Before we begin let’s acknowledge that this web site has played a large part in mythologizing Fred Hoiberg. We started a mere three weeks after Hoiberg was announced as head coach and set the tone early on with our views of The Mayor. After back-to-back NCAA tournament berths we anointed him Dictator For Life. So I get it, we’re part of the problem when it comes to the adoration of the man.
Lately that adoration has turned in to mythologizing, and that mythologizing has turned in to a sort of step-dad type of treatment for Steve Prohm. It’s stupid. We’ve even told you it’s stupid. Yet here we are - a mere two weeks later - telling you once again it’s stupid.
I’m not the type to say that Fred always had his sights set on the NBA, and I don’t believe in conspiracy theories when it comes to why he was in Ames and his intent on using his alma mater as a stepping stone to bigger things. I do believe, however, that The Mayor was greener than we like to remember and he had his faults when it came to steering this massive ship we call Iowa State Basketball.
Recruiting - It Wasn’t Fred’s Bag
Hoiberg made a lot of noise early on with his recruiting of “troubled players” to come to his “sanctuary” in Ames and get a “second chance at basketball”. It was on the backs of these players that the foundation of Iowa State’s program was established. Yet, as he told the Chicago Tribune, recruiting really wasn’t his thing. To those close to the program those comments were unsurprising and obscenely mild. The primary recruiter for most of Hoiberg’s tenure was T.J. Otzelberger, but when he moved on to Washington it became Matt Abdelmassih’s primary duty as assistant coach.
This isn’t to take anything away from Abdelmassih, but turning over the recruiting of a major college program to a coach whose greatest experience was in an NBA front office is tenuous at best, and a recipe for disaster when the head coach is generally dismissive of the guts of recruiting.
Iowa State’s strategy quickly shifted from the four-year, diamond in the rough type players such as Melvin Ejim and towards the one and done types typically reserved for Kansas and Kentucky. This strategy is fine until you realize that the Kansas team that walked in to Hilton on Monday night was led by seniors and multi-year players, and only boasts NBA Lottery caliber Josh Jackson as a true one and done.
Believe it or not, that has been the blueprint of Iowa State’s success the past few years and without that stable churn of multi-year guys the program ends up in the situation they’re facing now.
Why Does This Matter Now?
It doesn’t take a basketball tactician to tell you that Iowa State’s lack of a post presence is absolutely murdering their chances at being elite. There are silver linings everywhere such as the combined nine points spread across four losses (Cincinnati, Gonzaga, Baylor, & Kansas). Yet a solid ass kicker underneath, or even a stretch 4, would have likely flipped some of those Ls to Ws and put the Cyclones smack dab in the middle of the polls.
The lack of good post depth is shared between Hoiberg and Steve Prohm, but the fault lies largely on The Mayor’s shoulders. The attention on star forward Cheick Diallo limited the program’s ability to go after a four-year contributor, which was largely covered up by the offensive destruction Georges Niang was creating by the end of last season. The single greatest failure of Hoiberg’s tenure was that he failed to set the program up for long term success with his recruiting - regardless of who was steering the ship.
Prohm knew this and tried to supplement the lack of depth with grad transfers Darrell Bowie and Merrill Holden - only to tragically miss. Holden now rides the bench and Bowie is caught somewhere between black hole and dying star; with no idea how to fully embrace either one.
It’s perfectly fine to acknowledge Hoiberg as our “real dad” if we’re willing to admit that he left our step-dad with an empty fridge that he’s now painstakingly trying to replenish.
This Doesn’t Absolve Prohm
Prohm is making the best with what he can, and I’ll defend him until my face turns blue on that point. However, there’s room for improvement for a guy who’s clearly still learning how to coach at the highest level and doesn’t have Niang to bail him out.
Prohm’s timeout usage can be atrocious at times. Riding Burton for as long as he did Saturday did more to hurt the team than rolling the dice with a green Solomon Young. He questionably gives up on offensive boards in the interest of transition defense, which is a noble approach if the team was capable of playing any. In the time it took to write this paragraph the offense ran some wasted motion, made a pass, jab stepped, and put up a three.
Yet things aren’t completely broken in Ames. This team is still likely to make the tournament by staying strong at home and picking up a few well timed road victories. .500 in Big 12 play is nothing to sneeze at and a 7-10 seed in March would be great for a program that is so limited right now in what it can do.
Prohm is currently slated to bring in the 24th ranked recruiting class according to 24/7, and while there isn’t a post player in the bunch, this doesn’t factor in the expected development of Young and Cameron Lard. Prohm is a died in the wool college coach who loves recruiting and has two NBA point guards to show for it. Prohm’s early success has earned him time to put his fingerprints on the program. Even if that means we have to sit through ugly games to get there.
So, you know, just R-E-L-A-X.