Giacoletti steps down at Drake
Assistant Jeff Rutter takes over with team just 1-7
DES MOINES — Drake coach Ray Giacoletti abruptly resigned Tuesday after three-plus seasons, saying it was time for a “new voice” to lead the Bulldogs out of a skid that has them just 1-7 so far this season.
Giacoletti, a former coach at Utah, went 32-69 at Drake and will be replaced by assistant Jeff Rutter for the rest of the season. Athletic director Sandy Hatfield-Clubb wouldn’t speculate on Rutter’s status following the season.
Giacolleti’s stint with the Bulldogs got off to a promising start, as he finished 15-16 in 2013-14 at a program with just one NCAA Tournament appearance since 1971.
But Drake finished 9-22 and 7-24 in the next two seasons. The Bulldogs’ only win so far in 2016-17 came against Division III Simpson College, and last week they went through a brutal stretch that included two-point losses at DePaul and Fresno State.
“It felt like this was the right move,” Giacoletti said. “I’m a big boy. I understand how this thing works. It’s year four, and where our team needs to be, in my opinion, not anybody else’s opinion, where I believe our team should be, I’m accountable for that. I didn’t feel like we were there, and I didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of how I could help it change.”
The promotion was bittersweet for Rutter, a close friend of Giacoletti’s who will be a Division I head coach for the first time.
Rutter has spent 30 years in coaching, including a stint as the head coach at Division II Wisconsin-Parkside from 1996-2003. He left to join Greg McDermott at Northern Iowa and followed McDermott to Iowa State, where the pair worked together for seven seasons.
“There’s no wholesale change, some magic formula. (It’s about) guys believing in playing efficiently, playing hard, playing together, and just trying to get over the hump and hope getting over the hump snowballs in a positive way,” Rutter said.
Giacoletti’s resignation was just the latest in a long line of struggles for Iowa’s most downtrodden Division I program.
After reaching the Final Four in 1969, the Bulldogs went through decades of lackluster play. Tom Davis, who had recently been let go at Iowa, took over in the early 2000s and made the program competitive before handing the program over to his son. Keno Davis led Drake on a remarkable run in 2007-08, winning the Missouri Valley Conference and earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He left for Providence after that season and was replaced by Mark Phelps, a strong recruiter who couldn’t make the Bulldogs a winner in five seasons.
Hatfield-Clubb thought she had found the right guy in Giacoletti, a former head coach at Utah and a Gonzaga assistant who hoped to follow the blueprint that Mark Few used to maintain sustained success with the Zags.
Unless Rutter can show marked improvement with this year’s roster, she’ll likely have yet another coaching search on her hands this spring.
“Our team is not where we expected to be when we originally talked about that vision,” Hatfield-Clubb said.