Months of speculation were finally put to rest. Former Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg was officially named head coach of the Chicago Bulls, leaving behind his alma mater and a loaded roster for the man who replaces him.
Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard has been able to brace himself during the last several weeks to conduct his third men’s basketball coaching search in his 10-year tenure. The Mayor’s move was imminent.
Unlike in the previous two searches, however, he has a nationally prominent program to sell with national championship aspirations. Although Hoiberg might have given the Cyclones a certain perception on a national scale in his five seasons at Iowa State, that viewpoint isn’t going anywhere next season.
“I think (Hoiberg) turned (Iowa State) into a good job just by the fact that he got so many talented guys and talented transfers,” ESPN.com college basketball writer Myron Medcalf told The Gazette. “Talented guys like Georges Niang and folks to just consider Iowa State that before he arrived would have never thought about attending Iowa State. Now that he’s assembled a team that…he has a top-five team arguably right now at Iowa State, it’s certainly a good job.”
The Cyclones have 20-plus wins in each of the last four seasons, going to a program-first four-straight NCAA tournaments in that span. Iowa State is coming off back-to-back Big 12 tournament titles and will return three All-Big 12 players in Niang, Monte Morris and Jameel McKay.
An early exit in the round of 64 in this year’s NCAA tournament is also on the minds of the returnees as summer workouts draw closer. The one-point loss to UAB in March hasn’t been easier for Naz Long to put out of his mind, and losing Hoiberg is another dose of fuel added to the fire of reaching the Final Four.
“We have a great core group coming back and some new additions coming in as well,” Long said. “I feel like whatever the case is, nothing’s going to stop us from our vision and I feel like our whole team believes that. This is not a setback. It happened, it’s over and now we’ve just got to move onto the next.”
Pollard met with several members of the men’s basketball team in his office on Tuesday, and discussed how the program would move forward. Although players didn’t offer specifics into the search, Pollard released a statement and said he will not comment beyond Tuesday until the search is complete.
“ISU President Steven Leath and I will conduct a national search for a new coach, and we are confident that our basketball program will continue on the upward trajectory it has established,” Pollard said in an ISU release. “We are energized to capitalize on the momentum of our program as we pursue a new coach at Iowa State.”
Niang hasn’t returned to Ames from his home in Massachusetts—he will be on campus Friday to report for summer workouts and classes— but said he has tried to think about the future. Although he doesn’t have any specific ideas on what he’d like to see in a new coach, winning and style of management are big factors.
Iowa State assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger is likely a candidate for the postion. He spent seven seasons as an assistant in Ames under former coach Greg McDermott and Hoiberg before spending the last two seasons at Washington.
“He came back to Ames with the understanding in his mind that if and when Fred Hoiberg ever left for the NBA he would have a chance to move up,” CBS Sports’ Seth Davis told Campus Insiders. “I don’t think anybody thought it would happen this soon, but he’s the obvious in-house candidate.”
Former Iowa State standout and current Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek might be a loftier coach to attain, but he has not publicly expressed or denied interest in coaching his alma mater. Murray State’s Steve Prohm and Stephen F. Austin’s Brad Underwood are also rumored to be candidates, with the new coach to be named possibly next week.
“Hornacek woud be that splash hire,” Medcalf said. “Hornacek would be the guy where, ‘Okay, we lost Fred, but we just gained another alum and a guy who really knows how to run an NBA offense and has a big name that convince recruits to come to Ames.’ My guess Hornacek is at the top of the list-list, but I could see Otzelberger being the guy who gets the job.”
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