CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa men’s basketball fans couldn’t have asked for more than what Seth Tuttle gave during his four years as a Panther.
He earned numerous accolades throughout an illustrious career. Most notable among them was becoming the program’s first Division I second-team All-American. Tuttle also won Missouri Valley Conference freshman of the year, MVC player of the year and became the program’s fourth-leading scorer all-time.
However, Tuttle is making big contributions once again to UNI basketball in just two seasons as a member of Ben Jacobson’s coaching staff.
As a student of the game, the Sheffield native didn’t want to pursue anything other than basketball when he hung up his sneakers in 2018 after a three year professional career overseas.
So, as he hoped to get his coaching career off the ground, his former college coach brought him onto his staff before the 2018-19 season as a graduate manager.
Typically graduate managers deal with most of the least glamorous tasks on the staff, but Tuttle — similar to his playing career — quickly proved himself as anything but typical in his approach and influence.
In his first days on Jacobson’s staff, he purposefully left behind a playbook from Brian Lynch, who he played for at Limburg United and Spirou Charleroi. It featured a European-influenced, read-and-react scheme that was a far cry from the set plays with counters Jacobson’s teams had run historically.
Jacobson’s respect for Tuttle’s basketball acumen, and his understanding of the typical skill-set of the players the program recruits, paved the way for the offense to be implemented. And while there were some rough patches early in the 2018-19 season, the Panthers have thrived in their new offense, so much so that some peers in the Valley have copied it.
“(Experience has) been the biggest difference between the first year of this offense to last year where our team was like top-20 in the country for offense and we’ve never even gotten close to touching that (previously),” Tuttle said. “We were an efficient team my senior year in 2015, but our possessions were lower. This year was so much fun to just sit there and watch.”
After his first year on Jacobson’s staff, Tuttle was elevated to video coordinator. Fortunately he loves watching film, but admits he’s still fine-tuning the technological skills that the job requires.
“The biggest learning curve in general is all the computer work,” Tuttle said with a laugh. “You go from not knowing how to do anything to learning an entirely different language. I can tell you I’m still a long ways behind in some of those areas. Just learning all the technology and all the behind-the-scenes stuff like breaking down film, coding (plays), getting the analytics on paper so we can hand it to Coach (Jacobson), that was definitely an area that I was at rock bottom at.”
He routinely watches film with players in one-on-one sessions and admits the only person he’s come across in his lifetime who can watch film as much or more than him is AJ Green — the MVC’s reigning player of the year.
“AJ’s kind of my guy,” Tuttle said. “He’ll reach out to me (and) we’ll watch a lot of film together. We do a lot of workouts together. During the season we watch film I swear more than you could even imagine someone would want to watch film. Most guys you can’t get them to come in. AJ, you can’t get him to stop coming in.”
After a 25-6 season in 2019-20 that included some of the program’s best offensive numbers in its history — and had the team on the NCAA tournament bubble before the season was shut down — Tuttle is eager to see what Year 3 as a college coach will have to offer.
“I’ve had a blast. I love this type of stuff,” he said. “I love feeling like you have so much power and so much control on the court and the defense (is) trying to constantly keep up with you.
“It’s fun for me.”