Column: Hoiberg earned right to accept head coaching offer from Chicago Bulls


ISU coach Fred Hoiberg waves around the net with his twin sons after Iowa State defeated Kansas 70-66 in the 2015 Big 12 Championship on March 14 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Column By Kyle Heim

ISU basketball fans are not alone. Two years ago and about 520 miles east of Ames, Butler University witnessed a breakup similar to the one that struck Cyclone Nation on Monday after Fred Hoiberg accepted a job offer by the Chicago Bulls to become the Bulls’ next head coach.

Brad Stevens spent six years coaching Butler’s men’s basketball team. He compiled a .772 winning percentage and led Butler to the national championship game in consecutive seasons — 2010 and 2011. His success at Butler translated to an opportunity as head coach of the Boston Celtics, and included a six-year deal worth $22 million.

Like Stevens, Hoiberg earned the NBA head coaching position offered to him. He also earned the right to accept the offer.

Hoiberg turned down a football scholarship at Nebraska from Tom Osborne when the Cornhuskers were in the midst of a dynasty to stay in his hometown and play basketball for Iowa State. He went on to play 10 seasons in the NBA for the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves. At the end of his playing career, Hoiberg earned a position in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ front office. The team’s former president of basketball operations, David Kahn, said Hoiberg at the time was on track to become the president of an NBA team.

But Hoiberg took a different route and returned to Ames to coach an ISU men’s basketball team that had finished its 2009-10 season with a 15-17 record. He spent five seasons as the coach, and finished with a 115-56 record. He led the Cyclones to four NCAA tournaments, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2014. And don’t forget about the two Big 12 tournaments Iowa State won in the past two seasons.

ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard said that Hoiberg told him from the start that his goal was to coach in the NBA. ISU fans should appreciate the hard work Hoiberg put in to position Iowa State as a top-10 basketball program entering the 2015-16 season and be proud of him for reaching his dream.

Take a moment to flood Ames with cardinal and gold tears, reflect on the success the ISU men’s basketball program witnessed during the past five years under the direction of “The Mayor,” and most importantly, understand the team is in a better position now than when Hoiberg arrived. The Cyclones were 15-17 the year before he became coach.

After Stevens left for the Celtics, Butler moved on and returned to the NCAA tournament in March for the first time under second-year coach Chris Holtmann. Whoever is next in line to lead the Cyclones will inherit a team that was ranked No. 4 by ESPN staff writer Eamonn Brennan in his “Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2015-16.” And the next coach should inherit a fan base that is as welcoming as it was when Hoiberg arrived in 2010.

We need to be grateful for how hard Hoiberg worked to turn the ISU men’s basketball team into a force to be reckoned with and understand that hard work deserved a reward — the NBA head coaching offer from the Bulls.