You could say that Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg‘s departure to the NBA has been the world’s worst-kept secret, but his eventual plan to return to the professional ranks wasn’t. Named head coach of the Chicago Bulls earlier today, now is the time to look back on Hoiberg’s college coaching career and recognize his legacy as an offensive innovator willing to gamble on players with checkered pasts. His keen ability to combine the two resulted in the Cyclones becoming one of this decade’s most successful programs.
Following the heyday of the Larry Eustachy era, it was a mystery whether Iowa State would again become a consistent winner. The program had fallen on hard times after Eustachy’s untimely exit from Ames in 2003 — a mixture of poor on-court results with alcohol addiction off of it — and churned through two more head coaches between 2003-10, with just one NCAA Tournament berth to show for it. While it sounds crazy in hindsight, athletic director Jamie Pollard’s move to bring Hoiberg home in April 2010 was viewed as a significant risk by most in the media. Nearly all coaching moves are gambles to some extent, but Hoiberg came to Iowa State with zero head coaching experience at any level and, despite his enormous local popularity, many were uncertain whether he could revitalize a program that had suffered four straight losing seasons and hadn’t won more than nine conference games in any year since 2001.