Monday, March 15, 2010

Lickliter Gets Fired

As everybody knows by now, Todd Lickliter was fired as Head Coach of the Iowa Varsity Men's Basketball team. Although most Hawk fans are rejoicing, I am left with mixed emotions about Lickliter's time at Iowa. Was it successful? No, definitely not. But could it have been? That's what I'm trying to figure out.

Everything went wrong for Todd during his time at Iowa. He inherited a bad team that immediately lost its best player in Tyler Smith. That one didn't take anybody by surprise, but it became a theme for Lickliter's teams during his tenure at Iowa. This was probably the third biggest problem that Iowa fans had with Lickliter.

Hence the 2007-2008 team was led by Tony Freeman and Justin Johnson. Their seniors were Seth Gorney, Kurt Looby, and Johnson. That is not a recipe for success. With that talent level, Iowa predictably struggled to a 13-19 record, going 6-12 in the Big Ten. The highlights included a win over Northern Iowa, and a win over #6 ranked Michigan State. The problem was that even though they beat Michigan State, it was an atrocious game to watch as Iowa scored just 43 points in a 43-36 victory. This was the second biggest complaint that Iowa fans had with Lickliter (I'm speaking for the majority of fans, as this was my biggest problem with the team). His first year was bad, but everyone expected that, so hopes were high that the following year could be better for the Hawks.

Tony Freeman (as well as Dan Bohall) decided to leave the team in the offseason. I'm not sure that this sucked more that Tony Freeman left, or that it mattered that a player of Tony Freeman's caliber leaving was a big deal for the Hawkeye program. Still, this was the year that the savior was finally going to arrive. Matt Gatens, who I believe committed to Iowa 18 months before he was conceived, was finally arriving to play for the Hawkeyes.

Although, very few will remember it as such, 2008-2009 was a step forward for the Hawkeyes program. Yes, they were only 15-17 and lost an extra game in the Big Ten, but they were pretty competitive in most games. They beat both Northern Iowa and Iowa State, but then got blown out by Drake in an absolute embarrassment. They beat Wisconsin and Penn State (who wasn't bad that year), but gave Indiana their lone Big Ten win. Finally, they laid an egg in the Big Ten Tournament against Michigan. Still, the positives were there. They had four players score in double digits (Kelly, Gatens, Anthony Tucker, and Jeff Peterson), all those guys were freshman or sophomores, an they were losing JR Angle and Cyrus Tate.

A step forward was expected for 2009-10, but those chances took a big hit when Peterson, Kelly, David Palmer, and Jermain Davis all left the program. Although Kelly was the toughest to lose, Peterson was the biggest red flag. Most guys will transfer if they aren't getting playing time, but if they are playing, you'd think that you could keep them in the program. Peterson either would have started or gotten significant minutes, but he still didn't want to be a part of the Iowa program.

Then we get to this year, and Lickliter's biggest problem, he never won. This year, the team took a huge step backwards. They showed improvement during the middle of the season, but they were an absolute joke at the end of this season. Their last four road games during the Big Ten regular season they lost by 23, 17, 27, and 35. That is an absolute joke. Another scary thing was that despite Iowa being a very young team, only one player played consistently better as the season wore on, and that was Aaron Fuller. Everybody else would show signs of improving, but then take a big step backwards.

This all led to what happened today, Lickliter was let go. Was it the right choice? It depends. If he truly had lost the players (Gatens looked lackadaisical a lot this year), then yes, he had to go. And yes, I know there were a ton of rumors of guys saying they didn't want to play for Lickliter, but that is always going to happen if the team is losing. Nobody likes losing, and there's no doubt that players hated it. Still, all of those were just rumors.

If they weren't true, then this was a poor decision by Gary Barta. If this was forced by boosters or the fans, it's very unfortunate. I love Iowa, but Iowa fans have not shown the support that a Big Ten team deserves. Giving a college coach only three years to succeed is an absolute joke. He had gotten his best recruiting class coming in, ranking 26th best in the nation. The transfers were unfortunate, but next year was a year that Lickliter deserved so he could show progress.

We may never find out all the true details of the situation, but I don't think Lickliter got a fair shake at Iowa. I wish him (and even his son, John) the best of luck and believe that the next team that hires him will be pleasantly surprised with their new basketball coach.


P.S. Should I start this campaign back up again?

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