The Hawkeyes teams play in the Big Ten Conference. We already covered the best Iowa Hawkeyes basketball players of all time, but what about the head coaches that took the team to glory?
Not including Coach O’Connor and Coach Williams twice, the Iowa Hawkeyes men’s basketball program has had a total of 22 head coaches in its 118 years of existence.
18 of Iowa’s 22 coaches had a winning record during their time with the Hawkeyes.
Let’s take a look back at the best men’s basketball coaches in Iowa Hawkeyes history.
1. Lawrence ‘Pops’ Harrison
In 1945, Harrison led Iowa to its first Big Ten Conference title with a 17-1 overall record and an 11-1 conference record. His team featured six all-Americans and six first-team all-Big Ten Conference players. Defensively, they were the best in the league and set eight new records in Iowa. As a Hawkeye, he had a 98-42 (70%) win-loss record.
He earned letters in basketball for Iowa in 1926 and 1928 and played on the 1926 team that shared the Big Ten Conference championship.
Iowa’s athletics department recognized his achievements by inducting him into the hall of fame in 1999. At the age of 60, he passed away on August 19, 1967, having been born on August 29, 1906.
2. Ed Rule
In 1901, Ed Rule led the Hawkeyes to a 10-2 record in their first year of varsity basketball, marking the beginning of Iowa basketball as we know it today. He guided the Hawkeyes to a 40-27 victory over James Naismith’s Kansas Jayhawks in his debut season as a head coach, just one year after dribbling was approved.
While serving as the director of the Iowa City YMCA, he served as the team’s manager four times, in 1902, 1904, and 1906–1907. During the off-seasons, he helped out at the YMCA in Des Moines, where he even coached a game versus Iowa in 1905.
He is one of the top head coaches in terms of winning percentage, leading Iowa to a record of 37–15 during his time as head coach.
3. Bucky O’Connor
Frank O’Connor coached the Hawkeyes from 1949 to 1958. O’Connor, born in Monroe, Iowa, attended Newton High School and Drake University, where he earned team captain amidst his small body and poor eyesight. He coached at Boone High School and Harrisburg after graduation.
O’Connor took over for the Hawkeyes’ first two coaches in 1949-50. In his first season as coach, the team went 19-3 and finished second in the Big Ten. Bill Seaberg, Sharm Scheuerman, Carl Cain, Bill Logan, and Bill Schoof were recruited and coached by O’Connor. In 1953-54, this squad finished second in the Big Ten with an 11-3 record (17-5 overall).
Then, in the next two seasons, they won the Big Ten and reached the Final Four. Finally, in 1955-56, the Fabulous Five’s last season, the Hawkeyes won 17 straight games and advanced to their sole NCAA championship game. They lost to San Francisco, ending Iowa’s most dominant period of basketball.
O’Connor coached the Hawkeyes for two seasons before dying in a traffic accident at 44. He entered the Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990.
4. Tom Davis
He took the Hawkeyes to nine consecutive NCAA Tournaments and the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight twice. In addition, Iowa made two trips to the NIT. He has a 270-139 career record and a 126-104 mark in Big Ten play, making him the game-winning coach in Iowa history.
During the 1986–87 campaign, his squad finished first in the league. The Hawkeyes set a new program record with 30 victories before losing to UNLV, 84-81, in the NCAA Regional Final. He received accolades from the Associated Press as National Coach of the Year as well as the Big Ten Conference.
Davis tendered his resignation on April 2, 1998, after Iowa’s first-round NIT loss. His contract was set to expire at the end of the upcoming season. Davis was informed by Bob Bowlsby, the athletic director, that he would not be offered a new contract. Iowa made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988 in Davis’s final season as head coach.
His achievements at the University of Iowa earned him a spot in the school’s Hall of Fame for Athletes in 2008. He was born on December 3, 1938, and is now 83 years old.
5. Ralph Miller
After taking over the Hawkeyes in the spring of 1964, Miller fashioned them into one of the most potent offensive machines in NCAA history. In 1970, the Hawkeyes finished with a 19-4 overall record and a 14-0 mark in the Big Ten.
Iowa entered the NCAA tournament riding a 16-game victory streak, and they won their first game in the Sweet 16 before losing to independent Jacksonville, finishing as the tournament’s runner-up. The Hawkeyes ended their season with a 20-5 record after picking up a consolation win over Notre Dame. Miller’s career record as Iowa’s head coach was 95-51.
Born on March 9, 1919, and passed away on May 15, 2001, at the age of 82.
6. Lute Olson
The University of Iowa’s all-time winningest coach, Robert Luther Olson, led the Hawkeyes for nine seasons (1974–1983) and amassed a 167–91 (.647) record.
Olson guided the Hawkeyes to a Final Four trip in the 1980 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament in 1979-1980. With an 18-8 record and a 4th-place finish in the Big 10, the team qualified for the now-48-team NCAA tournament.
Olson’s Iowa teams participated in the next three NCAA Tournaments after guiding the Hawkeyes to the Final Four. In 1983, his final year at Iowa, they made it as far as the Sweet Sixteen. Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a building Olson had envisaged for the University’s future and was known as “The House That Lute Built,” debuted on January 5, 1983, versus Michigan State.
The outdated Iowa Fieldhouse formerly hosted games involving Iowa. Olson relocated to the University of Arizona from Iowa after the season. Born on September 22, 1934, and died on August 27, 2020, at the age of 85.
7. Fran McCaffery
The Hawkeyes have been nationally competitive again since 2010. In six of the last seven years, Iowa has made a postseason tournament appearance (three NCAA, three NIT). McCaffery led the Hawkeyes to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 23 years (2014, 2015, 2016) and to the NIT title game in 2013 with a 25-win team.
After losing two first-round NBA draft picks the year before, his team still managed to earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament in 2021 and win the Big Ten tournament the following year (2022).
8. George Raveling
Soon after taking over for Lute Olson in 1983, Raveling led the Hawkeyes to back-to-back 20-win campaigns and appearances in the NCAA tournament.
As an assistant coach, he helped guide the U.S. men’s basketball team to Olympic gold in 1984. Steve Alford and Michael Jordan held the team’s guard positions, while Bob Knight was its head coach. The United States men’s basketball team defeated Spain 96-65 to win the gold medal, shooting 63.9 percent from the field.
Most people remember Raveling for the talented players and prospects he brought to Iowa during his four years there. Players like Kevin Gamble, B.J. Armstrong, Roy Marble, Ed Horton, and Greg Stokes went on to have successful NBA careers thanks in large part to Raveling’s influence.
9. Sharm Scheuerman
As a college basketball player, Milton “Sharm” Scheuerman committed to the University of Iowa and coach Bucky O’Connor. There, he was a starter for two Big Ten Conference champions and Final Four participants (1955 and 1956) that helped put the school on the map nationally.
These teams’ starting lineup, which often included five players, became known as the “Fabulous Five” since they played together for three years straight.
After finishing college, Scheuerman was employed as an assistant coach by his idol Bucky O’Connor; when O’Connor tragically passed away at the age of 44 in a vehicle accident in 1958, Scheuerman took over as head coach.
Schuerman, at the age of 24, was among the youngest collegiate basketball head coaches ever and the youngest in Big Ten history. Scheuerman’s teams went 72-69 in his six seasons with the Hawkeyes.
10. Dick Schultz
Schultz began working at the University of Iowa as an assistant baseball and men’s basketball coach in 1960.
In 7 and a half years at the helm, Schultz’s baseball teams went 129-106. Schultz became Iowa’s men’s basketball coach after Ralph Miller suddenly left for Oregon State.
After four seasons as Iowa’s head basketball coach, Schultz was succeeded by Lute Olson with a 41-55 record. After that, he worked as the Executive Director for the NCAA and the U.S. Olympic Committee.