IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa athletic director Gary Barta had no
idea the man he was about to ask to be his new basketball coach had
won a national coach of the year award the night before.
In three meetings with Iowa officials at the Final Four, Todd
Lickliter never mentioned the honor. That show of humility cinched
it for Barta, who moved quickly to bring the architect of Butler's
recent success to Iowa.
"That told me a lot about the person we had been meeting
with," Barta said.
The 51-year-old Lickliter was introduced as Iowa's coach
Tuesday, having agreed on a seven-year deal worth $1.2 million
Lickliter was 131-61 in six years at Butler, leading the
Bulldogs to a pair of appearances in the NCAA Tournament's round of
16 and 29 wins last season. He takes over for Steve Alford, who
left for New Mexico on March 23 after eight up-and-down seasons.
"I'm thrilled," Lickliter said. "It had to be an awfully good
resume to catch Iowa's attention."
It's hard to escape the parallels between Lickliter's arrival
and Alford's back in 1999. Both were Indiana-born, mid-major
coaches who used an appearance in the NCAA Tournament run to the
regional semifinals as a springboard to Iowa.
That's where the similarities end.
Lickliter worked as a high school coach in Indiana for well over
a decade, even spending part of one season coaching in Saudi
Arabia. He got back in college ball by taking a job as an
administrative assistant under Barry Collier at Butler in 1996, and
produced immediate results upon being elevated to head coach in
He led the Bulldogs to 26 wins and the Horizon League regular
season title in his first season, then guided them to two NCAA
Tournament victories as a No. 12 seed a year later.
This season, Lickliter and the Bulldogs proved early on they
were too good to be considered underdogs.
Butler knocked off Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee and Gonzaga to
win the NIT Season Tip-off championship and earn a spot in The
Associated Press Top 25. Butler then beat Old Dominion and Maryland
in this year's NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual national
For his efforts, Lickliter was honored as Division I Coach of
the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
"I felt like I had a good job." Lickliter said. "I would not
have left there unless it was a unique and special opportunity."
Iowa had initially turned to Tennessee's Bruce Pearl, who was an
assistant with the Hawkeyes from 1986-92. The Hawkeyes received
permission from Tennessee to formally interview Pearl, but Pearl
quickly turned them down.
Lickliter is Barta's first major hire at Iowa since succeeding
Bob Bowlsby, who left last summer to take the AD job at Stanford.
"I had a plan, and I'm very happy to say that the plan worked
well," Barta said. "Everybody I was interested in already had a
very good job."
Barta, who said the only offer he made was to Lickliter, is
hoping the former Butler coach can jolt a program that sorely needs
it. Asked what brand of basketball he planned to bring to Iowa,
Lickliter said simply, "a winning" one.
"Our style is opportunistic. We want to seize opportunities. We
want to attack with poise and great ball-handing. We're not
concerned with tempo. We're going to take what's given to us,"
Iowa won just one NCAA Tournament game in eight seasons under Alford,
whose tipping point at Iowa just may have been the desperation
buzzer beater by Northwestern State's Jermaine Wallace that beat
the third-seeded Hawkeyes in the first-round of the 2006
Attendance has been on a steady decline at Carver-Hawkeye --
despite Iowa's 31-2 home record over the last two years -- as the
relationship between Alford and Hawkeyes fans soured. Alford even
hinted upon his arrival in New Mexico that Iowa favored football
Lickliter dismissed that notion, adding that he was so excited
about getting to Iowa his car is still in Atlanta.
"If Florida and Ohio State are football schools, I'll take that
label," he said.