A Column of Enchantment: On Hoiberg, Pitino-Pacino & Frank Martin’s Past

Posted by Joseph Nardone on December 18th, 2014

There have been very few programs in the country who have been as entertaining to watch as Iowa State over the last few seasons. That is despite the program not being filled with multiple lottery picks or having guys who are known to the casual fan. However, they have had some excellent players, some of whom have gotten drafted highly or have even (eventually) become more known to viewers who usually stick to watching solely the name programs. Gone are the guys who first helped make the program a perennial Big 12 contender and more nationally relevant than Saturday Night Live. In their place are new guys, who — not oddly enough, at all — are continuing the same exciting, up-tempo and three-point heavy system which puts the Cyclones on any viewers’ must-watch list. Basically, goodbye Royce White (etc.) and hello Georges Niang (never a scrub, but he went from really good side player to possible dark horse NPOY candidate).

Fred Hoiberg Continues to Work His Magic at Iowa State (USA Today Images)

Fred Hoiberg Continues to Work His Magic at Iowa State (USA Today Images)

How can all of this happen? Really, how in the hell is this happening in Ames? Well, I am glad you asked. The answer is pretty obvious. It is the handsome, take him home to mom-ish, Fred Hoiberg.

It has been well-documented at this point, but here is the dilly on Iowa State and the Mayor of Ames. Hoiberg, a journeyman NBA player who started at Iowa State and was known as a relatively athletic three-point specialist, came home. Not came home like LeBron came home or like The Rock came home or how I come home after work, but just simply came home — to coach at his old stomping grounds. Instead of implementing an NBA system or using some tried-and-true college structure, Hoiberg used one of the best alternatives ever, he essentially recruits and coaches as if there were five more athletic Fred Hoibergs (what else is plural for Hoiberg? Hoibi? Hos?…) galloping across the hardwood.

Hoi-Ball (patent pending) is one of the best things to happen to college hoops in a long time. It has more staying power — because of logic — than Kentucky’s platoon (which is already dead. Goodnight, kind platoon). So, for America Mr. Hoiberg, I just wanted to say thank you for being you — and making Iowa State’s roster all be you as well.


I’ve banged on this drum for awhile, but not on Rush the Court. Has anyone other than me noticed the startling resemblance between Rick Pitino and Al Pacino? No, seriously. Go Google some pictures of the two and check it out. I’ll wait…

What Do You Think?

What Do You Think?

See what I am talking about?! Good lord is that amazing. The resemblance does not stop at the physical level, though. The two have some other things in common. And we aren’t talking about the scent of any women either (see what I did there? I am so clever). It has more to do with certain arches in their professional lives.

Pacino was once a heralded actor who then — because Hollywood and funny — became a punch line for basically playing the same character all the time. He was the (much lightened) precursor version of Nic Cage. This is obviously well after The Godfather and movies of that ilk, but Pacino stopped being the go-to leading man for casting agents. Some of that had more to do with getting longer in the tooth than it did with his supposed limited acting range. Regardless, the days of Pacino carrying a film to smash box-office records are long gone. I know, teaming up with 50 Cent failing to work was a shocker to me as well.

Pitino, while still more successful in his career than Pacino, was once the go-to for universities in their quests to fill coaching searches. It seemed like every year, even with the NBA always floating around as well, Pitino’s name would come up to fill some coaching vacancy. Yet time has passed and something has seemed to change. It has seemed like forever since Pitino has been linked to do anything other than coaching games at the KFC Yum! Center. Now, while as appealing as it sounds to coach at the KFC Yum! Center, what has happened between Rick Pitino looking like Al Pacino in The Godfather to Rick Pitino looking like Al Pacino in every movie since 2000 that has taken him off other universities’ dream list? Was it his sexcapades? Has he become so loyal to Louisville that the rest of the free world knows that he is unapproachable?

We may never know the answer. I do have a theory, however. It has to do with Al Pacino. So, yes, we come kind of/sort of/but not really at all full-circle back to Mr. Hoo-Ha himself. It is my personal belief that it is not only I who believes the two are intertwined. I think that others think that Pitino and Pacino are actually the same person. While seeing Pacino’s acting career starting to go the way of Denver the Last Dinosaur, university athletic directors have already seen the writing on the wall. First it was the acting. Next, naturally, the ability to coach will be gone. Sorry, Louisville fans. Unless The Irishmen ends up being great (for what it is worth, the book — same name — is excellent) it may be time to acknowledge that this hot Cardinals start is nothing more than a ruse. Like, former Al Pacino cast mate Chris O’Donnell’s possible Academy Award-winning career (hello, NCIS WhateverTheHellTownYou’reIn).

Wow. That was one really long walk just so I can say two guys look alike. Oh, and to take a really unnecessary shot at Chris O’Donnell. No really, Chris — you were great in Cookie’s Fortune.


Frank Martin was once a bouncer. Does this surprise a single member of the human species? What does actually happen to be more surprising than Frank Martin once being really good at controlling drunk people is the fact that he didn’t kill any of them with a backhanded slap.

Frank Martin (USA Today Images)

Frank Martin Bouncing a Ref (USA Today Images)

I’m not saying that Frank Martin is a crazy person. That would be totally irresponsible of me to even suggest a thing. However, Frank Martin seems like the most crazy person I have ever watched on my picture-box, because it feels real. More crazy than Ron Artest, more loony than Boyd Crowder and certainly more spooky than The Undertaker — and the guy doesn’t even do anything other than stare and yell a lot. Like, yeah, a lot of both of those, but Frank Martin’s scary-stare-eyeball-of-terror-routine (also patent pending) certainly had some type of backstory to it as to how he developed such a terrifying demeanor. Yet, and maybe it just me because it most certainly is, I guess I am just a little disappointed Martin didn’t become the man he is today because he once killed a clown in Scranton over his inability to make poodle balloons.

For what this is worth, which isn’t much because coachspeak, Martin believes that his time as a bouncer made him understand people better, which has made him a better coach. So, um, let me understand you for a second. Your time, dealing with drunk, mostly incoherent people has prepped you in the proper way to be a really good college basketball coach? Why hasn’t Coach K used a single offseason to go to whatever watering holes are down there in Durham to partake in some Roadhouse-ing?  Not to mention the fact that I seriously doubt he can bring up a story about picking up a drunk lady as a way to land a tippy-top-recruit.

“You see, Tippy-Top-Recruit-X, I was at Willy McWallypant’s House of Booze and there was Rhonda. She was wearing her usual red dress with its usual stains and red lipstick. I never approached her before but she had five Genny Lights instead of her usual three. I just knew the timing was right and…”

Joseph Nardone (22 Posts)

Joseph has covered college basketball both (barely) professionally and otherwise for over five years. A Column of Enchantment for Rush The Court on Thursdays and other basketball stuff for The Student Section on other days.

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2 responses to “A Column of Enchantment: On Hoiberg, Pitino-Pacino & Frank Martin’s Past”

  1. […] offense, which I have poorly deemed Hoi-ball, is an up-tempo, freewheeling, “open shooters take shots regardless of seconds into […]

  2. […] of Ames, Fred Hoiberg. To be clear, in the interest of full disclosure: I think Fred Hoiberg is all that like Rachael Leigh Cook. I also, selfishly, hope he stays in college to continue his “Five More Athletic Freds” […]

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