Is Fred Hoiberg As Good of a Coach As We Think He Is?

Fred Hoiberg turned around a mediocre, at best, Iowa State team faster than anyone expected him to. Hoiberg integrated transfers, graduate transfers, JUCO transfers, and High Schoolers seamlessly into his NBA, up-tempo system. Hoiberg has taken the Cyclones to three straight NCAA tournaments reaching the Sweet 16 last season. We all know the statistics of what Hoiberg has done for the Cyclone Men's Basketball program so I won't dabble too much with them. The general tone around Cyclone Nation is that if Hoiberg sticks around he could be our Coach K or Jim Boeheim just much, much more handsome.

I'll start this shindig with Greg McDermott's last two season as a Cyclone.

Format: YYYY-YY: W's-L's (Conference W's- L's) NCAA Tournament/NIT, result

Iowa State

Coach: Greg McDermott

  • 2008-09: 15-17 (4-12)
  • 2009-10: 15-17 (4-12)

Those records were good enough to finish 10th and 11th in the Big 12, respectively.

Now we will take a gander at Fred Hoiberg's Cyclone coaching career (not including this year).

  • 2010-11: 16-16 (3-13)
  • 2011-12: 23-11 (12-6) NCAA Tournament, Third Round (previously Second Round before the play-in-games)
  • 2012-13: 23-12 (11-7) NCAA Tournament, Third Round
  • 2013-14: 28-8 (11-7) NCAA Tournament, Sweet 16

It's clear Fred Hoiberg performed quite the turnaround in, basically, one season at the helm. McDermott's last two seasons as the Cyclones coach were bad, really bad. Hoiberg improved the overall record in his first season however dropped one more game in the Big 12. Keep in mind that Hoiberg was using mostly McDermott players. In Hoiberg's second season as head coach there was a major turn around thanks to transfers Royce White, Chris Allen, and Chris Babb (White and Babb spent time in the NBA and all three play/played significant time in the D-League). The third season of Hoiberg's tenure was nearly a carbon-copy of the 2011-12 season, in terms of record and result in the Tournament. His fourth season is where Hoiberg seemingly turned a corner. The Hoiberg coached team went undefeated in the non-conference and won the Big 12 tournament earning a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Cyclones seem to be a Big 12 contender, again, this year as well as a popular sleeper Final Four team. So back to the point of this article, enough of this background nonsense. Is Fred Hoiberg as good of a coach as we think he is? To answer this question I'm going to look at current high profile programs and coaches such as Duke and Coach K, Syracuse and Boeheim, UNC and Williams, Kansas and Self (I know it's disgusting for me too), and Michigan State and Izzo and do the same thing I did for McDermott and Hoiberg. I'll look at the previous coach and his final two seasons as well as the current coach and his first four seasons at the helm. What I hope to gather: is Hoiberg's turnaround unprecedented, what were other coaches situations when they took over their teams, how quickly did it take them for them to excel, and how long did it take to reach and have success in the NCAA Tournament.


Coach: Bill E. Foster

  • 1978-79: 22-8 (9-3) NCAA Tournament, Second Round
  • 1979-80: 24-7 (7-7) NCAA Tournament, Sweet 16

It's clear the Duke was a good team before Coach K took over from Foster especially when you add in the fact that Duke made the National Championship but lost in the '77-'78 season. Now let's take a look at Coach K's first 4 seasons.

  • 1980-81: 17-13 (6-8) NIT, Quarterfinals
  • 1981-82: 10-17 (4-10)
  • 1982-83: 11-17 (3-11)
  • 1983-84: 24-10 (7-7) NCAA Tournament, Second Round

Coach K definitely took a few steps backwards before he started the Blue Devil's in the right direction. Coach K started with a better situation than Hoiberg did and struggled longer before turning it around. It should be noted that in his 6th season he and the Blue Devils made the National Championship after another second round exit in his 5th season.


Coach: Roy Danforth

  • 1974-75: 23-9 NCAA Tournament, Final Four
  • 1975-76: 20-9 NCAA Tournament, First Round

Danforth clearly did well. Boeheim Time

  • 1976-77: 26-4 NCAA Tournament, Second Round
  • 1977-78: 22-6 NCAA Tournament, First Round
  • 1978-79: 26-4 NCAA Tournament, Second Round
  • 1979-80: 26-4 (5-1, Big East) NCAA Tournament, Second Round

Boeheim, much like Coach K, inherited a very good situation. However Boeheim didn't show any regular season struggles like Coach K did. As I did for Coach K I should also note that in Boeheim's 5th and 6th seasons he only made the NIT returning to the NCAA tournament in his 7th season.

North Carolina

Coach: Matt Doherty

  • 2001-02: 8-20 (4-12)
  • 2002-03: 19-16 (6-10)

Roy Williams leaves that one school he was at before and comes to UNC.

  • 2003-04: 19-11 (8-8) NCAA Tournament, Second Round
  • 2004-05: 33-4 (14-2) NCAA Tournament, Won National Title
  • 2005-06: 23-8 (12-4) NCAA Tournament, Second Round
  • 2006-07: 31-7 (11-5) NCAA Tournament, Elite Eight

Williams inherited an interesting situation from Doherty and made the best of it for sure. However given the recent, ahem, academic situation how many of those players shouldn't have been eligible to play for Williams?


Coach: Roy Williams

  • 2001-02: 33-4 (16-0) NCAA Tournament, Final Four
  • 2002-03: 33-8 (14-2) NCAA Tournament, Lost National Championship

Williams obviously didn't get fired. What I believe UNC did is they hired Williams out of Kansas using the money they saved on professors by not sending their student athletes to class.

  • 2003-04: 24-9 (12-4) NCAA Tournament, Elite Eight Note: This is the last time Kansas didn't win a share of the Big 12
  • 2004-05: 23-7 (12-4) NCAA Tournament, First Round
  • 2005-06: 25-8 (12-3) NCAA Tournament, First Round
  • 2006-07: 33-5 (14-2) NCAA Tournament, Elite Eight

Bill Self is a good coach, I guess. However he did have a fantastic situation to come in and coach.

Michigan State

Coach: Jud Heathcote

  • 1993-94: 20-12 (8-10) NCAA Tournament, Second Round
  • 1994-95: 22-6 (14-4) NCAA Tournament, First Round

Yet another coach that inherits a much better situation than Hoiberg. Now presenting the only coach that's on par with Hoiberg in terms of NBA head coaching rumors, Tom Izzo!

  • 1995-96: 16-16 (9-9) NIT, Second Round
  • 1996-97: 17-12 (9-9) NIT, Second Round
  • 1997-98: 22-8 (13-3) NCAA Tournament, Sweet 16
  • 1998-99: 33-5 (15-1) NCAA Tournament, Final Four

Tom Izzo took one step back and two steps forward in his first four seasons at Michigan State.

    I'm going to begin the ending with these five legendary coaches and Hoiberg's record through 145 (the number Hoiberg is currently at) games of their careers, not necessarily at their current schools.

  • Fred Hoiberg: 97-48
  • Coach K: 75-70
  • Jim Boeheim: 108-37 (All at Syracuse)
  • Roy Williams: 113-32 (All at Kansas)
  • Bill Self: 78-67
  • Tom Izzo: 103-42 (All at Michigan State)

As you can see Hoiberg stacks up quite well with these coaches and he is definitely trending upwards.

These previous five programs and coaches I just highlighted are some of the most prestigious in the nation. AKA they aren't what Iowa State was when Hoiberg took over. All of these coaches inherited better situations than Hoiberg did sans Roy Williams. Even though Hoiberg got stuck with a sub-par program it's easy to make the argument he did better in his first four seasons than 2/5 coaches and it is possible to make the argument he did better than 5/5 coaches in their first four years, all of whom inherited better programs.

The great Coach K didn't make the NCAA Tournament until his fourth season even though the previous coach brought the Blue Devil's to the NCAA Tournament, a far cry of what McDermott did for the Cyclones before Hoiberg took over. Tom Izzo also took over after the previous coach got the Spartans to the NCAA Tournament, however, Izzo failed to reach the Big Dance until his third season. Fred Hoiberg was given a much worse situation than both these coaches and got the Cyclones to the NCAA tournament in only his second season and had similar, if not better, records than both.

The only coach to rival Hoiberg's situation is Williams going to UNC and while Williams did get his team to the NCAA tournament in his first season he was coaching at a much more prestigious school than Iowa State and was already a proven coach, as seen by his record at that one school. Hoiberg went to coach at Iowa State, an institution that my manager at Home Depot in Sioux Falls SD, who played college basketball at Tennessee State and is from Chicago originally, had never heard of. That's right, he never heard of Iowa State. He only found out about Iowa State and Fred Hoiberg's coaching existence when he asked me why I'm only able to work the summers, let that sink in, I was appalled. Hoiberg was able to get his team to the NCAA tournament, skipping the NIT all together, in his second season. That's impressive. It also should be noted that Matt Dohtery got his team to the NCAA tournament the year before I started the listing so UNC had the players in place, even in Dohtery's last season. Players such as Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants, both freshman, all UNC needed was a coach. The same cannot be said about Iowa State, Diante Garett was the lone bright spot in Hoiberg's first season, making the quick turnaround even more impressive.

While Boeheim and Self got their teams to the NCAA Tournament every year Hoiberg had arguably more success than both of them in years 2-4. Hoiberg coached teams got bounced in the "Third Round" (previously Second Round before the play-in-games) twice and the Sweet Sixteen once. Now, we all know that two of those Hoiberg coached teams could have gone further if it wasn't for a two unfortunate events. The first being a block called a charge on Will Clyburn against Ohio State and a three by Aaron Craft to knock us out of the tournament. The second happened last year as we all recall. Georges Niang lands on Dustin Hogue's foot awkwardly, breaking his own foot. Iowa State went on to beat Roy Williams and UNC without the assistance of Niang. However, the Cyclones couldn't get passed the eventual National Champions, UCONN. Cyclone Nation was left to wonder what would've happened had Niang not broken his foot. Elite Eight? Final Four? Something even better? Both those things did happen, though and I'm not here to play the "what if" game. Hoiberg's resumé still stacks up quite nicely with Boeheim's and Self's in terms of NCAA Tournament success in years 2-4.

The only coach to turn around their program faster, and/or have more NCAA Tournament success, given the parameters, than Hoiberg is Roy Williams. Good job Roy, I'm proud of you, better go ask Marcus Paige how his Leisure 302-The Art of Napping class is going.

Yes, I realize these coaches are all legends or near legends and I'm stretching a little bit to compare Hoiberg to some these guys and it would be easy to say why these five are better than Hoiberg. However, I'm just trying to point out the argument could be made that Hoiberg compares well to these five and you have to remember I'm just comparing the first four years, not their entire careers.

Now, back to the original question, is Fred Hoiberg as good of a coach as we think he is? Given the parameters I've presented which are, over-all record, conference record, tournament appearances and result in the tournament before and after the legendary coaches arrived. Hoiberg might be better than we think if we compare him to these coaches. Hoiberg had never coached before, he didn't go to a prestigious program, he didn't have the players in place, and yet he was as successful, if not more successful than these legendary coaches in the first four years. He's doing things at Iowa State that few people thought were possible, he turned Iowa State basketball around in one year, got us to an NCAA Tournament in his second year (three straight NCAA Tournaments), and he is, now, getting all of his players in place. Hoiberg hasn't looked back, he is going to continue getting transfers and meshing them seamlessly with high schoolers to play his NBA offense and Iowa State will continue to be as successful as ever. Ladies and gentleman, Hoiberg isn't a good coach, he's not even a great coach. Hoiberg is a fantastic coach and is on the fast track to becoming a legend. Also he is Dreamy and has a very beautiful Mrs. Dreamy.

Source for previous records and NCAA Tournaments: Sports Reference

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