Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Hoiberg to ISU is high risk, too
By Eamonn Brennan
Tuesday, I oh-so-presciently opined that if Iowa State looked down its list of head-coaching candidates, the best candidate and the riskiest candidate were the same person: Billy Gillispie. That was half-right at best. Turns out, Iowa State had someone else in mind, and he's plenty risky himself.
New Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg doesn't have any coaching or recruiting experience.
That someone is former Iowa State Cyclones star Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg is a bona fide star in Iowa -- there's a reason he earned the nickname "The Mayor" during his playing days in Ames. True story: In my high school in eastern Iowa, there used to be a Fred Hoiberg poster on our gym door; it was the only poster I ever remember seeing. He was Iowa's state-sanctioned basketball star. Fred Hoiberg. The Mayor. Everybody loved him, but he was Cyclones fans' one true hero, and that hasn't changed in the years since his college career or NBA retirement.
Make no mistake, this decision will energize the locals. Clone Chronicles is already predicting a "massive" increase in ticket sales thanks to Hoiberg's hire. No other player, and no other coach, could do this for Iowa State the way Hoiberg will. ISU's basketball program will practically market itself.
Here's the downer part, though: Can Hoiberg actually coach? He's never done so before. Hoiberg transitioned immediately from his NBA playing days with the Minnesota Timberwolves to a front-office position in St. Paul, eventually rising to become the T-Wolves' vice president of basketball operations. Hoiberg has done a lot of college playing and a lot of college scouting, but none of his post-retirement jobs have involved coaching or recruiting. That stuff tends to come in handy when you're trying to build a program.
In other words, Hoiberg is in some ways just as risky as Gillispie, if not more so. He will be a popular man for years to come, and he'll get plenty of coverage from fans on both flanks if the Cyclones struggle in Hoiberg's first, oh, four years. Maybe longer. But eventually, if Hoiberg can't coach -- and we have no idea if he can or not -- no amount of popularity will mask it. It won't matter. Iowa State fans' one true hero will be just another on the pile of discarded Cyclones coaches who have failed at the school since Larry Eustachy drank the Natty Lights heard 'round the world.
Hoiberg deserves more, and he's putting it on the line here. Let's hope the Mayor has a plan.