Fred Hoiberg will have a familiar face with him as he tries to build this Nebraska program.
On Tuesday, the newest Husker head coach said Matt Abdelmassih has already signed a contract to join him in Lincoln as an assistant coach. Abdelmassih recently coached under Chris Mullin at St. John’s (he stepped down Monday), but before that, he was with Hoiberg in Minnesota and Ames, Iowa.
“Matt is a guy that I hired as an intern actually when I was in the front office as an Assistant GM in Minneapolis [with the Minnesota Timberwolves], and Matt came in and I could tell right away how good he was,” Hoiberg said. “The most impressive thing about Matt was his ability to build a relationship. And that’s what’s so important at any level, is to be able to connect with the players and connect with the kids.”
Abdelmassih was a key part of Hoiberg’s staff at Iowa State and a major weapon on the recruiting trail.
“Matt’s as good as I’ve ever seen, not only with kids but with coaches and families and that’s what makes him a great recruiter,” Hoiberg said. “He’s going to put us in front of some really high-level players. It’s up to us to show how we’re going to play and show film of what we’re going to do and show these facilities, but Matt is as good of a recruiter as there is in the country and I’m excited to have him on board.”
According to his school bio, the St. John’s alum was recently dubbed by ESPN as the top transfer recruiter in college basketball. He has a nationwide reputation as one of the best all-around recruiters in the country. At Iowa State, he was key in landing commitments from both DeAndre Kane and Royce White.
Kane—a transfer from Marshall—started every game for a 28-8 Iowa State squad that went to the Sweet 16. During that 2013-14 campaign, Kane averaged 17.1 points, 6.8 boards and 5.9 assists a game. White—a Minnesota transfer—served as Hoiberg’s point-forward during the 2011-12 year (when Iowa State went 23-11), earning 33 starts and averaging 13.4 points, 9.3 boards and 5.0 assists.
In 2016, Abdelmassih helped the Red Storm to a top-25 recruiting class, headlined by 4-star guard Shamorie Ponds (a top-50 recruit nationally, according to 247Sports) and one of the top junior college transfers in the country, Bashir Ahmed. Ponds was a unanimous selection to the Big East All-Freshman team. He’s now entering the NBA Draft after three seasons for St. John’s that saw him average 19.5 points, 4.5 boards and 4.3 assists.
Multiple reports indicate Hoiberg and Abdelmassih will also be joined by another familiar face in Charlie Henry, the head coach of the Windy City Bulls, Chicago’s G-League affiliate. Henry was an assistant at Iowa State under Hoiberg for the 2014-15 season after a year serving as Director of Player Personnel. He followed Hoiberg to the Bulls in 2015, where he served as an assistant coach until August of 2017 when he moved to the G-League.
A spokesperson for the Windy City Bulls declined comment on Henry’s status with the team Monday and Hoiberg said Tuesday talks are still ongoing for filling out the rest of his staff. Henry was not explicitly mentioned.
Another name to keep an eye on is Armon Gates, a first-year Nebraska assistant under Tim Miles in 2018. Gates was the only member of Miles’ staff at Hoiberg’s introductory press conference.
Details of Abdelmassih’s contract have not yet been made available, but Athletic Director Bill Moos said Tuesday the salary pool for Hoiberg’s three assistant coaches will be $1 million. Miles’ three assistants — Gates, Michael Lewis and Jim Molinari — made a combined $767,467 last season. That’s an increase of $232,533 for this upcoming year, which, Moos says, puts Nebraska “right there” with Michigan State and Michigan at the top of the Big Ten.
“In my experience, you have to have the best staff,” Moos said. “By and large, they’re your boots on the ground recruiting. You can have the best Xs and Os coaches in the country and if you don’t have arms and legs, it isn’t going to matter so you’ve got to have top assistants and that’s certainly what we plan to do.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.