WASHUT: Hoiberg-to-Nebraska report make too much senses
Less than 48 hours before Nebraska was set to host its first NIT game since 2008, the future of the program got turned upside down on last week.
National college basketball analyst Jeff Goodman of Stadium reported that current NU head coach Tim Miles would soon be let go and that former Iowa State and NBA coach Fred Hoiberg was the frontrunner to take his place in Lincoln.
This was the first credible news report linking Hoiberg to Nebraska, but that talk certainly didn’t come out of thin air. Two days later, former Sports Illustrated writer Lars Anderson took the rumors a step further.
Speculation of mutual interest between NU and Hoiberg had been brewing for weeks, and it only seemed to get more substantiated as time went on. When Miles was finally officially let go, it felt like more Hoiberg returning to Lincoln was just a matter of when, not if.
There were some unconfirmed rumors floating around last week that Hoiberg had already met with NU athletic director Bill Moos in Lincoln during the past month while the Huskers were playing on the road. If true, that would seem to follow the same approach Moos took in secretly courting Scott Frost while Mike Riley was still the head football coach.
Less than an hour after Miles was officially let go on Tuesday, more national reports started flooding in that Hoiberg-to-Nebraska was essentially only a matter of time.
While many would initially consider Hoiberg, 46, out of Nebraska’s league, there are plenty of reasons for him to strongly consider the offer, assuming one has officially been extended.
First and foremost, Hoiberg was born in Lincoln. While he grew up in Ames, Iowa, both his parents are Nebraska natives who graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His grandfather, Jerry Bush, was the Husker men's basketball coach from 1954-63. His niece worked in NU's basketball offices under Miles.
His former college roommate at Iowa State, Mark Hankins, is now the Huskers’ head men’s golf coach.
Next is the money, which Nebraska should have no problem spending considering it has finally paid off its recent football coach and athletic director buyouts and only has a manageable buyout total of about $3.287 million for Miles and his top three assistants.
The Huskers are also paying top dollar for Frost ($5 million annually), which means they have the ability to approach the $4 million territory for their next basketball coach. Some reports expect Hoiberg to get something in the vicinity of a seven-year, $28 million deal.
That would put Hoiberg well within the top-10 college basketball coaching salaries, ahead of Michigan’s John Beilein ($3.8 million) just below Michigan State’s Tom Izzo ($4.1 million) among the top-paid Big Ten head coaches.
One issue, though, is that Hoiberg stands to make $5 million in buyout money from the Chicago Bulls, who fired him in December of 2018. If he coaches somewhere else, his new salary will offset that total.
As for the job itself, Nebraska offers about as low of a bar for the initial standard of success as any school Hoiberg would consider. Win an NCAA Tournament game, and you’ve achieved the most successful season in program history.
There was concern about comments Hoiberg made about his distaste for playing the recruiting game, which helped lead him to leave the college ranks and jump to the NBA.
But Nebraska is a program that is already established in the exact talent pool that Hoiberg made a career out of at Iowa State – the transfer market. The admission standards at UNL are lower than any school in the Big Ten and also other desirable open jobs like UCLA.
Nebraska has as good of an academic support system as there is in the country for those players who might be on the fence academically, and that is huge for bringing in high-major players looking a fresh start.
Lastly, Hoiberg has recently expressed a strong desire to get back into coaching. He added that returning to collegiate level was definitely a possibility, even with his previous qualms with the recruiting process.
“There were a lot of things I didn’t like about recruiting and a lot of things that sometimes are out of your control when you’re recruiting,” Hoiberg told the Ames (Iowa) Tribune in February. “The things I did enjoy about recruiting were building relationships with the kid and building a relationship with the family. I liked that a lot. I felt like I was pretty good at it. We had some really high-level players here (at ISU) as transfers and also as four-year guys.
“It’s the most important thing you do as a college coach. I get that. If it is a college opportunity, I’ll go 100 percent at it and do the best job I can to build the program. It is a grind; there’s no doubt about that. You can talk to any college coach, and they’ll tell you the same thing, and if they tell you something different, they’re lying to you.”
Time will tell if all of the rumors and reports are true, but generally, when there is this much smoke – especially at the national level – there is usually plenty of fire.