MBB: Hoiberg gets hero’s welcome

Chris Cuellar

Fred Hoiberg was introduced as Iowa State’s new head basketball coach Wednesday morning, to enthusiastic cheers at a packed Jacobson Athletic Building.

The former Iowa State star and Ames High School graduate was surrounded at the event by fans and athletic officials, packing in the Bluedorn Donor Room, and crowding the balcony for zealous applause and support.

“It feels great to be home,” Hoiberg said. “Here I am, realizing my dreams. Fans, I want that atmosphere back, I need that atmosphere back, and it’s time to bring the magic back to Hilton Coliseum.”

Joined at the podium by athletic director Jamie Pollard, ISU president Gregory Geoffrey, and senior associate athletic director Steve Malchow, Hoiberg introduced his family and laid out his plan for the future of Cyclone basketball. Pollard said that “The Mayor” had been prepared to take the job, and that he was the first call for a potential replacement.

His introduction by Pollard to the podium was greeted with a 45 second ovation from the Cyclone fans in attendance.

“Four years ago Fred Hoiberg contacted me about his vision, his interest, and his desire to someday be our men’s basketball coach. At that time, we discussed that the timing just wasn’t right,” Pollard said.

“Fred Hoiberg is far more than just a great player, a fan favorite, and someone that wants to be a coach — Fred is a leader, Fred is also a visionary, Fred is a Cyclone, and most importantly, Fred is now our head coach.”

Hoiberg also announced that assistant T.J. Otzelberger, a top recruiter for Greg McDermott will be retained by Hoiberg, who said that Otzelberger was his first call upon receiving the job.

“I’m thrilled to have T.J. When Jamie came up to talk to me, the first thing that I said to him was that my first call needed to be to T.J.,” Hoiberg said. “T.J. has been a very good recruiter, and has had some very good talent come to Ames, and we will continue that.”

The only other coach still listed on staff for Hoiberg is Iowa State’s all time leading scorer Jeff Grayer, another ISU Hall of Game guard. Grayer has limited college coaching experience like Hoiberg, but the two ISU stars paired together should be able to muster some star power on the recruiting trail.

“Jeff’s a legend, and the best player to play at Iowa State University,” Hoiberg said.

The new coach’s lack of coaching experience may be glaring, but Pollard and the coach himself addressed the issue, citing years of experience under legendary coaches like Larry Brown, Johhny Orr, and Tim Floyd. Hoiberg’s most recent position is as the vice president of basketball operations for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves.

“I have a lot of friends in this business, I’ve talked to Tim Floyd a lot. Gar Foreman is the general manager of the [Chicago] Bulls, was an assistant coach when I was here, and is a guy that’s very well connected,” Hoiberg said.

“Those guys have sent me lists. I can’t tell you how many messages I’ve gotten saying, ‘You need players? I’ve got players for you.’ I’m excited guys, I can’t even explain to you how excited I am.”

While the current Cyclone squad doesn’t return many players or much of the production from last season’s team, the new coach said he will play to his team’s strength, and is excited to get to work.

“It feels real good to have a head coach that has confidence in you, and looking at you to be the leader on the court, running his squad,” senior guard Diante Garrett said. “He’s a guy that played in the NBA, and knows more than I know. Him teaching me how to play is going to feel read good.”

Recruiting with the limited roster will be an immediate concern for the coach, as well as filling out his coaching staff. With his time spent in management in the NBA, Hoiberg feels confident about using his professional contacts to the program’s advantage. He stated going to class and graduation will be important to all of his players, but for possible recruits with eyes on professional basketball after ISU, Hoiberg can create opportunities.

“I look at the coaches in this league that can get a lot of great players. I look at Rick Pitino, and John Calipari, Leonard Hamilton, Lon Kruger, Tim Floyd, they get a lot of McDonald’s All-American players, and they have of guys in the NBA,” Hoiberg said. “I have every general manager on speed dial on my cell phone. That’s going to be a very good recruiting tool.”

An All-American guard in the 1994-95 season, Hoiberg’s career was marked by important games in the old conference, The Big Eight. Known inspiring bouts of “Hilton Magic”, the players will have an Iowa State Hall of Fame player waiting for them at the bench.

“It’s incredible. It’s like a dream come true, I only have one year left but I wish I had more,” junior guard Charles Boozer said.

Another All-American guard from a little farther back had an impact on the signing according to Pollard. Both Hoiberg and Pollard thanked Iowa State Hall of Famer Gary Thompson for his assistance to the program. Thompson stays as a close confidant to Iowa State basketball, and felt great about Hoiberg’s return.

“I hope people give Fred time,” Thompson said at the news conference. “I look at this program right now and I try to be as optimistic as I can. I told Fred that if you can have a winning team next year you’d be Houdini.”

Hoiberg’s contract is listed for $800,000 a year for five years. McDermott made the same amount last season.

The 6-foot-4 former guard will return to Minnesota to finish up details and aid the transition of his current job with the Timberwolves, and come to Ames to begin full time on May 3.

“We will miss Fred Hoiberg dearly,” Timberwolves president David Kahn said via press release. “He was on track to become the president of an NBA team — but we recognize this opportunity is a dream come true for Fred and are happy and excited for him.”

Rumors of McDermott’s departure to Creighton began Sunday, with confirmation on Monday. Just hours after McDermott was introduced in Omaha, Hoiberg was announced as the head coach for the Cyclones. With both head coaches completing moves in such a tight window, Iowa State players are trying to soak it all in.

“It’s been pretty hectic hearing all the news, and all the rumors from yesterday. It’s nice finally being able to settle down and know that coach Hoiberg is here. I’m really excited,” senior forward Jamie Vanderbeken said.

Emotions and energy ran high in the shadow of Jack Trice Stadium, and local boy returning home inspired segments of cheering, and laughter in the standing room only crowd. Hoiberg’s popularity shined through, and expectations for the third leading scorer in ISU history are getting set, even though basketball season is just over six months away.

“I’m going to expect a lot out of these guys, and they’re going to have a lot of individual work to get their shots in order and get their games in order, so they can go out and compete in the Big 12 level on a nightly basis,” Hoiberg said.