As confetti swirled around the Sprint Center last March, the Hoibergs beamed.
Not just Fred Hoiberg — Iowa State’s still-favorite son, who has chosen to follow his “dream job” in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls.
His entire family.
The colorful confetti would be swiftly swept from the floor, but they form in indelible memory derived from many moving, independent parts.
Time flies. Dreams must, too.
Seventy-seven days it’s been.
That short? Or that long?
Just over two months ago, those twisting wisps of bright, shining paper rained down from above, crowning a second straight Iowa State Big 12 Tournament title.
I, like you, remember the seemingly timeless scene vividly.
I recall asking Fred’s wife, Carol, about the frequency of such “big” things happening now at ISU, muttering something simple and obvious above the celebratory din.
“I hope it happens every March,” Carol (McGee) Hoiberg, Fred’s Ames High School sweetheart said then. “We’re all starting to think this is normal.”
It’s not. Nor is the utterly unique Hoiberg-Cyclone relationship, which churned up the school’s first-ever string of four straight NCAA Tournament berths. That bond remains, running as deep as ever, despite his departure. No one can take it from him, nor should they try.
Because here’s the thing: Fred Hoiberg doesn’t owe ISU anything else (save $500,000 for the buyout).
The “Mayor’s” mission is accomplished. That dream — coming home and resurrecting a moribund program — is done. The Cyclones’ program is prouder and more nationally relevant than ever and a talent-laden, turn-key operation is in place for at least the upcoming season.
Still, ending his term early stings. That’s true for ISU fans. True for him, too.
How could he leave, we ask in disbelief? Didn’t he already have a “dream job,” not to mention a possible national title-contending team assembled for 2015-16?
The answer to that question is “yes and no.”
Dreams can and should refuse to be caged, or tucked neatly into gilded boxes of perceived perfection. We can’t project our own onto others. It’s a fruitless exercise; unfair to us and them alike.
Let’s say Hoiberg did lead the Cyclones to the Final Four, or even a first-ever national title next season: Would it be OK for him to chase NBA success then? Or would loyal fans still feel hurt by his choice to pursue loftier, next-level dreams?
Again, Fred Hoiberg’s given ISU men’s basketball life. He’s restored a sense of prestige — a swagger. The next head man could add even more luster and style, but that’s to be determined.
So cling to the championship memories, the collective dream he rebuilt for ISU fans as his often-underestimated players competed with anyone and everyone, on any stage, most any season.
Maybe it’s time to retire the honorary “Mayor” monicker. Hoiberg ably served as an architect, moving hearts, minds and bodies to rekindle Hilton Magic.
That’s more than most any politician could achieve.
Could Hoiberg have been ISU’s “coach for life,” as is often asserted?
At age 42 — and with his second, and he hopes, last, heart surgery behind him — Hoiberg was encased in a fairy tale of his own making.
We cast him as the Cyclones’ “Prince Charming.”
"Dreamy," fans sometimes cooed.
Blind, deep, unconditional adoration met him at every turn. He loves Iowa State, to the point that victories brought sighs of relief and losses seemed to steal precious breaths out of him when they occurred.
Imagine the stress that comes along with that. Imagine how hard it is to find peace, when everyone not only knows your name, but chants it and worships it, serving as the uber-loyal subjects dazzled by the mythical “Mayor.”
Only Fred knows.
So please wish him well, as I know most of you have.
Be sad. Cry, even. Curse if you must.
Nothing matters but the road forward.
And that path could still wind to even greater heights in Hoiberg’s home town, at his home school, where magic still lurks.
Rest assured that Fred’s rooting for that to happen.
The clock has struck midnight and this fairy tale’s fully over, but the shared dream he helped revive endures.
A golden era of ISU basketball has ended. Another (possibly) awaits.