CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) - Faced with the task of replacing the best coach in school history, Northern Iowa wasted little time turning to the next best thing.
UNI promoted associate coach Ben Jacobson from heir apparent to head coach Wednesday, replacing Greg McDermott, who bolted for Iowa State.
Athletic director Rick Hartzell has known ever since UNI started winning three years ago that McDermott might leave for a more high-profile job. So a plan to promote Jacobson _ McDermott's top assistant and best friend for the past five years _ has been in place for at least two years.
Hartzell found out at 11:30 p.m. Monday that McDermott was headed to Ames, and all it took was some paperwork before Jacobson, 35, took over the reigns of one of the nation's most successful mid-major programs.
Jacobson was offered a five-year deal, with a base salary of $150,000 plus a bonus and incentive package.
"It might be better. Who knows? We didn't want to lose (McDermott), but everybody acts like we can't move forward, and that's absolutely wrong. I'm energized and excited about this because I think (Jacobson) brings a lot of the same qualities that Mac brought," Hartzell said. "We just weren't going to blink ... It just felt to me like it was the perfect kind of match for this place."
This is the first head coaching job for Jacobson, who has spent the last five years as the Panthers' associate head coach. He followed McDermott to Cedar Falls after serving one season as an assistant under McDermott at North Dakota State.
Jacobson doesn't just shy away from comparisons to McDermott. He considers McDermott his best friend, and he plans to run the Panthers program much the same way McDermott did _ from the kids he recruits to the style of play.
Jacobson announced Wednesday that the entire Panthers roster and all but one of the players in the Panthers incoming recruiting class have told him they will remain with the program.
Jacobson left for Green Bay, Wis., moments after his introductory press conference to convince Wisconsin recruit Adam Koch to honor his commitment to UNI.
"I don't see my philosophy in terms of the way our team plays changing much. I really don't. I don't like change with anything I do," Jacobson said. "I especially don't like it when things are going well."
Jacobson, 35, is a native of Mayville, North Dakota, and played at North Dakota, ending his career as the school's all-time assist leader.
Following his playing career, he spent one season as a student assistant coach, two years as a graduate assistant coach and four years as a full-time assistant with the Sioux.
Iowa State hired McDermott, who led Northern Iowa to three straight NCAA tournaments in five seasons, on Tuesday. The Panthers finished 23-10 this year _ the third straight season they've won at least 20 games _ and lost to Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Prior to McDermott's arrival, Northern Iowa had made just one NCAA appearance as a Division I program, but over the last three years the Panthers have arguably been the state's most successful college basketball program.
"It was a little bit of a funeral atmosphere for a day or so. But today is the turning of the page," Hartzell said. "We wish him well. I love him dearly, he's a great friend and I know (Jacobson) feels the same way. But he's a Cyclone now."