Fred Hoiberg: "The Mayor" is now "The Coach"

Mike Hlas
Published: April 27 2010 | 7:31 pm - Updated: 30 March 2014 | 11:53 pm in
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Jamie Pollard's modus operandi as Iowa State's athletic director has seemingly been to make quick-strike hiring moves that immediately please Cyclone fans.

Bumping Cael Sanderson up to head wrestling coach, getting someone with Iowa State ties in Paul Rhoads to replace Gene Chizik as the football coach -- those were popular moves.

Swiftly acting to hire Greg McDermott after he fired Wayne Morgan as men's basketball coach in 2006 was a Pollard move that went over big with the Cyclone faithful.

Not every move that's popular at the time stays that way, however. If we've learned anything in this state over the last decade or so, it's that you never really know what you're getting when you name a head coach of a high-profile sport.

The hirings of Kirk Ferentz and Ben Jacobson induced no parades at Iowa or Northern Iowa. But try to name a high-profile coach other than Tom Brands who had a better 2009-2010 school year in Iowa.

Meanwhile, Steve Alford and Chizik were considered masterstroke hirings at the time in Iowa City and Ames, respectively.

Fred Hoiberg is Pollard's latest gift to Iowa State supporters. Is this an act of brilliant foresight, or just mere pandering?

You can't dislike Hoiberg the player/person. But there's nothing to like about him as a coach, because he's never been one other than an NBA assistant for part of the 2005-2006 season.

All right, no list of the most-beloved athletes in ISU history is complete without

Hoiberg, the Ames native who played so well for the Cyclones in the first half of the 1990s.

You don't get to be called "The Mayor" if you aren't a mayor unless you could get elected mayor without any political experience.

Hoiberg was voted coach of the Cyclones Tuesday by the one-man electorate that is Pollard, even though "The Mayor" has never been "The Coach."

Is this Pollard's ultimate act of playing to the crowd, simply returning a popular figure to Cyclone World to keep the wolves at bay for a while after the failed four-year term of McDermott's?

Or does he see and hear something in Hoiberg that suggests future coaching greatness? And if so, what?

Pollard has to cite more than the familiarity and stability Hoiberg brings. The only true stability in major-college sports comes from winning, not being a comfortable pair of old basketball shoes.

This job is something Hoiberg has wanted since he was a college player. On ISU's Senior Night in 1995, Hoiberg publicly kidded his coach, Tim Floyd. I can't find the precise quote, but I believe Hoiberg said he was coming back to Iowa State in 20 years to replace Floyd.

That got a big ovation of approval as I recall.

Hoiberg always seemed like he was a mature soul living in a young man's body. The way he handled retiring as a Minnesota Timberwolves player after a serious heart condition in 2006 was a portrait in grace.

He was the Timberwolves' assistant general manager for three years, and their vice president of basketball operations for the last year. There are lots of different good basketball experiences. Playing for a decade in the NBA and being in an NBA front-office for four more years gives someone with a sharp mind a lot to use.

Larry Bird was one of Hoiberg's coaches when The Mayor was with the Indiana Pacers. Bird did a very nice job, and he also had never coached before.

But Bird never had to go to AAU tournaments in the summer just to let 15-year-olds know he was interested in them. His players had contracts. They couldn't just up and leave if they thought they should be getting more shots or playing time.

Hoiberg at least knows what ISU is always up against in the winter. He'll try to succeed against the likes of Kansas and the rest of the Big 12, a league that sent seven teams to this year's NCAA tourney. He does know the experience of winning at Iowa State.

If Hoiberg finds the next Hoiberg among his short list of returning players, he'll see something we don't.

All that said, Hoiberg has always handled himself with poise, purpose and a willingness to work. Those things endeared him to Cyclone followers as much as his 3-point prowess, and made him difficult to dislike if you were a fan of another team. Starting out with the public's trust and respect isn't something to take lightly.

So welcome home, Fred. And if any of your old NBA pals have sons in high school who have game, you may want to recommend a certain university to them.

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