Monday, May 11, 2009

The UI Hiring Process; All about the Iowa Values

Would the University of Iowa hire a Bobby Knight type of head coach? Will anyone ever see a Hawkeyes coach explode on the media like Oklahoma State football head coach Mike Gundy did? (click here to see tirade). It is highly doubtful.

Why? Because Athletic Director Gary Barta makes it a high priority to hire someone of good taste, who has the Iowa values instilled in them.

Look at any of the coaches at Iowa, especially football head coach Kirk Ferentz and basketball head coach Todd Lickliter. They always seem relaxed and composed no matter what is thrown at them. They simply don't make scenes or call attention to themselves and that is the way it should be.

Sure, it is fun to watch the Gundy tirade over and over again, or more recently when Jim Calhoun called out a reporter, or the countless Bobby Knight videos. But, that is not the kind of coach that anybody in the state of Iowa would want. They want the type of person that is down to earth and humble, not a guy like Steve Alford who was eventually pushed out of the state by Iowa supporters.

"That is a huge thing for Gary (having the Iowa values)," UI Associate Athletic Director Rick Klatt said. "This is a very special place to work, it is very unique. We are a small state. We (the Hawkeyes) are to the state of Iowa, that the Cowboys are to the state of Texas. It is just a very unique set of circumstances. It's important to put the round pegs into round holes and I think that he has done a really good job of that. There is no doubt that Gary places a high priority on Iowa values."

When vacant jobs come up, Barta throws together a committee to start doing research and put the pieces together. His committee usually consists of some administators, a few coaches from the department, and possibly one or two external people.

They talk about the values they are looking for, the expertise, and how that coach would fit into the program. They put some people into a pool and normally trim it down to two or three people to interview in person. But, they make numerous phone calls to coaches before that happens.

Barta defines the Iowa values as, "high values, believe in education, believe in doing things the right way, and they have to win."

"They need to be a proven winner, that is clear," Barta said. "They need to be committed to academics, and they need to be someone who likes Iowa and shares our values. They also need to be someone that I would like to work with every day, somebody that I trust, and somebody that I know is going to do things the right way. If they have all those things than I will consider hiring them, if they don't than I wont."

There are a lot of pieces to the coaching puzzle that the UI look for when hiring a new coach. But, from head volleyball coach, Sharon Dingman's experience, the interviewing process was excellent and well prepared.

"I thought it was tremendous," Dingman said. "I think that they were incredibly thorough in finding out about me, whether if it was through phone calls that they made previous to me even coming on campus. It was a very thorough process and that was very impressive to me. Clearly this was very important to them. That was another thing that showed me in the interview that they were serious about volleyball and want the program to do well here. They did a lot of homework beforehand when they interviewed me."

Barta made Dingman feel comfortable and right at home throughout the process and has loved every minute of being a Hawkeye.

"I was leaving Illinois State and an athletic director (Sheahon Zenger) that Ii really liked and I trusted and appreciated him. But, I feel all those same things with Gary. Gary does care about all the right things and that is really important to me. He cares about the student-athlete and the experience, but at the same time, he is very competitive and wants to win."

"He is very caring," Dingman added. "He cares about his coaches and about his student-athletes that wear the Hawkeye uniform. But at the same time, he is driven, driven by winning."

Dingman never had the expectation of Barta coming to all of their volleyball meets but he has come to several of them. She understands that it is during football season and that is the biggest sport-related priority at the UI. But, one way or another, someone from the Iowa administration is always in attendance at the home meets.

The calm and relaxing composure is simply the way Iowans are. They are down to earth, friendly people. These people don't want a hot-headed coach bringing unneccessary attention to one of their top schools. It just isn't in their nature and as long as Barta is running the show, guys like Ferentz or Lickliter will be the head hanchos. Their interviews may often be boring or dry, but that is just the way it's going to be, it is the right way to go for the state of Iowa.

Photo from the Iowa Foundation.

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