James Kane emphasized several times during an interview Tuesday how tough it was to leave the Dayton Flyers for Iowa State.
Kane, 35, joins the staff of one mentor, Iowa State’s Steve Prohm, and leaves the staff of his other biggest mentor. Dayton’s Anthony Grant gave him his first job in college basketball as a graduate assistant at Virginia Commonwealth in 2006.
Grant gave Kane his blessing, Kane said, and told him he understood. Still, it wasn’t easy to head west.
“The toughest thing to do was say goodbye to him and his family,” Kane said. “His family means a lot to me. They hold a special place in my heart.”
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Iowa State announced the hiring of Kane as an assistant coach Monday. He joins a program that appeared in six straight NCAA tournaments before finishing 13-18 season and leaves a program that appeared in four straight tournaments before finishing 14-17 last season.
Kane says goodbye to one rabid fan base and will soon get to know another. Iowa State averaged 14,121 fans last season and ranked 16th in the country in attendance two seasons ago. Dayton averaged 12,997 fans last season and ranked 22nd in attendance in 2017.
Prohm hired a coach in Kane who worked under him for four seasons (2011-15) at Murray State.
“I’m excited to get reunited with James,” Prohm told the Des Moines Register. “He is a guy that has been integral to the success I’ve had over the years. We are very fortunate to be able to get him up here to Iowa State. James is a relentless worker who is really good on the floor and great with the guys. He will be a really good asset here in the Ames community, and I think people will really enjoy getting to know him, and he’ll have a big impact on our staff.”
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While Prohm and Kane will try to get Iowa State back on a winning track, he hopes he helped lay the foundation for Dayton to do the same.
“Coach Grant, he knows how to lay a foundation,” Kane said. “He’s done it everywhere he’s been. He’s a winner. Most importantly, he’s a first-class individual. He has the highest morals and values. He taught me everything I needed to know for this business. He gave me my first opportunity in this business. He’s a mentor/father figure for me.
“Building relationships with the staff there is something I value tremendously. The staff is first class from coach Grant all the way to Christy (Trittschuh, the administrative assistant in the men’s basketball office). The administration works at a very high level, spearheaded by Neil Sullivan. I’ve learned a lot from each individual. I enjoyed my time with each individual in the experiences we had on and off the court. It’s a tight-knit family there. It was a real tough decision to move on and to take this new challenge in my life.”
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As he started his new job Monday, Kane gave a quick review of where the Flyers stood when he left. He agreed with strength coach Casey Cathrall, who also left the program after season, in his assessment. It’s a team eager to put a losing season in the past.
“With the leadership of Josh Cunningham and those guys that were thrown into the fire last year,” Kane said, “they come back with a lot of experience and they’re very hungry. Coach is going to point them in the right direction and give Josh the opportunity to lead and the other guys as well. The sense I had was they’re on a mission. They’re hungry to have a very successful year, and they’re working hard right now on the court, working hard in the classroom and working hard in the weight room as well.”