On Tuesday afternoon, in front of a packed room on the third floor of Memorial Stadium, Nebraska introduced its 28th men’s basketball head coach, former Iowa State and Chicago Bulls head man Fred Hoiberg.
After a short introduction by athletic director Bill Moos, Hoiberg took the mic and spoke for roughly 8 minutes and 15 seconds, speaking on a wide range of topics before even taking any questions.
Hoiberg offered two main reasons for why he took the Nebraska job—family ties and the potential to build a consistent winner.
Hoiberg’s grandfather, Jerry Bush, served as Nebraska’s coach from 1954 to 1963, a fact that had been well-established prior to the press conference. However, Hoiberg went on to mention at least 10 other family members—his other grandfather, parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, nieces, a cousin—with ties to either the University of Nebraska or the state.
“It’s a very emotional day for me, for my family—a lot of whom are sitting here this afternoon,” Hoiberg said. “We have great ties to this state and great ties to this university.”
Hoiberg also introduced his wife, Carol, who he called the rock of his family.
“When you’re a coach, you need a great support system and I have that, and a lot of that has to do with my parents, my brothers and also my wife,” Hoiberg said.
Ultimately, however, following in his grandfather’s footsteps proved to be a significant part of his decision.
“It’s just a thrill for me to be able to walk, different buildings, but on the same sidelines that my grandfather did,” Hoiberg said. “It’s pretty amazing. He probably has the best win in the history of Nebraska basketball [over Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain] … I didn’t get to know him very well; he passed away when I was 3 years old but to hear the stories … I always got letters from my grandfather’s former players and just to know the impact that he had on their lives … is really cool. To know the type of person my grandfather was and the impact that he had on the community here because of the type of personality that he was is always a lot of fun for me to hear.”
Moos first met with Hoiberg on March 4—between Nebraska’s blowout losses to Michigan and Michigan State—and throughout that process Hoiberg said he was sold on the vision that Moos was presenting to him, in large part for two reasons: the facilities and the fan support.
“When you make a move like his, you have to have full support from everybody and we had that, and it’s very special,” Hoiberg said. “The vision that Bill laid out to me when we started talking about this opportunity, I see great potential here for long-term success. A lot of that has to do with the facilities that are here. We played an exhibition game here a couple years ago when I was coaching for the Bulls and I was just absolutely amazed … We played a closed-door scrimmage actually against Doc Sadler back in 2011 when the practice facility was just being built. I’m telling you: these facilities are as nice as any in the country. That’s a very attractive thing when you’re trying to attract recruits to a market like this.
“Also, the fan support — the fan support is second to none. What I’ve seen going back, I was a die-hard Husker football fan as a kid growing up and it’s just amazing, every seat in the stadium has been filled since 1962. And then the basketball games, you see the atmosphere—I watched a lot of Big Ten basketball this last year because of Jack and because of Michigan State and it’s just such an unbelievable atmosphere and I think Tim Miles did a great job and deserves a lot of credit for bringing excitement to this program, and now it’s our job to build on that and hopefully become a consistent winner.”
Hoiberg said that regardless of the level or location of his next opportunity, he wanted to be in a good situation. He talked to some other colleges and considered waiting to see what opportunities became available at the NBA level, but last week he decided Nebraska was the place for him.
“We just came to this final decision about four days ago that we were going to do this, contrary to the rumors that are out there that this thing’s been done for a while — it hasn’t,” Hoiberg said. “One thing my wife and I talked about is we want this to be our last stop and we’re excited about this. A lot of it’s because of our family history here but maybe as important are the facilities and the resources that we have and the fan support—it’s going to be second to none, and we feel that we can build a program that consistently wins.”
>> Hoiberg said the team is still planning on taking it’s foreign tour of Italy. According to NCAA rules, programs can take a trips like these every four years. They offer the team an opportunity to spend some extra time on the practice floor during the summer as well as the chance to compete against other teams. For a team that will likely look very different than last season’s, the trip will allow the Huskers an important opportunity to build up some chemistry and learn their new system prior to the start of next season.
>> Hoiberg said he met briefly with the team prior to his press conference. He cited the Final Four—set to tip off on Saturday—and his time in the NBA and said his message to the team was focused on the hard work that it takes to accomplish those goals.
“That’s what I’m going to demand and expect out of our players, is to go out everyday and give everything we can and put an exciting product on the floor that will make our fans proud,” Hoiberg said. “That’s what we’re going to strive to do starting with the week after the Final Four.”
>> Hoiberg said he’s planning on hitting the road starting on Wednesday to meet with recruits, particularly the three players Nebraska already has signed for 2019. He will be in Scottsbluff on Wednesday to meet with Western Nebraska Community College guard Jervay Green and will visit Omaha Creighton Prep forward Akol Arop on Thursday. He will also visit New Hampton (New Hampshire) point guard Mika Adams-Woods this week. Hoiberg said he’ll look to reaffirm their commitments in person.
>> Matt Abdelmassih, the first assistant to join Hoiberg’s staff, was in attendance for the press conference. As of Tuesday afternoon, he is the only assistant to have signed his contract. Hoiberg said they are still talking with other candidates to round out his staff.