SDSU basketball is in for a change as T.J. Otzelberger was introduced as the new head coach of the men’s basketball team on Thursday in Frost Arena.
The hire comes less than two weeks after former head coach Scott Nagy accepted the same position at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Nagy took two assistants with him — Brian Cooley and Clint Sargent — while another assistant, Joe Krabbenhoft, joined the staff at the University of Wisconsin.
Otzelberger becomes the 21st head coach in program history. Nagy led the Jackrabbits for the past 21 years, longer than most of Otzelberger’s players at SDSU have been alive.
“Becoming a head coach is something that has always been a dream of mine,” Otzelberger said. “For me, being part of a team is even more important. That’s being part of a team on the court, being part of a team throughout the athletic department, being part of a team on this campus and being part of a team in this community.”
It was also announced that Nagy’s long-time assistant Rob Klinkefus, who was attempting to become the next head coach himself, will be retained as an assistant under Otzelberger, which received a loud ovation from the fans in attendance.
“He’s been phenomenal,” Otzelberger said. “The job he’s done here and what he’s done for this university means a lot to me. He’s got a bright future and we are really, really, really excited to have him on board.”
When they first began looking for Nagy’s replacement, SDSU had certain things in mind for the next head coach.
“For South Dakota State, it’s about academics, it’s about being an engaged member of the community and it’s certainly about winning some basketball games,” athletic director Justin Sell said. “As we went through our list of the things that we needed, T.J. hit every single one of those boxes.”
SDSU isn’t the first head coaching position Otzelberger has attempted to land.
He was also thought to be the frontrunner to be the Iowa State Cyclones head coach last summer when Fred Hoiberg left Ames for the Chicago Bulls of the NBA. The job ultimately went to Steve Prohm.
Now, the 38-year old head coach gets his first crack as the leading man and becomes the second new head coach to join the Summit League.
The Jackrabbits’ new head coach has spent the last decade as an assistant coach for high-level Division I programs. Prior to his most recent stint with Iowa State, Otzelberger served as the associated head coach for the University of Washington for two years. Before this, he was with the Cyclones for seven years.
The Jacks return two starters and two key reserves from last season’s Summit League regular season and tournament championship team. With the graduations and transfers, SDSU currently has zero to-be seniors, allowing Otzelberger to have his team in place for at least the next two seasons.
“It’s a big change,” Sell said of the returning players. “You’ve had to go through a lot in the last week. You’ve done such a good job of staying together, of being positive, of helping us through this process.”
Reed Tellinghuisen, Lane Severyn and Ian Theisen will be juniors when the 2016-17 season begins while Mike Daum and Tevin King will be sophomores. Cole Gentry and Adam Dykman redshirted this season and will be freshmen next season.
Skyler Flatten sat out the 2015-16 season due to injury and is seeking a medical redshirt. Should that be granted, he’ll regain his sophomore year of eligibility.
A public reception will be held at Cubby’s Sports Bar and Grill in Brookings next Thursday to welcome the Otzelberger family.
Details of Otzelberger’s contract have yet to be finalized and he and Klinkefus will begin working to round out the rest of their staff in the next few weeks.