It may have been the best introduction by an athletic director of a new coach in the history of hiring.
Instead of presenting new Nebraska men’s basketball coach Fred Hoiberg a red cap or a jersey, Cornhuskers athletic director Bill Moos handed Hoiberg a framed copy of the original news release that introduced his grandfather, Jerry Bush, as the program’s new coach in 1955.
The connections run deep for Hoiberg at Nebraska, as strong as they were for him when Hoiberg served as the Iowa State coach from 2010-15. Then, he was “The Mayor,” returning to the Ames, Iowa, town where he grew up, served as a Cyclones ball boy and became an all-conference player.
But Nebraska was the home of Hoiberg’s family, and most of the first five minutes of his introduction Tuesday in Lincoln were spent remembering and recognizing his grandparents and wishing well to his parents, who were in attendance, and Nebraska graduates and others who live in the state.
“When you make a move like this, you have to have the full support of everybody,” Hoiberg said.
It would difficult to imagine any opposition to this arrangement, especially after Hoiberg admitted to being a diehard Cornhuskers football fan when he was growing up in Iowa.
Hoiberg returns to the college game after three-plus seasons as the Chicago Bulls’ head coach. He was fired on Dec. 3, a day he remembers more because it’s his wife Carol’s birthday.
After that, Hoiberg took some time off and considered his future as a coach: try to remain in the NBA or return to the college game? One possibly attractive college job came open later in December when Steve Alford was fired at UCLA.
“My thing going into this year is I wanted to be in a good situation, whatever level that may be,” Hoiberg said. “I did talk to some other schools. I don’t know what NBA possibilities are going to open up, but when I looked at it, I didn’t see something that really excited me.”
But Hoiberg had kept up with Nebraska and met with Moos in Chicago on March 4, before the end of the season and while Tim Miles remained the Huskers’ coach.
“I thought it might be smart just to meet the gentleman,” Moos said. “Just to get to know each other. I like to look at options. If I had to make a change, I wanted to have my list in order.”
Hoiberg said no agreement had been made until late last week, “contrary to the rumors that this thing has been done for a while. It wasn’t. One thing my wife and I talked about is want this to be our last stop.”
Hoiberg insists the program’s facilities, including Pinnacle Bank Arena, which opened, in 2013, will be a draw. As for recruiting, Hoiberg returns to a college basketball landscape he helped shape.
When he took over at Iowa State in 2010, the Cyclones finished last in the Big 12. But he had four transfers sitting out, including future star Royce White. Transferring wasn’t a big part of the sport then. Hoiberg won with them in Ames — went to the NCAA Tournament in each of his final four years there and won two Big 12 Tournaments — and now transferring is commonplace.
“We just want to get the best talent on the floor, however that may be,” Hoiberg said. “At Iowa State, it started as transfers, but what that led to was once we got our style of play established and had some success, it led to us getting some really good four-year players.”
Hoiberg, 46, said Iowa State will maintain a place in his heart. He’s gone to a football game each season and spoke to current Cyclones men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm’s team this season.
“I love the direction of Iowa State basketball right now,” Hoiberg said. “I think the world of Steve Prohm, and I love what he’s doing.
“Listen, when you go to school there, grew up there and were part of something special, we can always hold on to that. It was a great run. I love going back. I hope they would support the satiation I’m in now and they would be excited about where we are.”