group of guys when you had Clayborn, Ballard, Klug, Mike Daniels. Those guys don't come around that often. We've been in a period of transition, I think. For right now, I'm really excited about the group, and we had a lot of time on our hands in December, so after the recruiting period is over, we sat down and like we typically do, we went to our entire roster. And I think we have a lot of good young players in that group right now. It's a matter of trying to develop them a little bit and bring them along and hope a guy like Riley McMinn can be an Adam Gettis type guy on the other side of the football. Karl Klug wasn't Karl Klug his whole time here. A lot of times he was hurt. And then, you know, his last two years he really played at a high level. I think that's what we're looking at. You have got Dominic Alvis who is really a veteran guy. Louis Trinca Pasat, I think was kind of an unnoticed guy last year. I think his next two years will be really interesting because he's played now and he really understands what it takes. He's a tough minded guy, so he will be a good player. We've got some guys to build off there, and a lot of other guys that are going to come on.
Q. Do you expect maybe look at some other ways to get pressure on the quarterback? I know it's usually been front four, see what you can get?
COACH FERENTZ: We're definitely open to it. Got to be something behind it. So that's the thing that goes with it. You can't just do one thing, I know that. I think everybody realizes that. If you just do one thing, if you blitz all the time or if you sit in base defense all the time, you are going to get picked at some point. There's got to be that mix. But at some point somebody has got to get there. We have got some guys that are capable of that. Cooper I think has a real knack. He's nifty in there, kind of like Pickens was going back a ways. But he's got things to learn right now and all that. He will. He's young. That was a really good year for him. Some of the younger plays that got on the field last year, that experience I think will be invaluable for him. He should be a much better player this year and moving forward.
Q. Running back, you have two proven guys and one guy that's played a bowl game for you. How do you see that kind of shaking out?
COACH FERENTZ: Who knows what's going to happen? The big thing we're looking for is improvement on all three guys. All three guys have things they can work on. Jordan, being the least experienced of the group, at least he goes out there to practice today knowing that he played in the big game, a really important game against competition, really good competition. He was really practicing well the last couple of weeks last year. We probably could have played him. I'm not sure that would have been smart. He was practicing really well. I think he should have confidence that he can play at this level. Now it's just a matter of all three guys working on things they can do to become better Big Ten backs. That's what they'll be focused on all 15 days. With those three guys, I think we've got a good starting point. You know, Barkley Hill, kind of start cutting it loose a little bit. It will happen during the course of spring. And unfortunately, we're going to miss Mike Malloy. We like what he did in practice. He did some good things last year. So at least we have some guys that have potential and hopefully outside of Michael, we'll be further down the road with all four of those guys I mentioned.
Q. Has the lead up to spring been different with all the new coaches coming in?
COACH FERENTZ: Like I said last time, I kind of looked at the two year block. The room has changed quite a bit. I think it forces more conversation and more things to think about. I think we've had really good football discussions in all three segments. You know, so it's just part of what happens. And you know, if the staff had left and gone someplace else, you go through that same process in a different place. We've done it here. It feels a little bit different. The things that we thought were important 14 years ago, to me they are still important. That is really going to be the foundation of what we try to be as a football team.
Q. Did the struggles offensively last year lead you tweak it at all in the offseason?
COACH FERENTZ: You are always tweaking, looking at things you can do better. We'll toy with things this spring and see how our players adapt to it. It's not going to be radically different. And the ultimate idea is to figure out what the best thing is for the people that you have on your team and gets back to the personnel discussion which groups do you use. I think we can use multiple groups. I think we have that potential. And then just trying to fit it together. There will be some changes and things we'll look at. And that is one of the nice things about spring. You can do those things without having a downside to it.
Q. Is it a quest for bigger plays?
COACH FERENTZ: Absolutely, we have to. It's tough to be perfect for 12, 14 plays in a row. You want to try to do that four times a game, that's hard. So somehow, some way you have to come up with some bigger plays. Part of that is just experience. Part of that is us doing a better job, maybe helping create those things. You have to do that. And certainly, you know, the production we had last year, that's not going to be you have got to be good on defense if you are going to go down that road. That's not our plan certainly. I'm optimistic we'll be better.
Q. The big plays you are still pretty good. The run, that changed a little bit last year?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, in my mind I don't think we tackled well enough, and I don't think the numbers of big plays may not be way out of line, but just the timing of them. And you know, we just didn't play as well as we are capable of playing. Again, there are always circumstances, inexperience, injuries, things like that. The bottom line is we're going to have to play better this year. In all three phases you have to rise to the occasion. So at some point you need to make a play, offensively, defensively, special teams, that's football. We didn't do a good job of that as a team, so those are things we're going to have to do if we're going to move forward.
Q. So the coach on the secondary, during the games, does he come back downstairs?
COACH FERENTZ: We'll talk about that. That's something we've thought about. Haven't had a lot of discussion on it, but there's a fair chance. First thing is where can he call the game the best. Obviously, if he's not down there, Chris Polizzi is back in his second year. One nice thing about the GA situation right now, we've had really good grad assistants here and Chris fits in that mold. Phil is upstairs and Chris will be downstairs being the guy talking to those guys and giving them the adjustments and that type of thing, but we'll figure that out.
Q. I know you talked about the recruiting stuff and how that was going to be deregulated. Do you see yourself going ahead and trying to another set of eyes?
COACH FERENTZ: I need more clarity, this is kind of an ongoing thing. There are people doing things a little bit differently throughout the country. I'm a little confused, quite frankly, on what the interpretations are. But you know, you have got to be careful about how you do that.
And moving forward, I think right now all that stuff got tabled. I think I will speak for all the coaches in our conference, I think we're all hoping maybe we all can we're going to meet here later in April and come back with some ideas that we would like to present in terms of how to make our game better and our from that standpoint, what is workable, what isn't workable? I think the main idea is to make sure there is uniformity nationally. That may be impossible to do, but just so everybody is kind of operating under the same there is a lot of fuzzy areas right now that are out there. I think that really the next step is to sit down with people from different parts of the nation. And coaches shouldn't make the rules. I'm not proposing that. I think they probably should at least offer up some input and information.
Q. You guys have offered a couple of sophomores. I think you have done that in the past. You have taken a commitment from James Morris. Now you are actually scouting them. Is that one of the biggest changes?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, it is. A, I don't know how you legislate it. Then B, I don't know how far you can go back, how young you can go with guys. I don't know how you legislate that one. Just kind of the world we're living in right now. There's more exposure, more information out there. The earlier you offer a guy, the more risk there is, too. That player may not develop into who you think. That is how the world is changing there.
Q. What are your preferences contact wise? What do you think is a good plan?
COACH FERENTZ: I mentioned I think coaches should have some input, I think they ought to talk to parents and talk to high school coaches too and ask for opinions. That being said, there are some parents that would let their kids get called in ninth grade and think that's healthy. I'm on the other side of the fence. I wouldn't want my kid being worried about recruiting when he is in the 11th grade. They should just worry about being as good as they can be where they're at.
It's kind of like our guys. The NFL will be there if they are good enough, if they play well enough as college players. I think kids ought to be allowed to be kids, too. Somehow there's got to be some balance in there. If we are going to open up contracts, if that train is going down the track, fine. Like we do now, we have dead periods, and then three weeks of contact, then a dead period, three weeks of contact, just give people a break from it. Maybe it's important to anybody as the prospects. If we're allowed to call them, we're going to call them. That is just how it is. They are probably going to answer. It's one of those deals.
My gripe about texting, I can easily envision one of my sons with his phone under his desk in English class looking at his texts. Not that that's not happening anyway. That is just the world we're living in right now. At some point a kid ought to be able to go to English class and listen to the teacher, and then go to the cafeteria and sit with Suzy Smith for a while and talk to her and do whatever. I know the world is changing, too.
Q. You mentioned Steve, your son, moving to offensive line. Fair to assume he's going to be hiking the ball?
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, I mean, his brothers told him probably five or six years ago, whatever you do, Steve, don't let him make you a lineman. He started out as quarterback. Then he was a tight end, outside linebacker. He is kind of going right back to that same spot in the middle only just a little bit further. It's a genetic thing, I think. I played center in seventh grade. Probably impressed with that, huh?
Q. I'm curious what you might have learned last week or tips you might have picked up sitting behind Fran.

COACH FERENTZ: It's fun. It's fun for any coach to watch other coaches work. And what a job he and his staff have done. Fran is a great person. He's been a great fit here at Iowa. He's done a great job with that team. They are a young team that's really climbing the ladder. That is fun to watch. It's just, you know, it's like everything, he coaches within his personality and that's what head coaches do. He's certainly committed. It's always fun to watch head coaches coach. I thoroughly enjoy that. That's one of the great things about working here. You have got Lisa, she's done a great job with that program, and Tom and the guys over there. They are fun to go to. I had a chance to go down there Saturday night, and that's one of the neat things about being here. You get to watch some good players and good competitors and good coaching.
Q. Are the Hawks going to win tonight?
COACH FERENTZ: Let's hope so. I'm all for it.

[This story was e-mailed to Ron Maly by Iowa's sports information staff].

Monday, March 25, 2013

I'm Not Surprised At All By This One: Tubby Smith Is Fired After 6 Seasons As Minnesota's Basketball Coach. Bigtime Coaching Has Passed Tubby By, and His Team's Listless Performances Late This Season Were Evidence Of It. I Just Hope No One Suggests That Drake Should Hire Him To Replace the Fired Mark Phelps. The Last Thing the Bulldogs' Program Needs Is a Guy Who Has Lost Touch With What's Going On In Division I Basketball

Tubby Smith

Getting a Few More Calls

An e-mail from Mark Robinson of Tucson, AZ:

"Hi, Ron:

"In your story, you echo the words of Coach Fran who, after losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament said those very words.  These guys deserved a better fate tonight.

"It is a little disconcerting how the 'bigtime' teams, most of the time, seem to get just a few more calls go their way.

"Keep writing,"

Mark Robinson

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS:  Good hearing from you again, Mark. The zebras always know the score. They know which teams are seeded high, which teams are seeded low. They know which teams get the big TV ratings. They know the important coaches, they know the not-so-important coaches. I repeat, Iowa State [and Iowa] deserved a better fate. Keep writing, Mark.]

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Heartbreaking is a word that's used far too often in sportswriting. Besides, it's not a strong enough word anyway. And you won't get me to ever use the term heart-stopping. I know Fred Hoiberg never uses that one. There's got to be much more powerful words or terms to describe the emotion connected with today's Iowa State-Ohio State basketball game, but right now I can't think of what they might be. All I can say is that Iowa State deserved a much better fate in its NCAA defeat at Dayton, Ohio. In the end, the Cyclones lost, 78-75, and the record books will always say that guard Aaron Craft's 3-pointer with a half-second remaining was the decisive basket for Ohio State. The record books don't lie. Craft's basket was the dagger that prevented Hoiberg, an excellent coach, and his excellent team from marching onward in the Big Dance. Craft scored because Iowa State freshman Georges Niang guessed wrong on defense. With the seconds ticking off the clock, Niang evidently thought Craft would wind up driving to the basket instead of pulling up for the 3. After all, Craft isn't exactly collegiate basketball's greatest shooter. Earlier in the game, he missed on the front ends of two one-and-one free throw opportunities. Niang is a wonderful player. He owes no one an apology for how he defended Craft.. How sad and ironic it was that a Cyclone team that leads the nation in 3-point shooting lost its final game to a 3-pointer. The Iowa State-Ohio State game was the best of this tournament, and for all I know there won't be a better one the rest of the way. Iowa State played a wonderful game, and just as easily could have won. Minutes after the game had ended, and after long looks at videotape replay, CBS analyst Charles Barkley said Iowa State was screwed by the officials on more than one play. Barkley could be right, but it's obvious in today's extremely fast-paced collegiate basketball that rarely is a game played that there isn't controversy about the officiating. Iowa State is a team that's been screwed by the officials often this season. Surely you remember the loss to Kansas at Hilton coliseum in Ames. The Cyclones played a very courageous game today, and had to play too much of without injured Chris Babb. Yes, Hoiberg and his players deserved a much better fate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today

An Embarrassing 20-Point NCAA Tournament Loss To a Minnesota Team That I Had Given Up for Dead Costs UCLA Coach Ben Howland His Job. Howland Had No Answers for the Gophers and Has No Excuses Now After He and His Team Were No-Shows In the Big Dance

Ben Howland has been fired as UCLA's basketball coach

An e-mail from former Iowan Mark Robinson, who now lives in Tucson, AZ:

"Hi, Ron,

"UCLA beat Sweet 16 Arizona three times this season.  The Minnesota win is, well, perplexing.  But. I think it's clear there is really great basketball played in the Big Ten this season.  Good for Minnesota." 


[RON MALY'S COMMENTS:  Mark's message was  in regard to my thoughts following Minnesota's 83-63 victory Friday over UCLA, which appeared to be an embarrassment to collegiate basketball,  in the NCAA tournament.  I said that I had given the Gophers up for dead before the game,  Indeed, I wondered how, or why, Minnesota was even chosen for the field. And so had people who live in the Twin Cities. The local newspapers were full of opinions that Tubby Smith and his players didn't belong in the Big Dance.  I told my son, who lives up there, that it was strange to see the local media ripping on the local team.  Around here, of course, the media [especially people at the paper] turn into cheerleaders rather than critics. .The sportswriters figure they'd better be cheerleaders or they risk being fired by the bosses, who are intent on getting "good-news, don't-bother-telling-it-like-it-is" stories in the paper. But it was UCLA, not Minnesota, that was a no-show in The Dance. If I were coach Ben Howland's boss at Westwood, Calif., I would have had him in my office the day after the game, wondering how he wanted his severance pay--in a lump sum or spread over a couple of years. And that's exactly what happened. Howland has been fired. And Mark Robinson is correct in praising the Big Ten for its strength. The league's only NCAA downer so far has been Wisconsin's strange 57-46 loss to Mississippi. Also, of course, Iowa of the Big Ten is playing outstandingly well in the NIT.]

Saturday, March 23, 2013



Just Thinking: Is there any chance Iowa State can be as good as it was against Notre Dame one more time? Hey, why not? I think the sky is the limit for the Cyclones in the NCAA tournament. I'm betting they play another spectacular game Sunday against Ohio State. That doesn't mean I'm predicting they'll win. But the Buckeyes aren't invincible. They won't play as poorly as Notre Dame played, and there's no way Ohio State coach Thad Matta is as dumb as Notre Dame's Mike Brey, but I look for Fred Hoiberg and his Cyclones to have a decent chance of advancing tomorrow when they play Ohio State. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and the game starts at 11:15 a.m. That's going to be a challenge for church-goers, especially when the late service at Mt. Olive starts at 10:30 a.m. and sometimes lasts until noon. Maybe we should've gone to the 5 p.m. service today. Speaking of Iowa State, as I did a couple of sentences ago, it's good to see ex-Cyclone coach Larry Eustachy, the man in black on the Colorado State bench, coaching again in the tournament. Meanwhile, what's happened to basketball at UCLA? Good lord, John Wooden must be rolling over in his grave after what happened to the Bruins in a 20-point loss Friday night to a Minnesota team I had given up for dead. I mean, Tubby who? Speaking of lousy postseason coaching, how about what less-than-legendary Steve Alford did at New Mexico? And the guy just got a 10-year contract extension. Wow. How can teams like Notre Dame, New Mexico and UCLA have gotten into the Big Dance and Iowa didn't? The people who were on the selection committee should be deported. The Missouri Valley Conference is looking good. Wichita State, which used to be called the Wheatshockers and now goes just by Shockers, shocked No. 1-ranked Gonzaga and lots of others by winning Saturday night in Salt Lake City.  Creighton, which is still in the Valley but is headed to the revamped Big East Conference, won its NCAA opener Friday over Cincinnati.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As I was on my way out of church last night, a longtime member named Byron [most people refer to him as Bud] asked me, "Who are picking in your NCAA tournament bracket?" Without hesitation, I said, "Valparaiso." I really hadn't been thinking about the Big Dance during the 45-minute Lenten service, but 14th-seeded Valparaiso somehow quickly came to my mind when I was asked about the first day of the tournament. Sadly, the Crusaders are already out of The Dance. They lost to Michigan State. 65-54, at Auburn Hills, Mich., early this afternoon after falling behind by 17 points at halftime. At least Valpo [that's what longtime followers of Valparaiso call the school] made it a respectable score at the end. I guess I said I was on Valparaiso's bandwagon because my niece, Michelle, lives in Valparaiso, Ind., and her husband, Carter Hanson, is an English professor at the university. I'm sure Michelle, Carter and their two daughters are bigtime Valparaiso fans. Indeed, I meant to call them this morning to wish the Crusaders well in the tournament. But I didn't get around to it, and the game was over before I thought of it again. I guess I should've called yesterday. I've seen Valparaiso play in NCAA games in past seasons. I was covering a regional one year when Homer Drew was the coach, and I made sure I interviewed him after his game. Homer knew his X's and O's. Homer has had two sons who also have been Valpo coaches. Heck, even ex-UCLA coach Gene Bartow was a former Valparaiso coach, and he once brought his team to Veterans Memorial Auditorium in downtown Des Moines for a game against Drake. Maury John's Bulldogs won, but Valpo played well. I should also add that Valparaiso's loss today didn't make a couple of my other friends happy. I'll call them Gloria and Glen because I don't now if they want to be identified on the Internet or not. I'll find out later tonight when I see them at church. I'm sure Gloria took the loss harder than her husband Glen. She's a definite Crusaders fan, and was wearing her Valparaiso sweater last night at church. Glen's chances of advancing in the tournament are much better. He's more of an Indiana fan than a Valparaiso fan.

Kenny Oliver Would Appreciate This Story


Tim McClelland of West Des Moines made the national news again this week. 
Tim McCelland [in background, looking to the right] as a Valley assistant coach

McClelland is a longtime major league umpire. Indeed, he's been labeled the best in the game. 

 The big guy's only drawback is that he takes forever to raise his arms when calling balls and strikes, thereby causing confusion among fans and [mostly] radio and TV broadcasters.

 I'm sure the batter, the pitcher and the catcher know immediately if it's a ball or strike because McClelland undoubtedly says loudly if the pitch is one or the other.

 The last time I saw McClelland in person was when was helping coach the Valley High School girls' basketball team inside the Bill Coldiron Fieldhouse in West Des Moines.

 I went to as many Valley games as I could during the 2012-2013 season, and McClelland was on the scene for the girls' game every time. 

 Indeed, he was still working deep into February as an assistant basketball coach, and I was wondering if he'd retired from his professional baseball umpiring job. 

Evidently not. 

He's back on the big league scene, calling preseason games in Arizona. 

But it was the day before yesterday when he did something that hardly ever happens in baseball these days. 
McClelland umpiring a game behind the  mound. Photo courtesy of AP.

McClelland called balls and strikes from behind the mound in the Milwaukee-Los Angeles Angels game in Phoenix after another umpire was injured. 

I didn't see the game on TV and didn't see any videotape of it later, but I certainly recall days when umpires called balls and strikes behind the mound. 

When I played in what was known as the Kids' League in my hometown of Cedar Rapids, the umpire always worked behind the mound. 

Probably because no one could afford to pay for the chest protector, the mask and all of the other gear that umpires use when they work behind the catcher.

We were 9, 10, 11 and maybe 12 years of age. 

Obviously, we knew all there was to know. 

 The games were usually played at Riverside Park on the southwest side of town, or Daniels Park on tn the northeast side. 

The funniest episode involving an umpire-working-behind-the-mound I ever witnessed was on a warm afternoon at Daniels Park. 

A friend of mine named Kenny Oliver was pitching for our team. 

The umpire was calling balls and strikes while standing behind Kenny on the mound. 

The umpire suddenly tried to get friendly with Kenny and said, "I should get a boy to bring me a cup of water." 

 Kenny snapped back, "You should get a boy to do the umpiring, too!" 

Obviously, we had a tough team, and obviously Kenny didn't care much for the umpires' calls.

As far as know, Kenny didn't get ejected from the game. 


[Photo of Tim McClelland as an assistant coach at a Valley High School girls' basketball game by Ron Maly; photo of McCelland umpiring behind the mound in a major league baseball preseason game courtesy of the Associated Press].

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Minnesota Snowstorms, Continued


You may recall a  column I wrote a couple of years ago about driving through a blizzard and a white-out on our way home from St. Paul, MN.
Photo courtesy of

Our oldest son and his family lived there at the time, and we had visited them for several days in March.

Things got so dangerous on the drive that a Minnesota state trooper told us we'd better get off I-35 for our own safety.

We made it back home to Iowa that day, but I vowed I'd never try to leave Minnesota again in a snowstorm.

Fast-forward to the winter of 2013.

I wasn't doing the driving this time. 

My youngest son was, and also in the car were his wife and their two teen-age kids.

Our oldest son and his family no longer live in St. Paul. They live in Woodbury, MN.

And you know what? It snows a lot in Woodbury just like it snows a lot in St. Paul.

We had intended to drive home yesterday, but delayed the trip because of heavy snow that fell in Minnesota overnight Sunday.

So we left at 8:30 a.m. today, and all went well until we reached the outskirts of Owatonna, a city in southern Minnesota.

From there into northern Iowa, I counted eight trucks and cars that had slipped off the Interstate because of snow, ice and white-out conditions.

At times, traffic was slowed to a standstill by police and troopers at the scene.

Fortunately, we had no problems. But, like the situation two years ago, I was very happy to get home, where there is very little snow on the ground.

These days, I like snow in Minnesota [and Iowa] about as much as I like rattlesnakes in Arizona.

One of the reasons we had gone to Minnesota was to attend our granddaughter's volleyball tournament Sunday. Her team's appearance, however, was called off because a number of the players on her team are either injured or ill.
Russ, Tara and Suzanne Schwichtenberg [Photo by Ron Maly].

But there were plenty of other activities to attend, including a wonderful performance Saturday night of "Beauty and the Beast" by our granddaughter's Concordia Academy high school-age classmates.

Then there was the final performance Sunday afternoon of  "The Diary Of Anne Frank" by a drama group from Concordia University in St. Paul.

Among those in the group was Tara Schwichtenberg, the daughter of Russ and Suzanne Schwichtenberg of Morristown, MN

Tara, who spent a year in New York City perfecting her acting skills before returning to college,  played the role of Mrs. Van Daan in the play. 

Russ Schwichtenberg and my oldest son have been good friends since their freshman year at Concordia University in 1977. 

Oh, and I shouldn't forget to mention the visit we had Saturday afternoon over coffee and dessert at our son's home with Lon and Lois Stolte, former Iowans who have lived in Cottage Grove, MN, for many years.

Lon and Lois were among my classmates at Wilson High School in Cedar Rapids, and we've looked them up several times in recent years.  Both are doing well. 

So, despite foul weather in the Gopher state, it was an excellent journey.

We attended some very nice events and talked with a number of very nice people.

The fact that my son's Dodge van got back to West Des Moines unscathed while making it through another Minnesota snowstorm added to our pleasure. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Drake Fires Mark Phelps After 5 Seasons As Basketball Coach. It's No Surprise To Me Because Even At So-Called 'Brain Schools,' the Most Important Sport In the Program Must Have More Victories Than Losses, and Fans Need To See Improvement On the Horizon. Unfortunately, That Didn't Happen Under Phelps' Leadership At Drake. So Here's Ron Maly's Version Of the Classified Ad Drake Might Now Post: HELP WANTED--The Drake Basketball Coaching Job Is Open To a Guy Who Is Intelligent, Knows His X's and O's, Can Recruit Nationally, Is An Entertaining Public Speaker, Fan-Friendly and Who Is Willing To Work for Below-Average Pay At the Major College Level


Mark Phelps had his five seasons.
Mark Phelps

He lost more games than he won.

He's gone.

Athletic director Sandy Hatfield Clubb announced the firing of Drake's basketball coach this afternoon--about a year after she fired Amy Stephens, Drake's women's coach.

Don't forget, Hatfield Clubb has her own legacy to think about at Drake.

"Mark Phelps is a man of great integrity and honor," Hatfield Clubb said in an e-mail sent  to me by Ty Patton, Drake's assistant athletic director for communications..

Patton sent an earlier e-mail that said there would be a 3:30 p.m. press conference at Drake. 

That's where Hatfield Clubb's announcement about the firing of Phelps was made.

I was taking my 2-mile walk, followed by a trip to Hy-Vee for the 99-cent milk that was on sale from 4 to 8 p.m.

So I didn't make it to the press conference.

Hell, I've got priorities, too.

No matter.

The firing of Phelps comes as no great surprise to me.

Shocking it isn't. 

 Phelps had a 77-86 overall record and was only 37-53 in Missouri Valley Conference games. 

Sandy Hatfield Clubb

Attendance at the Knapp Center was deteriorating.

It was definitely time for a change.

"[Phelps]' high standards and values have been an asset to our student-athletes and the program," Hatfield Clubb said. "However, after a comprehensive evaluation of the program, we have made the decision not to retain Mark as head basketball coach for a sixth season at Drake University."

In recent years, Drake has taken on the label of being a "brain school." 

But a guy has to win more than he loses, even at brain schools. 

At least the brain school in Des Moines.

Phelps' records in 2012-2013 were 15-17 overall and 7-11 in the Valley in the season that ended last week in the league tournament at St. Louis. 

“A decision like this is never easy,” Hatfield Clubb said. 

“However, we believe a change in leadership is necessary to create a sustained level of competitive excellence. Drake basketball is important to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters, and we will continue to invest significantly in the program and have high standards for its success.”

Drake has never been an easy place to win, although the late Maury John made it look simple when his teams from the 1968-69 seasons through 1970-71 went to three consecutive NCAA tournaments. 

The  1968-69 team went 28-6 and finished third in the NCAA Final Four at Louisville, Ky. 

Phelps has been Drake's coach since April 21, 2008. He had been an assistant coach and associate head coach at Arizona State and North Carolina State.

He had a tough act to follow at Drake.

Keno Davis, in his only season as coach, had a 28-5 record and took Drake to the NCAA tourament. 

It was Tom Davis, who preceded his son Keno as Drake's coach, who called the Bulldogs' job the most difficult in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Tom Davis had been the winningest coach in history at Iowa before taking on the rebuilding job at Drake.

Phelps had a 17-16 record in his first season, and his program never caught fire.

The best player he had at Drake, Rayvonte Rice, transferred to Illinois after last season.

Just before this season began, I predicted Phelps would have a better team without Rice because, to Rice, Drake was more about him than the team.

Unfortunately for Phelps, Drake wasn't better without Rice. He didn't have enough talent on his team, or didn't coach well enough, to finish the season with more victories than losses.

Hatfield Clubb said a national search for a new coach will begin immediately.

A transcript of quotes from today's Drake press conference e-mailed to Ron Maly by Ty Patton, Drake's assistant athletic director for communictions:
Drake Director of Athletics Sandy Hatfield Clubb

Opening statement:

“Following a comprehensive review of the Drake men’s basketball program the university has made a decision to not retain head coach Mark Phelps as our basketball coach.”

“Drake University is grateful for his commitment to the program. He has a strong work ethic and is a man of integrity. Nobody worked harder the last five years. He’s brought high standards and personal values to this program. A decision like this is never easy, but I believe a change in leadership is what is needed in order to create a sustained level of competitive excellence for Drake University.”

“We are conducting a national search that will take place immediately.”

What drove the decision?

“We did a comprehensive review of the program. This is year five, and we determined that in order to achieve the level of competitive excellence that we desire at Drake that it was time to make a change.”

Were you concerned about attendance numbers at all?

“We looked very comprehensively at the program and that was certainly one of the factors that we considered.”

What are you looking for in new coach?

“The next coach will be a person of integrity, high character, someone who has demonstrated a commitment to excellence, who focuses on player development and somebody who is willing to live the Bulldog Way at Drake.”

What did you tell Mark [Phelps] and how would you characterize that conversation?

“I met with Mark this afternoon. For Mark this is a very difficult time. As I mentioned Mark is a man of integrity and that is exactly how the conversation took place and he acted with the utmost integrity.”

What is the assistant coaches’ future here at Drake?

“The new head coach will make decisions about the employment of the assistant coaches. I’ve certainly been in contact with them and will continue to be. I’ve met with the players already, earlier today.”

In the new coach are you looking for any sort of Iowa connection?

“Always, that is certainly something you look for. What are different ways to connect already to Drake University and certainly through the state of Iowa is one of them, that is always a factor that we look for and we are looking for the best fit for Drake University. Someone who has a commitment to the high academic standards and again the total development of a student athlete.”

Do you think you made the wrong hire five years ago?

“Absolutely not. He [Mark Phelps] again brought strength and integrity, terrific recruiting and we’re at a point of transition now.”

How difficult is the Drake head coaching job?

“This certainly is an equal challenge to other basketball jobs out there. This is a Division I competitive basketball program with high expectations and we continue to make very significant investments in the program. We have over the last five years and continue to do so. We believe that the investment in the program mirrors the expectations of the program.”

How concerned are you that players may transfer?

“I just had a meeting with the players. Certainly this a challenging and difficult time. The players that are here in our program are Drake students and they are wonderful fit for Drake University and we’ll continue to pour love and affection into them as we continue to move forward.”

Do you have a timeline in terms of when and new coach will be hired?

“We’re going to work very aggressively to replace our men’s head basketball coach. As everybody knows we’re headed right into March Madness and that creates interesting challenges relative to availability of people. The timing will be aggressive and we’ll move forward very quickly.”

Did the achievements of the 2007-2008 team make it difficult for Mark Phelps?

“The 2007-2008 team made it very exciting for Drake University and certainly brought some excitement to the institution. We are striving to have that type of excitement at the Knapp Center on a regular basis.”

How important is it to find a coach that can work within the framework of the high academic standards that this school has and also be able to win?

“There are many coaches out there that share the belief that excellence in the classroom can fall over to excellence in the basketball court. There are certainly many schools out there that share our commitment to academics and athletics and we absolutely believe that we can have both excellence in the classroom and excellence on the court.”

Are you more inclined to go after a person who has been a head coach before at the collegiate level or are you ok with bringing in an assistant from another program?

“There’s always a mix of what you’re looking for, so I wish I could tell you what was the perfect frame. Somebody who has been a head coach at any level whether that is high school, junior college, four-year school, and division one, that certainly gives you a different frame of reference than it does if they have only been an assistant coach. You look for the total package so I anticipate the group that we’re looking at in our final few are going to have a little bit of mix of experience.”

Are you going to use a selection committee or are you a committee of one on this?

“We’ll have a group that I work with. We don’t, per se, have a committee if you will, but we will have a group.”

As a private school we are not always sure what you’re paying your basketball coach are you confident that you will have enough there to hire who you want?

“Absolutely. Certainly those are things that we evaluate on a regular basis and we believe that we’re in an appropriate financial position to acquire the coach that will lead the program to the next level.”

Had you talked to Mark throughout the season to let him know that this day may have been coming and that something needed to change?

“He and I talked on a regular basis. We are always communicating about where we are, what we’re doing. He was certainly engaged this week as we evaluated the program.”