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Reports: T.J. Otzelberger expected to leave UNLV for Iowa State

After two seasons with the Runnin’ Rebels, Otzelberger appears to be leaving for Iowa State where he has a lot of ties.

Boise State v UNLV Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

It appears that T.J. Otzelberger will be heading to Iowa State to fill its head coaching vacancy. Late Tuesday afternoon, Sam Gordon of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Otzelberger will be leaving UNLV to to take over at Iowa State.

The Review-Journal reported that people with knowledge of the situation are saying the his departure is a “done deal,” barring anything that could happen at the last minute. A deal has not been finalized and the involved parties have not made any announcement or statement.

Iowa State and former head coach Steve Prohm announced on Monday that the two sides had agreed to part ways following a 2-22 season for the Cyclones. Shortly after that announcement, Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard released a video regarding the Iowa State basketball program.

In that video, Pollard stated that he anticipates the coaching search will be a quick one because of the ever changing landscape of recruiting and the transfer portal, and those players needing to know who their head coach will be. Pollard also hinted that Otzelberger might be a candidate despite his lack of success at UNLV.

“For Iowa State, the best person doesn’t mean just because someone can win at another program, that they can win at Iowa State. We gotta get the right person for Iowa State,” Pollard said.

Otzelberger spent eight seasons with the Cyclones program as an assistant coach. He joined in 2006 under current Creighton coach Greg McDermontt and was promoted to associate head coach when Fred Hoiberg took over in 2010. He came back for the 2015-2016, to work under Prohm, after two seasons with Washington before he took the head coaching job at South Dakota State.

At Iowa State he was know as a top recruiter, he helped bring in top talent to the Cyclones like Georges Niang. While at Iowa State, the Cyclones made the NCAA Tournament in 2012 and 2013. Otzelberger’s wife, Allison Lacey, was also a star player for the Cyclones from 2006-2010, where the two met.

Otzelberger and Pollard appear to have a very close relationship. Matt Norlander of CBS Sports reported that a source told him the deal has been “done for about a month now.” Here are some social media post from Pollard’s Twitter account that might show how close their relationship is, which is why Otzelberger was likely at the top of Pollard’s list to replace Prohm and why this deal appeared to happen so quickly:

In two seasons with UNLV, Otzelberger compiled a 29-30 record with the Rebels and in each season UNLV lost its quarterfinal game in the Mountain West Tournament. In his first season, UNLV won its last five games to finish in a tie for second place in the Mountain West. This season did not go as expected, as UNLV was picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West, but finished in seventh with a 11-14 overall record.

His first recruiting class with UNLV was ranked as the top class in the Mountain West by 247 Sports, however only a few of those players in the class, Nick Blake and Devin Tillis, saw a significant amount of playing time. In his second recruiting class, Otzelberger landed two top-50 recruits with Arthur Kaluma and Zaon Collins. However, things have changed since Collins was involved in a deadly DUI crash and Otzelberger announced the two sides had parted ways on Collins’ commitment to UNLV.

The style of play was never there for UNLV. Otzelberger was touted for his faced paced, up-tempo offense, but UNLV could never get to playing that way in the last two seasons and the Rebels struggled on the defensive end significantly. Norladner reported that Iowa State will have to pay north of $3 million for Otzelberger’s buyout.

This is an evolving situation and this story will be updated as more information becomes available.