Four years ago today, Fred Hoiberg was introduced as Iowa State’s new men’s basketball head coach. What an incredible ride it has been.
Mar 8, 2014; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Fred Hoiberg draws up a play during a timeout in their game with the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the second half at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Iowa State beat Oklahoma State 85-81. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Hoiberg had the potential to get the job four years before he actually did, but athletic director Jamie Pollard didn’t believe it was the right time. In that four-year span, Hoiberg worked for the Minnesota Timberwolves, serving three years as an assistant general manager and then being promoted to vice president of basketball operations.
Holding out for Hoiberg for that long may have been the key to his current success. By overseeing scouting, among many other duties with the Timberwolves, he received experience in the scouting process to find the best talent around the nation. The only question for Pollard was if Hoiberg’s plan overcame his lack of head coaching experience.
Pollard liked what Hoiberg was selling, and it was one of the best decisions in the history of Iowa State athletics. Hoiberg was always a brilliant and talented guy, from playing in high school, with the Cyclones, in the NBA, and helping run a franchise. In a college basketball culture that deals with a lot of one-and-done talent to compete for a national championship, Hoiberg finds the talent that slips through the cracks.
He doesn’t have a problem taking in any kind of player. Multiple transfers in his first four years — Royce White and Korie Lucious lead by example — athletes that have faced trouble in their previous schools.
No matter who they were, what background they come from, and what skill set they offer, Hoiberg’s been able to implement a team chemistry. He gets transfers that have just one year of eligibility left to mesh with freshmen. He gets everyone believing in his system and the ultimate goal to bring home a championship.
Mar 13, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Fred Hoiberg reacts to play during the first half against the Kansas State Wildcats in the second round of the Big 12 Conference college basketball tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
In Hoiberg’s first four years, it’s been continuous steps to that ultimate goal. And athletes across the country are taking notice. There’s already transfers lined up coming in for next season and the year after that, who love the culture that Hoiberg has installed in Ames.
Success has followed Hoiberg wherever he’s gone, and he clearly has the magic touch to force players to push their egos aside and play together as a team. He doesn’t let outside issues get in the way of the team.
BYU fans started calling DeAndre Kane a “thug” after an accidental eye-gouge at the end of game. There was a whole mess inovlving Bubu Palo from a season ago. They weathered a three-game losing streak during the season and bounced right back up to eventually win a Big 12 title. After losing Georges Niang in the NCAA tournament, the team responded by winning their next game and making their first Sweet 16 under Hoiberg.
There’s more success to come. It’s got Iowa State fans already counting down until the first tip of the 2014-15 season.
Some people around the nation may frown at how good the Cyclones have become in the past couple seasons. Many will point to the fact that, of course, cheating is going on. No, everyone that knows who Hoiberg is obviously knows that he’s just smart enough to develop a plan to make things work at Iowa State.
Hoiberg’s like John Calipari without the smarmy, con-man approach. He doesn’t try to get in front of cameras and tell people how he doesn’t think his team is any good. You can’t sit in the room for five minutes with The Mayor and resist his charm, his smile, and how he runs the men’s basketball program. The dude is all swag, 24-7, and he never gets overheated when speaking. The only time he’ll ever get heated is when he tries to work the refs, and that’s something that’s required by any head coach at any level of any sport.
Pollard couldn’t resist his charm four years ago either, and he saw the future. He saw what we’re all seeing right now. And we all can’t wait to find out what’s in store for the next four years.