Bobby Lutz, with more than 30 years of coaching experience, had other coaching opportunities this spring. He didn’t have to come to Nebraska.
Yet here is Lutz, in Lincoln, ready to begin his third stint working with Fred Hoiberg.
“I want to be on a team that has a legitimate chance to get to a Final Four,” Lutz said. “That’s saying a lot. That’s a lofty goal, I know. But that’s one of the reasons I came here.”
Lutz is careful to stress he’s not predicting such results, but merely that he’s part of a program, a coaching staff, with a legitimate chance to play at the highest level and go deep in the NCAA Tournament.
“With the right guy leading your program – and I obviously think Coach Hoiberg is the right guy, or I wouldn’t be here – I think you can be competitive,” Lutz said. “And certainly our goal is to be in the top half of the league and be in position to get to the NCAA Tournament, and be a team that can also win games.”
Lutz joins the Nebraska staff as a special assistant to Hoiberg, the Huskers’ new head coach. This is the first such position for Lutz, so details of his job description may evolve, but his primary duties are watching film, helping with scouts and game planning.
He scouted every game while serving as an assistant to Hoiberg at Iowa State during the 2010-11 season, and scouted some 50 games while working under Hoiberg with the Chicago Bull’s G-League team, the Windy City Bulls.
“That’s my strength,” Lutz said. “It’s something I’m good at, I take pride in.”
Lutz has won nearly 400 games as a college head coach and reached the postseason 22 times as either a head coach or an assistant.
“Bobby was my first hire when I got to Ames, and I relied on him during my first year of coaching,” Hoiberg said. “He has an unbelievable basketball mind and is a great sounding board for me with his experience as a head coach. Bobby’s basketball knowledge and expertise will be a great resource for our staff.”
Among the biggest reasons Hoiberg initially hired Lutz at Iowa State was because of Lutz’s familiarity with running a “position-less” offensive, something Lutz admits he did out of necessity while at Charlotte.
“We couldn’t get one big man, much less two,” said Lutz, noting he always played with a four-man who might have been undersized but was always skilled.
“We spread the floor. We had great success against teams like Cincinnati and Louisville, who were bigger and stronger, but then we made their big guys chase us on the floor. That’s what (Hoiberg) loved about our team, and that’s one of the reasons he hired me in 2010 when he got the job at Iowa State.”
The “position-less” basketball label is popular, in part, because of NBA teams, Lutz said, notably Golden State.
“Position-less basketball, to me, is putting your best players on the floor and figuring out how to win with those,” Lutz said. “You don’t play two big guys just to play two big guys. It makes more sense to play your best players and figure out a way.
“Maybe you have to double team on the other end in the post if you’re a little small. You maybe have to do some things different. But your opponent has to make some adjustments, too.”
More than position-less, Lutz said, Hoiberg wants skilled players; yes, in the Big Ten, Lutz notes it’s important to have at least one big man, particularly for defense.
“But on the offensive end,” Lutz said, “if you can get four guys on the court at the same time who can all pass, dribble and shoot, that’s hard to guard. That tends to be the way basketball is going.”
Prior to coaching in the professional ranks, Lutz spent five seasons at North Carolina State, and was instrumental in helping the Wolfpack make four straight NCAA Tournaments, including a pair of Sweet 16 appearances.
Lutz is most known for his successful tenure at Charlotte from 1999-2010, where he guided his alma mater to eight postseason appearances (five NCAA, three NIT) in 12 seasons. One of those came in 2008, when he brought his team to Lincoln for the NIT, and fell to the Doc Sadler-led Huskers.
For the first time, Lutz and Sadler, back at Nebraska as an assistant coach, are on the same staff.
“He’s one of the best defensive coaches,” Lutz said. “He’s such a genuine person. What you see is what you get.”
Lutz cannot recruit on the road, but he can help with recruits who visit on campus, and will help organize camps. He’s also largely responsible for scheduling, and already has Nebraska’s 2019-2020 nonconference schedule near completion.
The Huskers travel to Creighton and will play in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but Lutz had to fill the remaining 10 spots, which could include a multi-team tournament. Nebraska will not participate in the Gavitt Games, the series with the Big East Conference, next season.