POWERS: Hire of Hoiberg cause for caution

Curtis Powers

When Fred Hoiberg was hired April 27, I was cautiously optimistic. A hometown hero who loves Iowa State, and has no coaching experience, I didn’t know what to think.

So I read a lot about him. Was it good? Was it bad? What did people who have been around Iowa State for a long time think about it?

I’m not sure who thought it up first, but it seemed all the various media outlets jumped to compare the Hoiberg hire to Clyde Drexler’s hire at Houston in 1998.

After comparing the two situations, it seemed far-fetched to me. The only similarities were this: They both were stars coming back to coach at their alma maters and had no coaching experience. That’s about it.

The better comparison in my mind is Jim Les, the current head coach at Bradley University.

Les was a ball-boy for the Braves while his brother played for them from 1972-1975. He later played for the Braves from 1983-1986 as their point guard.

During Les’ time with the Braves, Bradley went 64-29 [32-16] including the Missouri Valley’s last undefeated regular season in 1986. 

In post-season play, Bradley made an NIT appearance in 1985, and went to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 1986 where they lost to eventual champion Louisville. 

Les, along with teammate Hersey Hawkins, became the face of one of the greatest Bradley teams of all time and a fan favorite.

As a Brave, Les averaged 10.6 points per game and 8 assists per game. He graduated from Bradley with a bachelor’s degree in finance.

Les went on to play seven seasons in the NBA. His most notable achievement was finishing second in the 3-point contest at the All-Star game in 1992. In the NBA, he shot 39.6 percent at 3-pointers and 81.8 percent from the free throw line.

After the NBA, Les coached in the WNBA as an assistant for three seasons with the Sacramento Monarchs. Then he spent a few years in the financial sector before being hired to be the head coach of Bradley at the age of 39.

As many of you probably already know, Hoiberg was also a ball boy. In fact, he was probably the most famous one after Cyclone great Jeff Hornacek sprained his ankle by stepping on Hoiberg’s foot during a game in 1986.

While at Iowa State from 1991-1995, Hoiberg’s teams went 78-48 [23-33]. They went to the NCAA tournament three times: 1992, 1993 and 1995, getting to the second round twice, 1992 and 1995.

Likewise, Hoiberg is one of Iowa State’s best players and one its most liked.

As a Cyclone, Hoiberg averaged 15.8 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game. He also graduated from Iowa State with a bachelor’s degree in finance.

Hoiberg also went on to play in the NBA. He played 10 seasons. He became the first player to lead the league in 3-point shooting and not be invited to the 3-point contest. Overall, he also shot 39.6 percent at 3-pointers and 85.4 percent from the free throw line.

After his heart forced him to retire, Hoiberg has spent the last few years in the Timberwolves front office before being hired as Iowa State’s head coach at the age of 37.

Therefore, it seems to me that Jim Les is a lot better comparison than Clyde Drexler. Both Hoiberg and Les left as beloved sons of their university and came back as such to coach.

They both actually face somewhat similar situations too. Bradley was coming off a 9-20 record the previous year facing an uphill battle when Les arrived. 

The Braves continued to struggle too. Les went 40-49 [21-33] in his first three years. However, things changed when he hired an experienced assistant coach by the name of Chuck Buescher. 

Buescher was a legendary high school head coach and had spent eight seasons before that as an assistant for Bradley in the 1970s — the same time Les was ball boy.

In the two seasons Buescher was an assistant, Bradley went 44-24 [21-1] including a historic NCAA tournament run to the sweet 16 in 2006 and an NIT appearance in 2007.

Since then, Bradley has hovered, and Les finds himself on the hot seat going into this upcoming season.

So if there is one thing to learn, it’s this: Hire an experienced assistant and keep him, especially one known for defense and if possible, with ties to Iowa State.