#HoibergWatch is almost over. For the sake of everybody, thank the basketball gods. Actually, allow me to put you guys out of your misery: It is over.
Today, Fred Hoiberg will cruise down I-80 heading east to Chicago and barring any last second snags or changes of heart, things will become official. Iowa State’s “golden boy” and Ames’ unofficial “Mayor” is about to become the head coach of one of the most storied franchises in the history of the NBA, the Chicago Bulls.
This will be difficult for most fans to understand right now (the wound of Hoiberg leaving is still very fresh), but we are all witnessing the conclusion of a bittersweet situation.
It’s sweet because had Hoiberg not led Iowa State to the most successful five-year stint in program history (four NCAA Tournaments, two Big 12 Tournament championships and a Sweet 16), he wouldn’t be in the position to land a top five coaching job in the world.
Think back to April 27, 2010: That’s the day when Jamie Pollard introduced Hoiberg as Iowa State’s head coach. At the time, Hoiberg, a former NBA executive, had never coached a game (at any level) in his life. Back on that day, most fans (if not all) would have happily taken this run in a heartbeat.
However the situation is bitter because of the realization that if Iowa State can’t keep a former ball boy/guy with his jersey hanging in the rafters of Hilton Coliseum as its head coach, who the heck actually wants to be here?
Following up a marathon month of May that was full of so many uncertainties, it’s now June 1 and one thing is for sure. This transition couldn’t have played out any worse for everybody involved.
I’ll start with Hoiberg, an honest man who is setting out to achieve a career goal. When the Bulls formally announce him as their next head coach on Tuesday afternoon, he will likely discuss how the NBA is his passion. He spent 15 years in the league as a player/executive. Hoiberg’s playing career sadly got cut short due to a heart condition that he is still fighting today. Coaching the Bulls is a fantasy opportunity for Hoiberg but in order for him to live that dream, he has to let down thousands of loyal sons within the Cyclone Nation.
And don’t think for a second that it hasn’t weighed on Hoiberg over the last month.
There’s Jamie Pollard, Iowa State’s sometimes brash athletics director who was roundly criticized for hiring Hoiberg in the first place. I was a fill-in host on 1460 KXnO’s afternoon show on the day that the Hoiberg news broke back in 2010. My co-host aggressively mocked the move. Cyclone fans filled up the phone lines, many angry at Pollard’s decision. It’s a decision that to this day, I don’t feel Pollard gets enough credit for.
Now that #HoibergWatch has come to an end, I’m confident that there isn’t much that Pollard could have done to keep “The Mayor” in Ames. However in the eyes of many fans, Pollard will be seen as the man who allowed Cael Sanderson and Fred Hoiberg to leave town on his watch.
And last but certainly not least, there are the fans. Oh, the fans. God bless you guys. Iowa State fans saw more than a basketball coach in Hoiberg. Iowa State fans saw their Coach K or Tom Izzo. Hoiberg was going to build a dynasty in Ames. Iowa State was about to become an “it” program — a regular in the Field of 68.
Chin up, friends. The next few days won’t be easy.
Lastly, I’m generally not the type who likes to tell other people how to feel but I’ll leave you with this: Fred Hoiberg can’t be replaced. It simply is not possible. Over the next few weeks, try to remember that.
Can Iowa State hire a great basketball coach in his absence? Absolutely. But he won’t be “The Mayor.” That was a once-in-a-lifetime marriage that took decades to build.
Fred is gone but Iowa State basketball will move on. It has to because NEWSFLASH: The 2015-16 Cyclones feature arguably the best returning roster in the history of the program.
Believe it or not, there is a lot to look forward to.
Knowing Jamie Pollard (a man who is always thinking 10 steps ahead of everybody else), this search likely won’t take long and before too long and soon enough, there will be closure to this rocky offseason.