Point/Counterpoint: Who should be the next Iowa basketball coach?

BY DI STAFF | MARCH 23, 2010 7:30 AM

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Keno Davis —

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Keno Davis is the right man for the Iowa men’s basketball job.

He is the head coach at Providence and a former head coach at Drake, where he was named 2008 Associated Press National Coach of the Year after guiding the Bulldogs to a 28-5 record and an NCAA Tournament berth.

He’s also the son of former Iowa head coach Tom Davis. Iowa chose not to extend Keno’s daddy’s contract in 1999 after 13 seasons, despite a 269-140 record and nine trips to the Big Dance.

And Iowa basketball has not been the same since then.

Through eight years under Steve Alford and three years under Todd Lickliter, the Hawkeyes have gone 190-163 overall, including an embarrassing 76-106 record in the Big Ten.

To restore order to the Iowa program, Keno Davis is the answer.

He knows what it takes to be successful at Iowa. He served as an assistant coach for the Hawkeyes under his father for four years.

But perhaps most importantly, the 38-year old Davis would bring something that has been missing from the Iowa basketball program lately — energy.

Unlike the slow, deliberate style of Lickliter that relied on hot 3-point shooting and made games slower than a two-hour lecture on sedimentary rocks, Davis would bring a track meet-like tempo to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Using the same style of play that his father utilized to attract former greats such as Jess Settles and Andre Woolridge to Iowa City, there’s no reason to think Davis couldn’t bring in more players similar to Eric May and less like Anthony Tucker.

Davis is on the record as saying he’s staying put at Providence, but he will have a hard time resisting an offer from the Hawkeyes, who could easily offer him much more money than he is making.

So Gary Barta, look no further than Keno Davis.

Winning at Iowa is in his blood.

— by Jordan Garretson

Steve Lavin —

Iowa fans have heard Steve Lavin on TV, and if they’re lucky, the Hawkeye players will get to hear him in the locker room.

Outside of a seven-year run as the head coach of the UCLA basketball team, Lavin might be best known as an enthusiastic and sometimes unorthodox commentator for ESPN.

His uncanny and sometimes mixed analogies and observations from college games might serve as a reminder of his coaching style to some of the Bruin fans he left behind.

Several loyal Bruins have voiced their disapproval of Lavin’s tenure at UCLA, the worst of it culminating in designating Lavin as “The Blagojevich of College Hoops.”

All Blago references aside, it seems that those fans in Los Angeles had been spoiled by legendary coach John Wooden. But when you look at the facts and stats, Lavin’s résumé should shut those doubters up.

In his time at UCLA, Lavin’s teams started every year in the AP’s top 25, ranking no lower than No. 17 in those polls. He won at least 21 games in his first six campaigns before being fired after one losing season — his last one at UCLA.

And Lavin’s postseason success should have Iowa fans drooling over the prospect of hiring him.

It’s been a painful wait to make it back to the Big Dance for the Hawkeyes. They haven’t been able to expunge that painful 3-point loss to Northwestern State from their memories.

Lavin may be able to remedy that.

He led the Bruins to five Sweet 16 appearances in his first six years and made it to the Elite Eight on his first try.

With success such as that, the Hawkeyes’ “One Shining Moment” could come with the employment of Lavin.

— by Matt Schommer

Tony Barbee —

Todd Lickliter’s three-year reign in Iowa City ended in typical fashion, with his team scoring more than 60 points only three times in its last 13 games.

Quite simply, there was nothing fun about watching the Hawkeyes. They played slowly, they appeared to be athletically inferior, and they regressed as the calendar dipped into March. Iowa was last in the Big Ten in scoring offense (60.5 points per game) and ninth in the conference in scoring defense (66.0).

Lickliter’s painstaking offensive system didn’t work, resulting in the worst three-year stretch in Iowa basketball history and also the three lowest attendance seasons ever in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Consequently, Athletics Director Gary Barta fired Lickliter on March 15.

Perhaps more than anything, Lickliter’s replacement needs to be a high-level recruiter — someone who can snag the second-tier prospects from Chicago — who values an up-tempo offense.

Tony Barbee — the current UTEP coach and former longtime assistant under John Calipari at Memphis and UMass — is essentially everything Lickliter was not: a sound recruiter, an offensive-minded head coach, and a person who would not be overwhelmed by Iowa’s current state.

This alone makes him a viable candidate at Iowa

According to his UTEP bio, Memphis signed top-10 recruiting classes in each of Barbee’s six seasons (2000-2006) on campus. His first class at UTEP served as the backbone for the Miners’ 26-7 (15-1) record this season, which included an NCAA Tournament at-large birth.

This year, Barbee headed a squad that was in the Conference USA’s top-four in scoring offense (75.5 points per game) and defense (64.6). In fact, UTEP ranked No. 1 in C-USA with a plus-11.5 scoring margin. For a point of comparison, Iowa was minus-5.5 this season.

Barbee, who runs Calipari’s patented dribble-drive offense, has improved in each of his four years at UTEP, winning 14, 19, 23, and 26 games in his four seasons as head coach.

Many have called this the most important hiring in Iowa basketball history, pressuring AD Gary Barta to make a “splash hiring.” Barbee, because of his recruiting prowess and his fun-to-watch style, would satisfy both fans and players, making him the Hawkeyes’ best option.

— by Scott Miller

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