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A 'labor of love' endured 32 years, six coaches

[ 0 ] May 11, 2013 |

Careers are measured in decades. Or, in Jerry Strom’s case, by the number of coaches he worked for during his 32 seasons with the University of Iowa men’s basketball program.

“Six different coaches,” Strom said. “But boy, six great experiences.”

Strom, 60, who retired as the Hawkeyes’ director of basketball operations last week, covered Lute Olson to Fran McCaffery, with George Raveling, Tom Davis, Steve Alford and Todd Lickliter in between.

Jerry Strom

Jerry Strom

“Basketball has always been a labor of love for me,” Strom said. “But I think I am a little bit unusual — six different coaches.”

When a coaching staff leaves and another one walks in, staying power is put to the test. Rarely do staff members survive the transition. But Strom survived a half-dozen times.

“He had a number of opportunities to go different places,” said McCaffery, the last man to retain him. “Normally you have to do that because you don’t have the luxury to stay where you’re at. The fact that he has speaks to who he is, that six different coaches would want him on their staff. But everyone understood the incredible value he brought by virtue of being at Iowa and knowing so many people.”

Strom’s duties ranged from running camps to scheduling. When Iowa had its own four-team tournament, Strom ran it for 26 years. That’s when he first met McCaffery, who brought Lehigh to the tournament in 1985 — his first season as a Division I coach — and returned with North Carolina-Greensboro in 2004.

“He was an ambassador for us,” McCaffery said. “Within the department, across campus, nationally. Everybody in the business knows Jerry Strom. They might not know the other coaches that we’ve had. But they know Jerry.”

Strom, a native of Fontanelle, left Monmouth College to became a graduate assistant at Iowa under Olson in 1981. Olson left for Arizona in 1983, and was replaced by Raveling. Strom’s career hung in the balance.

“(Athletic director) Bump Elliott came in and said, “Jerry, (Raveling’s) going to need some help as he hits the ground running,’ ” Strom recalled. “He said, “Will you help him with no guarantees? I was finishing work on my Master’s degree. I said, “Until I know the next step and the next direction that I go, yes, I’ll help him out.’ ”

It was Raveling who created the director of basketball operations position that Strom took before the 1983-84 season, and never left until last week. That covers three decades, 959 games and a lot of late-winter-night charter flights home from East Lansing, Mich., and West Lafeyette, Ind.

“As you get to be 60 years old, coming home at 2 or 2:30 in the morning, I can’t hang with those young guys anymore,” Strom said.

Strom’s father passed away at 62 years old.

“He never got to enjoy his retirement years,” Strom said.

His wife, Melody, just retired after a 38-year career as an educator. They have two grown children.

“You look back and think, maybe now is the time,” Strom said.

Once Strom’s position is advertised, McCaffery will gather resumes and do some interviews before picking a successor.

“Whatever we have to do to comply with the policies of the university, we will,” McCaffery said.

Iowa has played in 25 NCAA or NIT Tournaments during Strom’s tenure. The Hawkeyes look poised to return to the NCAAs for the first time since 2006 this season, and that made it hard for Strom to go.

“I’ve been around six coaches, and I don’t know if you can really tell,” Strom said. “But I think Fran embraces the job. He wears all the hats. Recruiting, he thrives on it. He loves to coach, loves the players, he has a great staff. He walks in and he’s just so driven. I see us reaching heights that we haven’t been able to reach, and returning Iowa to the glory days. I probably should have hung on and rode Fran’s coattails.”

Strom has no plans to move, and he’ll still be a fixture at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on game nights.

“It’s time for me to sit back and enjoy it,” Strom said.

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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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