Steven M. Sipple: Former Huskers ecstatic about Hoiberg as optimism for program soars
Good luck getting tickets next season, that’s my first thought.
Tim Miles helped make Nebraska men’s basketball games a hot ticket. One can only imagine what the Fred Hoiberg hire will do for the market.
Cary Cochran can imagine it. He’s been thinking about the hire for weeks. A lot of folks were doing the same. Even so, finalization Saturday fueled ample excitement.
There should be excitement. Jubilation, really. For some longtime Husker hoops fans, this all may seem like a dream.
“You’re getting a guy who’s proven, a guy who carries a national name,” said Cochran, of Minden, Iowa, who ended his college career in 2002 as Nebraska’s all-time leading three-point shooter. “He’s a guy who adds credibility.”
During Hoiberg’s five seasons as Iowa State head coach (2010-11 to 2014-15), he produced four NCAA Tournament berths, a Sweet 16 appearance, two Big 12 Tournament titles and four wins against Bill Self.
He led the Cyclones to back-to-back No. 3 seeds in the Dance.
Because Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos changed the school’s pattern of hiring hoops coaches from mid-major conferences, Husker fans now have in their midst Hoiberg and Scott Frost.
Yeah, seems like a dream.
“As I’ve gotten older and become a fan, I’ve noticed that for far too long everybody looked at the Nebraska basketball program like, ‘Well, it’s something to do from football to the beginning of spring football,’” Cochran said. “I think people have viewed it and thought, ‘It’s going to end badly in some way, shape or form.’ I’ve always felt like people are always waiting for something bad to happen.
“Tim Miles was a very positive person and positive coach. But there were always questions about whether he could get it done. Now, very similar to Nebraska’s football program, you’ve got a guy that is one of the hottest candidates on the market, if not the hottest, and he chose your program.”
Hoiberg obviously wasn’t interested in UCLA. The Arkansas job opened this week, but he apparently wasn’t intrigued. Forget other jobs, though Hoiberg still was getting paid by the Chicago Bulls and therefore easily could’ve waited for higher profile jobs to open.
Granted, Hoiberg was born in Lincoln. Yes, his grandfather Jerry Bush used to lead the Nebraska program. Yes, Tom Osborne once tried to recruit Hoiberg to play quarterback at NU. But Hoiberg saying “yes” to Moos was far from a guarantee.
“Hoiberg wasn’t going to take a bad job,” Cochran said. “He doesn’t need to do it.”
Nebraska basketball has become a desirable job largely because of Big Ten money, facilities and fan support. But it obviously lacks tradition. I’m 52. So, as is the case with a lot of older Husker fans, I’ve witnessed a lot of bad offense. Covering a game often was about as much fun as doing taxes.
That’s about to change.
“What he did at Iowa State was very similar to how they play in the NBA — they get into (the offense) quickly,” Cochran said. “When there’s a 24-second shot clock, you have to get into it quickly. He’s going to approach it that way. So you’re not going to see the dribble weave and then just wait and try to ball screen.
“My biggest level of excitement is you’re going to see what they’re actually trying to do.”
Former Husker Terrance Badgett was giddy over the hire. Badgett played in two NCAA Tournaments (’93 and ’94) and two NITs. He played against Hoiberg when he was at Iowa State.
“I’m looking forward to him surpassing what we did in our years,” Terrance said. “He’ll smash it.”
Former Husker Andy Markowski played in one NCAA Tournament (1998) and three NITs. His tone was a mix of optimism and realism.
“Every time there’s change, you have hope,” Markowski said. “We all want to see the program be successful. When you consider former players, we’ve put a lot of energy and effort into trying to take that program to the next level, small pieces at a time.
“With this hire, everything finally is in place. You have great facilities, the fan base is passionate. Now, I hope Coach Hoiberg can bring in the type of players it takes to compete in the Big Ten because it’s a very tough conference.”
It seemed everyone was excited to welcome the Mayor into the Nebraska fold.
“He was really one of the guys who blew up in high school and stayed (in Iowa),” Cochran said. “So that’s what made him so beloved. Even after him, Raef LaFrentz went to Kansas, Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich went to Kansas, and Harrison Barnes went to North Carolina. But Fred stayed home.”
Hoiberg has a new home. You probably already have seen the “Hoiberg for Mayor” yard signs around Lincoln.
“You have a guy who’s going to be very good in the community,” Cochran said. “You have a guy who sells your school, community and program really well. Exceptionally well.”
Bottom line, Hoiberg is an easy sell.
Good luck getting tickets.