From the archives: T.J. Otzelberger, Alison Lacey find love through basketball at Iowa State
Editor's note: This story was originally published in 2013, a few months before T.J. Otzelberger and Alison Lacey were married.
ANKENY — They see each other early in the morning, and then again late at night.
Unless one's on the road for a game.
Then they might go days before hanging out together in the Ankeny townhome they share.
Welcome to the world of two college basketball coaches — man and woman — living under one roof.
Welcome to the world of T.J. Otzelberger and Alison Lacey, a few months before their June 1 wedding.
The former Cyclone women's basketball star who now is the head coach at Marshalltown Community College is getting hitched to Fred Hoiberg's top assistant. And after the ceremony, a free-throw shooting contest just might break out — the reception will be at (of course) an athletic club.
"It won't have a basketball theme," Lacey promised during a rare night at home with her soon-to-be husband. "That would be very expected — very cookie-cutter."
Unless, of course, the DJ puts on the Iowa State fight song for the newlyweds' customary first dance.
"Everyone that's in the wedding party either coached basketball or played basketball with me," Lacey said, "and his friends all played basketball.
"It's very much a basketball group, so much so that I don't want to have the announcement as we walk into the reception."
Basketball is their lives, however. Right down to the delayed Hawaii honeymoon.
"Recruiting," T.J. said.
Lacey's parents will be in town from their home in Australia, so the couple wants to spend time with them. And then there are potential stars to evaluate.
Then the honeymoon.
"I hear there's a lot of good players in Hawaii," Otzelberger said.
Her side of the story
Basketball is their lives — right down to the day they met.
Lacey was finishing up her career at Iowa State in 2010, and so was star Craig Brackins on the men's side.
They knew each other. However, Alison didn't know the coach who recruited him.
"Not a clue," Lacey said, glancing at Otzelberger during an interview in their basketball-themed family room.
They arrived on campus in 2006, Lacey from Ballard of Huxley High School, where the Australian was a foreign-exchange student, and Otzelberger from coaching at Chipola College in Marianna, Fla.
They didn't speak, however, until Lacey said goodbye to Brackins.
"I don't even remember having a conversation with him," Lacey said, "and he didn't know who I was. I just knew he was a coach."
Brackins was their common denominator, their unsuspecting cupid.
"I knew Craig from basketball, and T.J. recruited Craig," Lacey said. "Through Craig, we met."
His side of the story
That's Lacey's story. Otzelberger tells it like this:
"I saw women's games when she played in college, but it wasn't like I was watching her play," Otzelberger said. "I don't even remember her as a player in college."
Something happened, however, after their first conversation on the day Lacey left for the WNBA. Love at first sight?
"I don't know about that, but we kept in contact," Otzelberger said.
They traded texts, then finally went on their first date after Lacey returned to Ames following the 2010 WNBA draft.
"I asked her out when I bumped into her leaving the (practice) facility after she was working out on a Friday afternoon," Otzelberger recalled.
They went to dinner at the Cafe in Ames. They went to a movie.
"It was so bizarre how it all happened," Lacey said. "It was a bizarre way of meeting, and then dating."
That's nothing, compared to Otzelberger's proposal.
"We were in Australia last May for him to meet my family," Lacey said. "We were hanging out at my parents' house, but he kept wanting to go back to the hotel."
Otzelberger is a strategist — on and off the court. He had a plan.
"Alison didn't want to leave the house, but I finally convinced her that we had to get going — that we're on a tight schedule," Otzelberger said.
Instead of driving to the hotel, they stopped at a lake that surrounded a downtown residential development.
"He said he wanted to look at a development — some apartments that were being built," Lacey said. "There was the biggest full moon in 10 years, they were saying. It was beautiful."
They walked around the lake, Alison more briskly than T.J.
"I walked ahead of him because I was cold and wanted to get back to the car," she said. "I finally turned around to see how far back he was."
He wasn't far.
He was on his knee.
Otzelberger-the-romantic did the old-school thing, however. He first asked permission.
"Alison's dad and I went to lunch earlier that day, where I asked for her hand in marriage," Otzelberger said. "So he knew.
"I exposed the side that we try not to show at practice every day."
Q&A: In their own words (from 2013)
WHEN DO YOU SEE EACH OTHER?
Lacey: "Not much during the season."
Otzelberger: "We both get home between 7 and 8 o'clock at night, depending on the day, and we're both kind of mentally and emotionally spent from practice. We'll grab dinner, talk a little bit, and that's about it."
Lacey: "Me mostly, but T.J. cooks a little, too. He's definitely getting better than he used to be. If I've had a really bad day at practice and I've just had it, then I won't cook. But I try to cook at least four times a week. He cooks maybe once."
Otzelberger: "I'm good with hamburger — I make sloppy joes. That's my go-to. I can make pasta and spaghetti a little, too."
CHAIR COVERS, NO CHAIR COVERS
Otzelberger: "She likes the details about the table placement, what jewelry the bridesmaids are going to wear, the cake — that stuff's off my radar. The rehearsal dinner I was involved in. I went to high school with a photographer and DJ, so that wasn't too difficult. I think I've been involved in the wedding planning — fairly involved."
Lacey: "He definitely helps me, but I don't know that I've ever helped him. He's helped me a ton, especially being a first-year head coach. When we watch basketball games together, I bounce things off of him."
THE RECRUITING TRAIL
Otzelberger: "In the past, I've told parents that basketball is my life 24/7. I'll take their phone call any hour of the day — I tell them I'll be there for your son. That's always been my pitch, now I'll have to switch it a bit — to family guy and that sort of thing."
Lacey: "He would never let me win. He will do everything in his power not to lose. He's stronger. He fouls a lot. I would not win."
BAD DAYS TIMES TWO
Lacey: "I'm probably more guilty of being crabby or grumpy if we've had a bad practice or if we lose. Watch out if we've both had a bad practice or both lose. We're so invested in it emotionally. He just comes down to his man cave and watches basketball on TV. I stay upstairs and watch my reality shows and just space out."
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson embarked on his 50th year of writing sports for the Des Moines Register in December 2021 . Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org , 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete .
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: From the archives: T.J. Otzelberger, Alison Lacey find love through basketball at Iowa State