CBKB: Iowa basketball coach fired after 10-22 season
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa fired coach Todd Lickliter on Monday, ending a brief and disappointing tenure that included three losing seasons in a row and a parade of players leaving the once-proud program.
Athletic director Gary Barta announced the firing at a news conference in Iowa City.
The 54-year-old Lickliter had four years left on a seven-year contract that paid him $1.2 million a year. He was not at the news conference and not immediately available for comment.
The Hawkeyes, who had just two upperclassmen play significant minutes, finished the season 10-22 — their first with 20 losses. In all, Lickliter was 38-58 with Iowa.
Rumors about Lickliter’s shaky job status picked up steam late last week after a 59-52 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament. But his stint at Iowa was also marred by a series of player departures. Four transferred after the 2008-09 season, and sophomore guard Anthony Tucker left last month following a pair of alcohol-related suspensions and a third for academic problems.
Lickliter spent six seasons at Butler before coming to Iowa to succeed Steve Alford, who left for New Mexico in the spring of 2007. Lickliter led the Bulldogs to a 29-7 mark and the NCAA regional semifinals in 2007 and was named the Division I Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
But Lickliter could never get the Hawkeyes moving in the right direction.
Iowa finished 13-19 in 2007-08, Lickliter’s first season, but that was expected to be a rebuilding year following Alford’s departure. Iowa improved to 15-17 in 2008-09, but key contributors Jake Kelly and Jeff Peterson and reserves Jermain Davis and David Palmer transferred following the season.
The Hawkeyes were forced to start from scratch yet again this season. Their starting lineup featured four underclassmen for most of the season — including true freshman point guard Cully Payne — and the results were predictable.
Iowa lost to the likes of Texas-San Antonio and Duquesne at home and finished just 4-14 in the Big Ten. Though the Hawkeyes seemed to be improving in the later half of the year, they finished the regular season with a 27-point loss at Wisconsin and an 88-53 drubbing at Minnesota.
Though Iowa lost more than 20 games for the first time, Lickliter’s job seemed safe until last week’s conference tournament. After the loss to Michigan, Barta issued a statement that praised the players but did not mention Lickliter.
Off the court, Lickliter had a health scare in early December. He went to the hospital because of headaches, and tests revealed the beginning of a tear in Lickliter’s carotid artery, which supplies blood to the brain. Doctors added a stent the next day, and Lickliter missed three games while recovering.
Iowa has also seen its attendance dwindle in recent years. The Hawkeyes, who routinely had near-capacity crowds during the Tom Davis era in the late 1980s and ’90s, drew just 9,550 fans per home game this season.
“It’s an amazing world I live in,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Monday, when a reporter asked for his reaction to the firing. “I don’t know Todd that well, but I know this: he’s a quality guy, he doesn’t cheat, he does it the right way. I think, for what he had with the injuries and suspensions because of alcohol, I thought he did a hell of a job.”
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed to this report from East Lansing, Mich.