Otzelberger brings in a new energetic era to Jacks basketball


Change is hard. The Jacks men’s basketball team is adjusting to change this season following the departure of former Head Coach Scott Nagy and two of their three top scorers.

T.J. Otzelberger was introduced on April 14, 2016 as the new head men’s basketball coach at South Dakota State University after Nagy left to pursue a job as head coach at Wright State.

“It’s been a great place for my family, as much as my career is important to me, my family is number one,” Otzelberger said. “Brookings is a great family town, college town and the people are awesome. Really have embraced our family and let us in and made us feel welcome.”

Otzelberger has some big shoes to fill as he becomes the first new head basketball coach in more than 20 years. He has brought some experience with him from Iowa State and the University of Washington.

Otzelberger served two separate stints as an assistant coach at Iowa State, covering eight seasons. He began his first stint at Iowa State as an assistant coach under Greg McDermott, who is now the head coach at Creighton. He was later elevated to associate head coach in 2010 by Fred Hoiberg, who is now head coach for the Chicago Bulls.

He was a part of several winning seasons under the direction of McDermott and Hoiberg. He helped them achieve back to back Big 12 championships in 2014 and 2015. 

“Fred (Hoiberg) is an unbelievably strong offensive minded head coach,” Otzelberger said. “I’ve been fortunate to have worked under three other head coaches that have been really successful as well. Whether it’s been Greg McDermott, Steve Prohm, Fred Hoiberg or Lorenzo Romar, I have been really lucky to learn from those guys when I was under them.”

Otzelberger said Hoiberg was great out of timeouts and knew how to play the mismatches and that helped him prepare for when he became head coach. 

Otzelberger was fortunate to coach against some of the best coaches to ever coach the game in Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, Bill Self of Kansas and Roy Williams of North Carolina, all of whom are future hall of famers. Those experiences, he said, really prepared him for later when he eventually became head coach here at SDSU. 

“To see how they composed themselves on the sidelines and with their team really helped with how I act on the sidelines and in the huddles,” Otzelberger said.

He said the players have helped him transition into his new role of head coach tremendously, and they have noticed a couple changes from last year’s team as well.

“At first it was a little bit of an adjustment for everyone, new system, new offense, new coaches,” said redshirt freshman guard Cole Gentry. “I think I speak for the rest of the team we all enjoy it, all the new energy the new coaches have brought. We can really connect with them off the court as well as on the court.” 

During the Jackrabbit Tipoff Otzelberger engaged in one of their loose ball drills drawing laughs from fans and players. That energy is something that the players have noticed and like. 

“It gives us a pop in our step and more energy in practice when we see coach engage in practice as well,” Gentry said.

Gentry said communication is a lot better than last year. He feels he can connect and talk to the new coaching staff freely. 

Among other players returning from last year that have had a taste from both old and new coaches is sophomore Tevin King. King played in all 34 games with two starts as a freshman under Nagy and feels there is also a difference in the two coaching styles.

“I think it’s great. Transitioning over from Nagy you can see the style of play change,” King said. “First time meeting T.J. you could tell he was ready to go, I love that and his personality.”

King said he loves the new energy that has been brought in with a younger, more energetic coaching staff. He likes how Otzelberger breaks down everything and shows players how to prepare for a game.

Gentry and King both said they know everyone is excited for the season to get started. Otzelberger is also ready to get the season underway after a long offseason.

“It’s something that’s been on the mind for a while now,” Otzelberger said. “I’m excited to see our guys go out and compete and challenge ourselves this season.”