The basketball coaching news continued today (Wednesday) in Cedar Falls as the University of Northern Iowa named its new mens’ coach to replace Greg McDermott.
McDermott took the Iowa State University job Tuesday, and U-N-I Athletic Director Rick Hartzell made mention of the change at today’s announcement. He says they wish Greg McDermott “all the luck and all the best that he can accomplish at Iowa State.” Hartzell says they had a little bit of a funeral atmosphere for a day with McDermott leaving, but says they’re now turning the page.
Hartzell says the loss of McDermott to an in-state rival will not slow the progress of the Panther team that’s made the NCAA tourney for three straight years.
Hartzell said, “We will not in this program take a back seat to anybody. We’ve had the best basketball program in the state of Iowa over the last three or four years if you look from top to bottom in all regards.” Hartzell says they’ll do what it takes to keep the program at that level.
With that said, Hartzell announced a U-N-I assistant to take over and introduce Ben Jacobson as the new head coach. The 36-year-old Jacobson has been the Panthers’ top assistant coach the past five seasons, serving as associate head coach this past season.
Hartzell believes Jacobson will keep the program going forward. He says, “I am absolutely 100-percent confident that we have exactly the right guy to be our new head mens’ basketball coach.” Hartzell says he’s proud of the way the team has handled the situation and says the team is unanimous in terms of the direction they should go.
Jacobson says he’s excited about the opportunity to take over the top job.Jacobson says your first head coaching job doesn’t always come where “the table is pretty well set for you.” Jacobson says it’s even more exciting because he’s such good friends with McDermott, and he calls it a “unique opportunity” to step in with the program in the position it is in.
While he doesn’t have to worry about rebuilding the Panther program, Jacobson says he’s not worried either about maintaining the success. Jacobson says he doesn’t view it as extra pressure. He says they’ll put a tough, unselfish team that plays hard and the floor and will control the parts that they can control. Jacobson says he sees U-N-I going beyond the success they’ve already attained. “Sooner rather than later, we’re going to be Wichita State or Bradley (two other Missouri Valley teams) playing in the Sweet 16,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson has been the Panthers’ primary recruiter and a key part of the turnaround of the program that took the Panthers to a 90-63 record the past five years, including a 65-31 mark the past three seasons. Jacobson says he doesn’t anticipate having McDermott at rival Iowa State being a problem when it comes to recruiting.
Jacobson says they will cross paths, but he says they’ve been able to find the guys that want to be at U-N-I and find guys that might be under the radar of other schools. He says, “I don’t see it as having an adverse affect on the guys that we’ve been able to get.”
In fact, Jacobson says he’s already gotten good news on an Iowa recruit that committed to U-N-I under McDermott. He says Jordan Egelseder has confirmed that he will stay with his commitment to come to U-N-I. Jacobson joined McDermott in Cedar Falls in the 2001-02 campaign, after serving one season as an assistant coach under McDermott at Division II North Dakota State.
Jacobson signed a five-year contract with a base salary of 150-thousand dollars and incentives.