Point/Counterpoint: Who should have been Iowa's Coach of the Year?

BY DI STAFF | MAY 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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Lisa Bluder

Rick Heller turned a program around, and Ron Rainey took a program — one that only recently started having success — to new heights. But what’s more impressive than all of this is what Lisa Bluder did with the 2013-14 Iowa women’s basketball team.

In her 14th season of coaching the Hawkeyes, Bluder took a team that had just lost Jaime Printy and Morgan Johnson and turned the squad into quite possibly the best Iowa team she has ever coached.

Iowa won 27 games — second-most in program history and most for a Bluder-coached Hawkeye team, it was 7 points away from winning a Big Ten championship, and it advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh-straight season in a row.

And if it weren’t for an extremely unlucky draw of Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, we could be talking about this team as the first under Bluder to advance to the Sweet 16.

But forget about the wins — this team was simply fun to watch. The Hawkeyes led the Big Ten in scoring, all five starters’ scoring averages were in the double digits, and they passed the ball as well as any team in the conference. It was a team that in many eyes, exceeded expectations.

That seems fitting, as when Bluder began coaching 30 years ago, the expectations were low as well. With a $2,500 per year salary and no prior head-coaching experience, Bluder could have easily quit coaching early on, and no one would have noticed.

But much like this team, she stuck with it. And as a result, on Feb. 10, she passed Tom Davis and C. Vivian Stringer for most wins for an Iowa basketball coach. A fitting accomplishment for one of the best coaches the Big Ten has to offer and one who should have been the çoach of the Year.

— Jacob Sheyko

Ron Rainey

The Iowa women’s soccer team had its best year in program history largely because of a coach who has since moved on to a different program. We’re talking about a coach who took his team to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. That’s an extremely strong enough case for Coach of the Year.

Rainey’s crew stared the season on a nine-game winning streak and finished the year 15-7-1. After squeezing out a pair of 1-0 victories over Michigan and Penn State in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, the Hawkeyes lost a 1-goal game to Nebraska in the title game.

Not so different from Bluder’s squad, Rainey and company got an unlucky matchup in its first contest in the Big Dance. Notre Dame gave Iowa its worst loss of the season and ended Rainey’s time in Iowa City.

Even though Rainey took the head-coaching job at Dartmouth — congrats to him, by the way — he deserved to win our Coach of the Year award. Really, any coach that leads a scrappy, defensively sound team such as Iowa to its first NCAA Tournament appearance deserves to be in the running for this award.

— Danny Payne

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