- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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There's no mystery to it: Fred Hoiberg did an excellent job in his second season at Iowa State. He took in Minnesota castoff Royce White -- who struggled with anxiety and flamed out in epic fashion in Minneapolis -- and unleashed his unique and versatile talents on an unsuspecting Big 12. He got the rest of the team, full of transfers and holdovers from the Greg McDermott era, to play focused, defensive basketball. And he got the Cyclones to the second round of the NCAA tournament, the once-proud program's first NCAA tournament appearance since 2005.
Hoiberg was insanely popular before he came back to Iowa State, his alma mater, to be the head men's basketball caoch. After 2012's immediate turnaround, the Mayor's approval rating couldn't possibly be higher. Zing.
Still, Hoiberg's return was fraught with risk. What if he didn't get the job done? What if the merry transfer bandwagon plan didn't work? What if Hoiberg's return only sullied his standing among the ISU fans who worship him? What if -- gasp -- the Mayor couldn't coach?
Turns out, despite never having been a head coach before taking over at Iowa State, Hoiberg has chops to spare. And SI's Luke Winn crunched the statistics to prove it. Luke re-evaluated the coaching performances of 2012 based on our beloved efficiency stats. Kentucky's John Calipari is named thrice, for good reason: His team was really, really good. But Hoiberg also deserves mention in a category you might not expect. From Winn:
So much for the concerns about Hoiberg having zero coaching experience prior to being hired by ISU: He was the game's best timeout tactician this season, even ahead of well-established coaches such as Thad Matta and Calipari. I ran strength-of-schedule adjustments on Synergy Sports Technology's After-Timeout Efficiency data, and the Cyclones ranked No. 1 at 1.093 adjusted points per possession, followed by Ohio State at 1.066 and Kentucky at 1.019. While the Buckeyes and Wildcats had top-10 overall offenses, the Cyclones ranked 23rd, making their national-best ATO figures even more significant.
In other words, the Cyclones were never better on offense than when Hoiberg had time to pull his team aside and draw up a play. There are a lot of different ways to gauge coaching ability; drawing up a nifty out of bounds play is hardly the only one. (Recruiting, in-year team growth, chemistry, defense, you name it.) But it's one that cuts to the heart of the in-game coaching process itself.
At the very least, that ATO stat should dispel any notion that the Iowa State coach is merely good at collecting talent, that his time in NBA front offices didn't allow him to study the intricacies of the game. The guy can coach. Case closed.