Fred Hoiberg saw a shake-up on his staff become official over the weekend as assistant coach Armon Gates left the program to join Dana Altman’s staff at Oregon.
“I could not be more excited for him, great opportunity for him to continue to expand and ultimately do the best he can to get a head coaching job,” Hoiberg said. “I think it’s a great move for Armon. He had a very emotional meeting with our players. I think he sees the direction that we’re going. He’s very excited about where we are right now and he reiterated that to the players before he left, just about what he feels is in front of our group right now. So we wish him absolutely nothing but the best for he and his wife, Ashley, and his kids, for what he’s got in front of them.”
Hoiberg said Gates is one of the most positive people he’s ever been around who connected well with the players and brought great energy to the facility every day. Derrick Walker said he’s sad to see Gates go but understands the decision and is excited for the opportunity in front of his former coach, who met with the players before his departure.
“It was very emotional, because he loved it here,” Walker said. “He loved being here. He loved being around us and like Coach said, he’s so high-energy. He has a relationship with everyone on the staff and all the players. He’s the most positive guy. Me being the oldest guy, I have a great relationship with Gates. I can go talk to Gates if I need to about anything. So just having those personal relationships that that can go farther than off the court, when you feel like you’ve got to leave that behind, it gets it gets a little emotional.”
Hoiberg said the timing of Gates’ departure is difficult, but he’s already in the process of compiling a list of potential candidates.
“I talked to Dana Altman several times over the past month as he has gone through his process, and he’s been very open and up front with me throughout this,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve got some good names already and we’re definitely going to get the right guy in here to help us continue to progress as a group.”
Hoiberg said he won’t rush through the process. The Huskers have two-and-a-half weeks left in their summer session before the players head home for a three-week break.
“Right now, I’m just in the process of putting a list together that I feel good about, that our staff feels good about and and doing a lot of background checks and talking to a lot of people,” Hoiberg said. “So we’ll take our time with this one.”
Hoiberg said he’s looking for a well-rounded coach to join Nate Loenser and Adam Howard on his staff.
“Looking for somebody, obviously, that has connections and a good recruiting base, looking for somebody that that does a good job on the floor and somebody that can connect with our guys,” Hoiberg said. “I think those are the things that I’m really looking for. Obviously, you get somebody that has a strong recruiting base in a certain area, something that we’ll definitely look for, but just a well-rounded coach to fit in with what we have right now.”
Hoiberg said video coordinator Matt Holt was on the road recruiting over the weekend at the Nike EYBL event in Kansas City in Gates’ place, and director of basketball operations Luca Virgilio will step in during the final live period in a couple weeks.
>> Hoiberg also addressed USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten, and he’s a big fan of the move for the conference.
“I think adding USC and UCLA is phenomenal,” Hoiberg said. “For us, we’ve recruited in that area the last couple of years, getting Wilhelm [Breidenbach] and Denim Dawson, who has been terrific for us in practice with his toughness and his grit, and then getting Ramel [Lloyd Jr.] who’s getting better by the day out there as well. So, an opportunity for those guys to go home and play in front of their family is great for them. We add two unbelievable programs, probably the most historic basketball program with UCLA, into our league, which makes it tougher with the quality of the coaching and the rosters that we will have to face with that, but I think overall, it really sets our conference up very well for the future.”
Hoiberg joked that he’s excited for the California trip in February when it’s 10 degrees in Lincoln, but also believes the additions will benefit Nebraska for other reasons.
“I think it caught everybody a little bit by surprise when when we heard the news,” Hoiberg said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how it all works out from a logistics standpoint, I think we’re in a good position, as good a position as anybody, kind of split in the middle with with with the East Coast and the West Coast. But it’ll be interesting to see how that whole dynamic plays out. It’s exciting. I’m excited to play in those venues. I’ve scouted in those venues when I was working in the NBA, both great fan bases, so excited to to add those two teams to our league.”
>> Hoiberg said Tuesday was Breidenbach’s first opportunity to see live action in practice since his season-ending knee injury in December.
“He was out there in a couple of our live drills, looked great,” Hoiberg said. “He had a play in practice where he dunked on Derrick Walker — actually, Derrick missed his spot, but he looked really good. He looked comfortable out there. He’s been doing a lot of our non-contact stuff, but to see him out there going through live action was was great to see.”
Walker said the other players loved seeing Breidenbach back on the court as well after battling through his rehab.
“Especially when he got that dunk today, I love it because he just came off his his ACL and he was a big part of last year,” Walker said. “I feel like when he got hurt last year that hurt us a lot just because of the spark he gave was, the toughness he played with. So just having him out there, it feels like we’re coming complete again. That’s added length, that’s added skill, added offense, added defense. So having them out there is a major game-changer, because he’s always positive too and he’s always energetic and he talks and he’s one of those guys that’ll coach and go hard and he’s not afraid to hit, so I missed having Wil out there.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.