What to expect from the Hoiberg era at Nebraska
Nebraska finally made it official and announced Iowa State legend and former Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg as the new man in charge of the Huskers' basketball program.
Here is a look at what NU fans can expect Hoiberg's brand of basketball might look like in Lincoln...
The hallmark of Hoiberg's teams has always been offense, as he brings an up-tempo and 3-point heavy system that is geared to an NBA style and has thrived at the collegiate level.
Simply put, Hoiberg's offense is based around pace and spacing, thriving on transition opportunities and constant movement by exploiting mismatches with a lineup full of versatile pieces, especially athletic bigs who can run and shoot like guards (i.e. DeAndre Kane and Georges Niang at ISU).
An aggressive floor general at point guard is also an essential component to making his system work, with Monte Morris at Iowa State being a prime example.
When operating in the half court, Hoiberg's teams use a "motion weave" concept to either set up 3-point shots or get passes to the rim with tons off-ball movement, screens, and back cuts. Having perimeter shooters is crucial, as the 3-point threat is what makes the rest of the offense so effective.
Basically the actions are designed to create good 3-point looks, and when defenses over-extend, cutters run free to the hoops for layups. Most everything else falls outside of the scheme, particularly those dreaded long dribble twos.
In his last three seasons in Ames, Hoiberg's teams ranked in the top 25 in effective field goal percentage and averaged 80, 83, and 80 points per game, respectively. No Nebraska team has scored at that high of a clip since the 1995-96 squad (80 ppg) under Danny Nee.
This season, Michigan State led the Big Ten at 78.6 ppg, and only three teams (MSU, Purdue, and Iowa) averaged more than 73 ppg.
If there has been a criticism of Hoiberg stock as a coach, it's the notable drop-off all of his teams have had on the defensive end of the floor compared to his potent offenses.
Hoiberg, a 3-point specialist never known for his defense as a player, never really played on elite defensive teams in his career. That carried over to the teams he helped assemble as GM of the Minnesota Timberwolves, which were always near the bottom of the NBA's defensive rankings.
It was also true during his time at Iowa State, which ranked 120th, 54th, 133rd, 72nd, and 71st nationally in team defense over his five seasons, per KenPom.
In general, Hoiberg's focus on defense has been to protect the paint and utilize long and athletic players to switch off on screens and create transition offense through forcing turnovers.
Look for him to bring in a defensive-minded assistant to handle the bulk of the duties on that end, so that could ultimately dictate what Nebraska will look like on that side of the court.
After leaving Iowa State to take the head coaching job with the Bulls, Hoiberg opened up about what was by far his least favorite aspect of working at the collegiate level - recruiting.
In 2017, Hoiberg was quoted by NBA writer Keith Smart as saying: "I hated recruiting. I absolutely f'ing hated recruiting. In the NBA it is just coaching. No other stuff. Just coaching."
The good news for the Huskers is that while he still may not enjoy the recruiting process, Hoiberg understands how vital it is to succeed in college basketball, especially at a program like Nebraska with inherent recruiting disadvantages.
“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 reporters during a return visit to Ames back 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.”
Part of why Hoiberg soured on recruiting could have been some misses on a handful of five-star prospects towards the end of his ISU tenure. But even if he didn't enjoy it, Hoiberg still had notable recruiting success, landing top-level high school recruits like Niang, Morris, and Matt Thomas - all four-star, top-100 players.
Hoiberg also found a way around the usual recruiting game by making Iowa State a pioneer of the transfer market. The Cyclones landed 14 transfers during his five seasons in Ames, which not only brought talent, but also gave Hoiberg a much easier, shorter recruiting process to have to deal with.
Hoiberg made hay with transfers like Kane, Deonte Burton, Chris Babb, Korie Lucious, Jameel McKay, Chris Allen, Will Clyburn, Abdel Nader, and Bryce DeJean Jones. Expect him to capitalize on that market again at Nebraska.
Hoiberg has drawn a lot of comparisons to Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr not only because of their similar offensive-driven approaches, but because they both epitomize the idea of a players' coach.
Hoiberg, 46, has the credibility as a player at the college and NBA levels to relate to his guys that many coaches don't. He's clear and direct with his expectations from his teams, but he delivers his message in a way that clicks with today's players.
When Hoiberg took over in Chicago, he was tabbed as the "anti-Thibs" because of his stark contrast in style to his predecessor, Tom Thibideau, known for his hard-edge, defensive-minded style.
His offensive system is his foundation, but Hoiberg - an admitted analytics junkie - is also constantly tweaking his game plan to adapt to and capitalize on new trends that develop in the game.
Hoiberg's emphasis isn't so much on X's and O's as it is on team chemistry and accountability. His players know what's expected of them and he doesn't waiver from those standards. In time, his guys start coaching themselves in games and in practice as the culture of the program is established
Ask any coach in any sport - that is the ultimate goal.