Coach Fred Hoiberg joined Sports Nightly on Thursday night for a quick chat with Greg Sharpe about his scare during the Big Ten Tournament and how he’s navigating through the trying times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The last time we saw Hoiberg, he was leaving the court in Indianapolis as the Huskers season was about to end after trying to coach through an illness. Hoiberg called it a “surreal night.”
He said he wasn’t feeling great and decided to see the on-sight doctor, who ran him through some tests. He even got an X-ray on his lungs and checked out, so the doctor cleared him to coach.
“I think we were all still learning at that time,” Hoiberg said. “In fact, that was really the night where everything started. The dominoes started falling with canceling the conference tournaments, and I believe that was the night that Rudy Gobert tested positive and they ended up canceling the NBA season. Had I known then what I know now — at the time, my big focus was trying to get our guys to go out, finish off the season and play with great effort, and I thought they did that. I wasn’t glued to CNN or the nightly news, I was trying to get my team prepared … Had I known then what I know now, I definitely would not have gone out there and coached that game because I did have some of the symptoms that they do talk about now.”
Hoiberg said the symptoms he heard about were tightness in the chest or trouble breathing, and he didn’t show any of that. So he decided to coach, though he looked visibly ill on the sideline.
“I went out, did the best job I could and with about three-and-a-half minutes left, under the last 4 media timeout, one of our officials came out from the Big Ten and told me that I had to leave the floor,” Hoiberg said. “So I walked out, I left, they took me to the hospital, they did a test which thankfully I tested negative. I tested positive for influenza A, which I know is a very serious condition, but I had a very mild case of it and got over it within a couple days. But a scary time, obviously a very scary time for all of us with what’s going on in the world right now.”
Hoiberg offered his thoughts and prayers to everyone struggling with the impact of the outbreak, especially the medical professionals, grocery workers and others in high-risk environments.
As for his program, Hoiberg said all of his players are back at home and feeling fine.
“The biggest thing that we’re trying to tell them to do is follow the guidelines that are out there right now all across not only the country, but we’ve got players that are in other countries right now, and to do everything they can to keep themselves and to keep others safe by following the guidelines,” Hoiberg said.
Hoiberg also highlighted the importance and uniqueness of the situation his players are facing academically. Physically, he and his staff have shared some advice with the team.
“As far as going out there and doing what they can to try to keep themselves in some form of shape, we’ve given them workouts, most of them body-weight workouts, or get outside, just try to be active, go for a run, go out and do sprints, find a hill, just to try to do as much as they can to stay active,” Hoiberg said.
As far as future Huskers, the national shut-down has altered recruiting dramatically. The NCAA recently extended the dead period through May 30, meaning all coaches can do is contact players by phone or social media.
“We’re trying to do the best job we can,” Hoiberg said. “We’re all under the same circumstances, obviously, right now. The thing we’re trying to do is talk to as many of these kids as we can on the phone, set up a video call with them, be able to show them different things within our system as far as our style and how we play. We ended up the year with the 16th fastest pace in the NCAA, fifth amongst Power Five schools. As far as possession length, we were third, first amongst Power Five schools. Just to try to get those things out there and try to show the system and the style and how a potential player could fit into our system.”
The pandemic has also impacted those with professional aspirations, like now former Nebraska point guard Cam Mack. Players who seek to test the NBA Draft waters typically get a chance to work out for teams, but that won’t happen until at least June, according to Hoiberg. On Thursday, Mack announced he would not be returning to Nebraska regardless of the feedback he receives from the NBA as he is entering the NCAA Transfer Portal.
“We wish Cam nothing but the best,” Hoiberg said. “He had a terrific year for us. He’s a good kid and I hope for the best for him.”
Stay tuned for more from Hoiberg as Nebraska continues to build its roster for the 2020-21 season.
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.