It's been awhile since we've had one of these round tables. Some of that is due to the new Wide Right Natty Podcast and its growing fan base, and some of that is due to lack of topics. When your basketball season ends in Kansas City then it becomes tough to talk about anything else.
Rest assured friends, we come bringing the heat this week. Over the past week the other WRNL staffers and I debated the hottest topic in the land: what the hell is going to happen with Fred Hoiberg?
Is it cliche? Sure, but we're writing about the quest for the best chain burger and adopting an MLB team two time zones and a 20+ hour drive away. As you can tell, we'll write about anything.
On to the debate, and be sure to add your thoughts below. If you want some structure then use my opening questions as a guide, or feel free to respond to a specific author's remarks. Since there's so much here be warned that everything is sic'd.
Fred Hoiberg just had a mechanical part inserted in to his heart, now that he's back on the road to health what's everyone's pulse on the program? Is this valve replacement a bump in the road of Fred's career, or indicative of a larger decision we're all going to have to face?
Say Fred does decide to no longer roam the sidelines of Hilton, when does that happen? Next year, year after, five years? Is it the NBA? Why does that make sense, and why doesn't it make sense?
Is Otz back as the transitional piece or is the allure of his adopted home just that strong for he and his wife?
It's crazy right now to think that Fred is going anywhere in the foreseeable future. Set aside the facts that Iowa State will have the most talented team of his tenure, that his family is here (and by all indications loves it), and it's his hometown team to look at the bigger picture: the man just went through a major surgery on his heart, and although the prognosis is good, he won't know exactly how coaching will go until he's back on the sidelines. Even then, being in his hometown with a (relatively) relaxed working environment is a much better situation than he would find himself in with the NBA- more time with his family, which lest we forget he could have been without if this procedure had gone awry.
Bottom line: there will always be rumors flying that NBA organizations want the man, but give his new ticker time to get adjusted before lending any sort of credence to this sort of speculation.
Although I'd like to say he stays forever, I think the first time Fred would truly consider leaving would be once his kids are through high school. I think his family is very important to him, and being in Ames allows him that time to be with them a pro coaching gig would not. Obviously he'd be losing out on more money/exposure, but from what I've seen, his family will trump all that.
Maybe Otz knows something we don't, or maybe there is some weight to Fred leaving. I think he can sense that our program is on the precipice of greatness, and he wanted to be a part of it. If he eventually takes over as head coach, great. If he doesn't, we still have a great assistant for the next couple years.
Man, this is just incredibly speculative and hard to tell either way. Obviously we're all aware of some "insiders" who claim that Fred is going to be looking at stepping down due to medical reasons, IE coaching being harder on his heart condition than had been previously mentioned. His doctors seem to be saying he can go back to a normal life, which bodes well for continuing his career, but then again being a major college basketball coach is anything but a "normal life".
All that said, I'd have to imagine that if this was going to hurt Fred's health down the road and increase his risk of a heart attack, they would already know it and Fred would have already made announced his decision to leave coaching. The fact that it hasn't happened yet leads me to believe that this condition is probably not going to be the deciding factor in where his career goes from here.
I've been of the belief, based on things I was told from people who have worked directly with Fred Hoiberg at ISU, that he's very happy in Ames and plans on truly turning this into a legitimate program, and that he wants the opportunity to coach his sons. This doesn't preclude the NBA, but it gives about another 10 years or so at ISU. At that point, Fred would be in his early 50's, and have plenty of time to go to the NBA and try his hand at it. He would have a good 10-15 years to build his legacy at the level too, and one would think that after another decade of Fred Hoiberg, ISU could have multiple Final Fours and even a National Title to the program's name, and be in an excellent place to replace him. If he really wants to go to the NBA, this seems to be the ideal way. The risk of him flaming out in college and losing his luster seems pretty low at this point, and if he leaves ISU too soon, and for the wrong opportunity, he risks tarnishing his legacy and popularity here.
The NBA will always be there for Fred Hoiberg at this point, if he wants it. Leave Iowa State right now, for another coaching job that is, and he's going to be reviled by a portion of the fanbase. This program is on the verge of turning the corner into a perrenial power, and after all the horrendous nut kicks of fate that Iowa State fans have received over the years, it seems almost unfathomable (and thus the most truly Cyclone thing you can imagine) that arguably the most popular individual in the history of this fanbase would choose to rip it's heart out of it's collective chest for an opportunity that will (almost) literally be there as long as he wants it.
For some reason, the idea of Fred Hoiberg deliberately choosing to emotionally crush the Iowa State fanbase seems like the most "ISU" type of thing that could ever happen.
All this said, if Hoiberg does decide to walk away for health reasons, I'd like to think that nearly everyone would understand and support the decision. I don't care how much you love basketball, some things are just more important.
It sure is easy to think that Otz is being brought in to transition things, but then again, it's not like his job was going anywhere in Washington. He's probably getting paid more at ISU, and he has a connection here. Washington's program isn't going anywhere and wouldn't he be in a much better position to market himself as a head coach coming from a surging, strong program vs. one going sideways or backwards? Otz wasn't getting an HC gig out of the Washington job, so why not take a better job in a similar position that will give you a better spring board to the end result? Throw in the fact that both he and his wife have ISU connections, and he obviously has a great relationship with Fred, and it's a no brainer even if this isn't a "coach in waiting" scenario.
I can actually speak from a little bit of experience on this. In 2006 my mother, a perfect picture of health, had mitral valve repair surgery. Everything went according to plan, valve repaired, but she was warned the she would undoubtedly be right back on that operating table within the next 15-20 years.
I don't think this is as much a bump in the road of Fred's career as it is the next medical "step." Let's face it: Fred, like my mother, kind of has a shit heart, and it's always going to be that way. As age catches up to him, sure, he may have to dial back whatever emotional and physical intensity he displays on a day-to-day basis (probably won't be too difficult).
But in terms of a larger decision we're going to face? Nah. When Fred leaves Ames, I think it'll be on his own (and a rich NBA GM's) terms. See below...
Since I've started writing for this website, I haven't been asked any question more than this one. It seems like my outlook on Fred-to-the-NBA changes with the seasons. But gun to my head, right this very second, I believe there are two "whichever comes first" answers to this question:
1. I'll preface by saying Fred goes *nowhere* before April 2016. An idiot even knows not to walk away from the opportunity Iowa State has next season. But Scenario 1 is... the proximity factor. We're talking Timberwolves, Bucks, Bulls, Pacers, three of which he has an obvious history with. The guy has never been anywhere but the heartland, right? He's a product of the Midwest. When either Flip Saunders, Jason Kidd, Tom Thibodeau or Frank Vogel receives his walking papers and doesn't leave behind shit for a roster (must be nice, Steve Kerr), I don't how Fred doesn't actively pursue that gig.
2. When the twins graduate high school. By my math, this would be immediately following the 2020-21 season. Six more years. As an empty nester, with 11 years of head coaching experience, what possibly holds you back at that point from pursuing your dream job?
And ass much as it pains me to say it, I have the utmost confidence that Scenario 1 is on the horizon. And I would prepare your butts for that moment 365 days from today.
Two words for you: Mike Hopkins.
The 21-year veteran assistant coach at Syracuse has widely been known as Jim Boeheim's successor at Syracuse (which we now know is three years from now). Hopkins recently credited Boeheim for being the guy who "gave him a chance" and "gave him his profession" much like Hoiberg did for Otzelberger in 2006. Granted, Syracuse chancellor Kent Syverud refuses to admit that succession plan is in place, but it is, and it has been for a while.
Jamie Pollard shouldn't, and won't, have a problem handing the keys to Otz when that day comes, assuming Pollard is still around. So to answer the question: A transitional piece? Absolutely. In my opinion.
The allure of Ames, Iowa? I probably don't need to answer that.
I have a few takes on these matters and as usual I'm not gonna organize them in any logical manner. I'm gonna throw everything at you as they come to me. My apologies.
The program is obviously in good hands. We're gonna have our most hyped preseason team... ever. But with losing Matty A. to that poser Chris Mullen and subsequently getting Otz back - people are starting to get a little Truthery. Obviously there is NBA talk. The Bulls perpetually need to replace their well respected coach. The Thunder just canned their not very well respected coach. These are amazing gigs that most people would be crazy to pass up. Tack on the fact that Dreamy is apparently mortal... the masses begin to take a closer look at the Grassy Knoll.
Here's my take. With this latest heart surgery, it almost makes me feel the Dreamy won't leave for the NBA, but because of his health. This is not to say I think he will have more poor health. And I don't think this retirement will be anytime soon though. After hopefully many years of unprecedented success and he is satisfied with his work, he will retire. He will cite his health and family among other reasons.
And for those of you who think Otz is back to take the reins from Dreamy "soon"? I don't buy it. He is familiar with the program, we're good, Washington is bad, and he thinks of Ames as home. And I'm speculating there is another reason. Here's what Washington coach, Lorenzo Romar had to say about his return:
"I think if you look in the next few months it will become pretty obvious. And I'll just leave it at that."
I think this is a coach hinting at that Otz is running from something. Could be that Washington is about to get hit with some NCAA sanctions that may or may not be because of the assistant. And if this crazy theory happens to be the case, he got the perfect place to "run" to.
Austin, one specific thing I want to pick out:
And ass much as it pains me to say it, I have the utmost confidence that Scenario 1 is on the horizon. And I would prepare your butts for that moment 365 days from today.
Why then? What lures Fred after next year more so than any other year? Is it the rebuilding project in Ames or something else? Do you think he leaves if he doesn't get full roster control?
It's the rebuilding project. This is it, right? 2015-16 is it. Barring a program-changing recruiting job by Otz (Amir Coffey, Miles Bridges, Barrett Benson -- hell you'd need two out of three), the upward trend we've experienced for five consecutive years ends. After being knocked down a few rungs talent-wise, would Fred be prepared to climb that ladder again if he had the option to "take the elevator" to the NBA, so to speak?
He'll need a roster that keeps Iowa State in Big 12 contention in 2016-17. What if Morris bolts? Can you maintain prominence with guys like Noskowiak, Burton, Cooke, a couple four-star recruits and a few transfers? If you can, wonderful. Then Iowa State remains on the map. If you can't, the regression begins there. It's just a matter of whether or not Fred decides to get out ahead of it.
365 days from today, he's got a hell of a decision to make.
This doesn't really answer your "what if" questions, but I'd just like to say that I'm very high on Cooke. I think he's going to surprise a lot of people if his hip injury heals according to plan. Reminds me of Chris Allen, except with better handles and a better head on his shoulders.
When this question comes up, I'm always curious why people like Duke's coach (too lazy to look up spelling), Tom Izzo, Dean Smith, Jim Boeheim and some of the other great college coaches never went on to coach in the NBA. And, without doing any research, I believe Larry Brown might be one of the only coaches who was successful at both levels (results pending on Brad Stevens) so I would assume the probability of failure (Calipari, Pitino, Floyd, Kruger, et al) would be very high. Again, I'm not a basketball guy, and watch about 5 minutes of NBA games a year if I happen to be flipping through channels, so if anything I'm saying is so completely wrong it is because I am truly ignorant about the matter.
Either way, I digress some. Why are these icons never wooed to the professional world? And, I'm not asking why they haven't been wooed, because I know at least Izzo's name has came up for the Cleveland job a year or so ago, but why don't they go? Loyalty? Comfort? Consistency? Complacency? There has to be some common denominator between them. Couldn't the same exist in Fred? Not saying it does, but couldn't it?
Of course, the increased cholesterol in my system could be skewing my perception and understanding of all things bouncy ball.
Like everyone else, I don't have a damn clue what is going to happen with Fred Hoiberg and I can't even begin to speculate about how his health ties into everything, but here's why I can't buy into the scenario that this is his last year and he's 100% gone to the NBA after this next season...
So you're telling me that an NBA GM/owner has reached out to Hoiberg and has an agreement in principle, that following the 2015-2016 season, Hoiberg will be named the coach of an NBA franchise? Just think about that for a second. We're talking 365 days in advance, an NBA franchise knows that it will fire their coach, regardless of what they do in June's draft and during the summer's free agency period and regardless of the results from next season?
I can understand planning for the future, but there's no way in hell any franchise can guarantee they'll be in the market for a coach at this point next year. Have teams reached out to gauge Fred's interest? Of course, but I just can't buy that there's a guaranteed offer out there waiting for Hoiberg one year from now.
And that's just on the NBA side of things. Look at what Hoiberg has going for him in Ames. Iowa State is in excellent position for the 2016 class with standouts like Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston and Amir Coffey to name a few. Losing Georges Niang, Jameel McKay, Abdel Nader and Naz Long will present a monumental task, but if you can land a blue chipper or two to mix in with Deonte Burton, Hallice Cooke, Matt Thomas, Nick Babb, Georgious Tsalmpouris and most importantly, Monte Morris (and anyone Iowa State signs in the next month or two), that has the makings of yet another top 15 team for the '16-'17 season.
In summation, I am very much in wait and see mode.
I want to echo CBD's comments here, and pose the question to the rest of you: why next year? It's not like a rebuild hasn't been done before in the history of college basketball. Or even in Fred's time in Ames.
This is a tough one. Obviously, we have many factors at play here. Fred's health, his family, his love for Ames, IA, his love for ISU, and the mountain that he has climbed in College Basketball. The only thing I left out there was his love for the NBA (partly because I didn't want to admit it). Fred is an NBA coach, if you want to believe it or not. His concepts and offensive sets are much more aligned with NBA schemes than college, and that's what makes him great. He said he watches more film from the NBA than college, so that right there tells us he keeps tabs on his NBA cronies.
Whether you like it or not, Fred's place will be in the NBA. It's his dream to be an NBA coach. Now the question we ask ourselves, is when? That's as hard a question as any, and I have no idea when that time will come. What I want to let you know WNRL readers, is don't be surprised when it does happen. I compare it to the every day middle class employee. Everyday at work is for a purpose to take that next step, get that next raise, land that higher paying position. For Fred, that is the NBA.
Otzelberger is a fine assistant coach, but that is all he is. Just like you fanatics exclaimed we should hire Marcus Fizer, Paul Shirley in basketball, and Seneca Wallace and Sage Rosenfels in football, calm down. It has to be the right fit for a HEAD COACH. Otz has proven he is a fantastic recruiter, and assistant, but for him to take the step from 10 years on the sidelines to a Head Coach for a perennial Top-25 contending program in a major conference is a HUGE leap of faith. I love Otz, but my guess is Pollard will go for a much more experienced head coach.
I think the program is in a great place. If we're measuring it based on year over year results, it's hard to argue contrary to that. Is the program better off today than it was at this time last year? I would say absolutely yes, and I think you can say yes if you continue that exercise about 5 more times. I know some people are left wanting more after this last disappointing loss, but the fact remains the same. ISU hasn't had this type of sustained success that we're currently seeing in our basketball program in the last 15 years.
Since Hoiberg's arrival, ISU has added more wins and checked off more things on the elite program "to do" list than any of his predecessors in a shorter amount of time. ISU has more wins against Top 25 opponents than any other school in the country over the last two seasons, that my friends is a more than stable program which hasn't yet reached its ceiling.
I think this is just a bump in the road and the only reason it's getting any traction is because of the timing of the procedure. It absolutely makes sense to do this in the ISU offseason, but it also happens to coincide with a time of year where many NBA coaches are losing their jobs, all of which seemingly have their eyes on Hoiberg and will do anything and everything to snatch him away from his beloved Iowa State. Seems as though any NBA coaching job that becomes available within 1000 miles of Ames is a highly plausible landing spot and has some sort of connection. "But the head trainer at Oklahoma City was an associate trainer at Indiana when Hoiberg played there, so he's familiar with it." Riiiiight, just as any person who spent any time playing and working in the NBA for more than a decade will attest, it's very easy to have some type of "connection" to any and all teams, so let's stop grasping at those straws.
If and when he decides to leave, kudos to him. I'll gladly cheer him on as he pursues his NBA coaching career. That's always seemed to be his plan anyway, so we shouldn't selfishly put our own personal fandom ahead of his career goal. It's not like he came here and won 4 games over two years then left ISU to pick up the pieces. If anything, he put them back on the map, and a force to deal with for years to come, whether he's at the helm or not.
I think eventually this is a decision we're all going to have to face, and I hope no one is surprised, and instead celebrates it and enjoys the ride while it lasts. Whether it ends next year, or 25 years from now, it's been a hell of a ride and extremely fun to watch someone bring their Alma Mater back to life.
Most of this was covered in my short essay above. Only thing I'll add here is it will definitely be for an NBA job, it's just a matter of when at this point. Does he bolt before the recruiting dries up and he's forced to win with young talent? Does he stock the recruiting cupboard before leaving? Hang some more banners in Hilton before taking off, leaving the program at its highest point? I think anything is possible, and only he and those closest to him are the ones who truly know what the timing will be.
I think it's the allure and familiarity, not to mention a better job. You could make the argument any assistant coach is a transitional piece of some sort. I think good programs do that, bring in as much coaching talent as you can, not only to develop and recruit players, but to maintain stability if something unexpected (or planned) should come up.
Again, I think a lot of this would normally be swept under the rug as nothing if not for the timing of the hire in relation to the surgery and the NBA calendar year. It's the nature of the beast when you have a successful coach. I'm not going to over-analyze this hire until someone gives me a reason to other than a planned surgery and some NBA coaches getting fired.