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Lickliter resists looking back at Iowa tenure

[ 35 ] February 19, 2011 |

Todd Lickliter wants to coach basketball again.

“I miss it,” Lickliter said. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

In his first interview since being fired as Iowa’s basketball coach on March 15, 2010, Lickliter took the high road when questioned about the specifics of his dismissal after three seasons.

“I don’t see anything good coming out of it,” said Lickliter, 55, who now lives in Indianapolis, Ind. “It’s something that is over. They’ve moved on, and I’ve moved on.”

Lickliter came to Iowa City in the spring of 2007 after a 29-win season at Butler and a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The National Association of Basketball Coaches named him the country’s top coach for 2006-07.

He left Iowa with a 36-56 record, including a school-record 22 losses in 2009-10. Lickliter’s vision for success was blinded by fan apathy and a revolving door of player transfers that never let his program gain momentum. Lickliter also left with a $2.4 million buyout — $800,000 annually for the next three years — from his original seven-year deal.

“I’ve seen people lash out and complain,” Lickliter said. “But I haven’t done that, nor will I do that. The fact of the matter is if you try to explain why things didn’t go well, anything you say is looked at as an excuse. And I’m not interested in that.”

Asked if he felt the Iowa job wasn’t the right fit for him at any time during his three-year tenure, Lickliter said, “I don’t know, I was too busy trying to get the job done.”

He declined to discuss whether he’s second-guessed his decision to leave Butler, where he had a 131-61 record, four 20-win seasons and two NCAA Sweet 16 berths in six seasons.

“It doesn’t do any good to second-guess,” Lickliter said. “You’ve got to learn from everything, from every experience. I wish things had gone differently (at Iowa), but there’s nothing that can be done about it now. We all have to be better for it.”

One thing that is certain is that the Iowa experience has not shattered Lickliter’s confidence in his ability to coach.

0“I don’t think what we did at Butler was an accident,” Lickliter said. “It just didn’t work at Iowa. You look at other successful coaches, and they probably struggled in some situations they were in. A lot of successful business people have been in certain situations that just didn’t work. One particular situation, and what happened, is not a reflection of overall ability.”

Lickliter’s sabbatical from the sidelines has included plenty of basketball games this season.

“Small college, high school, a few others,” Lickliter said. “The (Indiana) Pacers occasionally. I’ve done a little bit of everything, as you can imagine. I’ve got some pretty good friends in the business. They’ve been gracious enough to allow me to come to practice. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a way to stay involved.”

Lickliter’s son, John, who played for him as a walk-on at Iowa, started the season playing for Marian University, an NAIA Division II program in Indianapolis. He has since left the team.

“He just decided to concentrate on his studies and finish school,” Lickliter said. “He’s engaged to be married. He’s moving on with his life. He wants to coach some day.”

Lickliter said he’s seen Iowa play a few times on TV this season.

“I want Iowa to do well,” Lickliter said. “There are some really good guys there, and I wish them the best. I’m pulling for them. They’re on the right track, and they’re going to be a contender eventually.”

Lickliter missed three games last season after having surgery to repair a tear in his carotid artery in December of 2009. He’s since received a clean bill of health.

“I had my last checkup in August,” Lickliter said. “Everything is fine.”

Lickliter eagerly anticipates this spring, and a chance to return to the coaching ranks.

“I’m anxious for the next opportunity,” Lickliter said. “Sometimes you learn from your struggles. There’s got to be some people who respect what we’ve done. People know I’m not at retirement age yet. I’m looking to do something.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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