Gary Barta's press conference came and went, and the Todd Lickliter Era is no more. We already knew it was no more, but there's some merit to the formalities all the same.
That's because Barta's presser was, for the most part, informative and helpful. This isn't going to be one giant slob job on the man, but it's nice to see that Iowa at least has a sane, forthright person at the helm of the athletic department.
Now, there are a couple exceptions to that, so let's get them out of the way. First of all, Barta said that the reason he waited until today to fire Lickliter is that he hadn't completely made up his mind about the firing until this morning. That's somewhat dubious, but Barta wiggled his way into saying that he didn't finalize the decision until today. Whatever. If that's the biggest quibble one can have about how forthright an AD is at a press conference, life is pretty easy.
And that really is the biggest quibble; the only other issue one might have is that Barta didn't countenance the rumors that player retention was at stake in the firing. He acknowledged the presence of said rumors, told reporters he looked into them, and basically left it there. That, while not being as transparent as the rest of Barta's speech, was probably wise all the same; the last thing you want to do is draw the media into a guessing game about where different players' loyalties lie. That cannot end well, and Barta knows that.
And that's basically it for complaints: just two, and both were minor and well-intentioned. One could make that case that both were protective in nature, which is probably wise given what a fractious situation this has become.
And even then, Barta did make one point that was double-speaky enough that he can avoid putting any pressure on the players, but still sort of answered the second question. He said that he considered the current and future players' commitment to the team, and said that it was an important factor in whether to keep Lickliter aboard (for what it's worth, Tom Izzo thinks this idea is ridiculous and actually brings up terrorism to prove his point). Barta didn't take that last step and say the commitment wasn't there, but... Lickliter got fired, right?
Aside from that, there's probably no reason not to take Barta at his word on everything else. He said that he had tremendous respect for Lickliter as a coach, and we believe that. Hell, how many MVC programs had already contacted Lickliter's agent before the firing even took place? We're guessing more than one.
And if that's Lickliter's comfort level, so be it. Word was that he never got involved in the AAU circuits. Not that he never recruited players on AAU teams, mind you, just that he didn't use those avenues for recruiting. A coach may get away with that at a mid-major. Not at a Big Ten school.
Back to the presser, Barta also plainly explained that attendance was, well, terrible, and that it was negatively affecting the financial situation--even as Iowa spends the 4th most in the Big Ten on its basketball program. He didn't pin it all on Lickliter, he didn't shirk any blame himself, he didn't blow smoke up anybody's asses about quick fixes; he laid the facts out and put together a pretty convincing case of why Lickliter had to go. There were no exaggerations, histrionics, third-person blubbering, anything like that. The closest he ever came to going off script was disagreeing with (what he called) "loaded" questions from reporters, and even then, he handled it ably and professionally.
Barta was asked about a short list, and said he'd contacted nobody (duh) and hadn't officially ruled any candidates out (double duh), but that as part of his job he had been monitoring coaches across the nation for a while now (triple smoking Jesus duh). And since nobody asked him about Quin Snyder, we can't rule Mr. Tousled Tassels out just yet!
With all that, Barta recused himself from further comment until a new coach is hired; that's pretty standard and nobody should have expected anything different. It would be patently unfair to a sitting coach if Barta were to bring him up in the press before a deal is signed, after all. So in the meantime, while the search is on, prepare to hear nothing from Iowa officials, and buckets of rumors which probably won't serve any purpose other than smokescreens. Someone's name comes up? Cross him off the list, because he's not getting offered.
The people we will be hearing from on the record, though, are the players and recruits--and those closest to him. That'll be interesting. They're probably being coached as we speak to say nothing controversial to the press (hell, that's what I'd tell them), but 19-year-olds usually aren't consummate professionals yet. And God help us if multiple players end up transferring or demanding releases from their LOIs ("LsOI," really) out of anger over the whole situation. That won't play well.
But all that will play itself out over the coming days and weeks; as such, it isn't worth speculating over. So we'll just let this situation sink in some more, sit on our hands instead of passing along bogus rumors, and wait for the answer to the big question: Now what?