After Dana Altman left Creighton to take the head coaching job at Oregon Monday, then-Iowa State coach Greg McDermott was rumored to be the lead candidate to take over at Creighton. McDermott was announced as the Bluejays’ new head coach Tuesday, and for the third time in the last 10 years, Iowa State needed a new coach.
Few expected the new coach to be announced the following day, but it happened. Fred Hoiberg, nicknamed “The Mayor” during his playing days at Iowa State due to his popularity, was introduced as the new Cyclone head coach Wednesday, before a solid crowd at the Jacobsen Athletic Building.
Pollard said Hoiberg is far more than a great player and a fan favorite.
“He is a leader, a visionary, and now is our head coach,” Pollard said. “He has learned from and played for the best coaches and understood who he surrounds himself with is very important.
Hoiberg looks to turn around a program that has gone five years without a postseason berth, including just 59 wins during McDermott’s four-year tenure.
Despite some of the struggles on the court, Pollard thanked McDermott for his time in Ames.
“They gave Iowa State everything they had and represented Iowa State with integrity and class,” Pollard said.
In fact, when McDermott was hired in 2005, Hoiberg, a Minnesota Timberwolves executive at the time, contacted Pollard about the job then. Pollard decided to go with McDermott at that point, but when Pollard contacted Hoiberg this time, he said he was still interested and had a plan.
Hoiberg said that plan developed from the time that he was a player as well as an executive in the NBA and in college.
“It benefited me being both a young player and a captain in the NBA because I learned how to be a mentor to younger players,” Hoiberg said. “I also watched former coaches on how they interacted with their players and how they do things and have committed that to memory as well.
After playing for Johnny Orr and Tim Floyd at Iowa State, Hoiberg played for Flip Saunders, legendary players Larry Bird and Kevin McHale as well as renowned coach Larry Brown in his three NBA stops in Indiana, Chicago and Minnesota.
After his playing days were over due to a heart condition, Hoiberg was offered a job in the Timberwolves front office scouting college players and has been doing that ever since in some capacity.
Hoiberg said the stress of coaching will not bother him health-wise and would not have taken the job if he had health concerns.
Hoiberg has had offers to become an NBA assistant but said there were few jobs in that capacity that furthered his interest in that capacity and being the head coach at Iowa State was one of them.
“I said when we were back here about 13 years ago that my dream was one to one day come back and coach my son in front of the best fans on the planet,” Hoiberg said. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime and I have been so excited that I haven’t eaten in about two days.”
Hoiberg has already made two decisions on his staff, deciding to retain TJ Otzelberger as associate head coach and lead recruiter. He has also decided to keep recently hired and fellow Cyclone legend Jeff Grayer on the staff as well. Both players make about one-fourth of the Cyclones that have had their jersey number retired and also played professionally as well.
“TJ has connections all over the world and he was my first recruit,” Hoiberg said. “Jeff is the best player to ever play at Iowa State and also has connections in the Detroit and Flint, Michigan area.”
The other two additions to his staff are undetermined but there is likely to be someone with head coaching experience. Hoiberg looks to recruit the state of Iowa much stronger as well as the country and bringing in some players from Europe through connections he developed during his time in the NBA.
“I’m going to be learning a lot so I will have to lean on (my assistants and former coaches) a lot,” Hoiberg said. “We need to get the players in here that can get it done and get players that our fans can relate to.”
Hoiberg talked about how many of the best coaches in the business have ties to the NBA to get McDonald’s All-American level players.
“In that sense, I have every GM in the NBA on speed dial in my cell phone from my recent time there,” Hoiberg said. “I have some loosed ends to tie up in Minnesota this weekend, but I told TJ, this Monday we will hit the ground running.”
As far as style of play, Hoiberg wants to play more up-tempo but still be able to execute in the half court.
“It is a lot of easier to get transition buckets than to grind it out in the Big 12 but we know we will have to do that,” Hoiberg said. “We will run an offense based on proper spacing, solid screens and hard cuts.
“Our players will have a strong work ethic and we will communicate with them and let them know what is expected along with going to class and being on the right path to graduate,” Hoiberg said.
The current players met with their new coach last night and are very excited to play for their new coach.
“Any time you get the chance to bring back someone who played here and has had the success he’s had is an amazing opportunity,” guard Scott Christopherson said. “It’s great to learn from someone who has been through it all.”
Hoiberg said he wants to bring back fans to Hilton Coliseum and get the atmosphere he had when he played here.
“It’s time to bring the magic back and we may not be making shots every night but we will play hard and give you something to cheer about,” Hoiberg said. “Larry Brown said during my rookie year that Hilton was the hardest place to win he had coached.
“He has coached everywhere but he never won a Big Eight Conference game there, either,” Hoiberg said.
Ironically in closing, Hoiberg will get the chance to take down his predecessor when the Cyclones take on Creighton on November 21 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.