Coach Fred Hoiberg stands on the sideline and points during basketball game
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Padding the Stats: Hoiberg’s Latest Hire Keeps Huskers Ahead of the Game

May 26, 2021

Fred Hoiberg’s restructuring of his coaching staff continued this week as he brought in another new staffer in Shannan Lum.

Bobby Lutz’s departure to pursue on-court coaching opportunities set the changes in motion. Rather than simply hiring somebody new to fill the vacant special assistant to the head coach role, Hoiberg slid Doc Sadler into that spot and hired Nate Loenser to fill Sadler’s place as an assistant coach.

With Sadler at high risk during the pandemic, he took a step back from on-court coaching during the season, so this reshuffling makes perfect sense as it allows Hoiberg to continue relying on Sadler’s experience and defensive prowess while also bringing in a younger, energetic coach in Loenser to work hands-on with the players. He also hired a new director of strength and conditioning for the program in Kurt Joseph.

Lum, Nebraska’s new recruiting coordinator, is a different kind of hire, and it’s a great move on Hoiberg’s part for multiple reasons.

First, as the college landscape continues to change those who don’t adjust will be left in the dust. Her duties include helping the coaches with advanced scouting (both for opponents and internally) and game preparation, which is pretty standard stuff for a non-coaching staff position.

The rest of her job is a bit more innovative. Per a release from the program, “She will also oversee the recruiting landscape for the Huskers with a focus on the NCAA transfer portal, including implementing and managing NU’s recruiting database and assist with recruiting research.”

Matt Abdelmassih has been the de facto recruiting coordinator for Nebraska since Hoiberg brought him to Lincoln. He has deep ties throughout the country and a knack for building relationships with prospects. However, with the explosion of the transfer portal and the one-time transfer rule passing, the pool from which to draw talent has become much larger — too large for one person. It appears Lum will play an important part in helping the Huskers organize and maximize their recruiting efforts so that Nebraska can stay ahead of the curve.

Just like Nebraska as an athletic department has tried to stay out in front with the name, image and likeness movement, rather than complain about changes Hoiberg and his program have rolled with the punches and tried to find a way to gain a competitive advantage within the new landscape.

Hoiberg has been been ahead of the curve in many ways since he got to Lincoln. Tuesday marked one year since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin which sparked protests across the country. In the wake of the civil unrest, Hoiberg was one of the first coaches on campus to share a statement on social media in which he promised to meet with his team and discuss ways they can work toward making positive change, promising to support his players in any way he could.

About a month later, Hoiberg backed up his words as he participated in his team’s “no more hashtags, only change” public statement in front of the Hendricks Training Complex. Before that, in June, he declared election day an off-day from team activities. A week after that, the program’s Twitter account shared a video of the Black players on the team delivering a message.

Since he’s arrived in Lincoln, Hoiberg has done a good job of being socially conscious and listening to his players, which isn’t necessarily a given in college sports.

To be clear, I’m not saying that social consciousness is the reason he hired Lum, who is just the second woman to hold such a position at a Power Five basketball program and the first of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent. She’s clearly qualified or she wouldn’t have gotten the job. What I am doing is praising Hoiberg for including her as a candidate during his search in the first place.

Though she never played college basketball, Lum has certainly put in the work to get to where she is now. She’s served as a team manager for both the women’s and men’s teams at St. John’s (where she crossed paths with Abdelmassih and Luca Virgilio, Nebraska’s director of operations), a skills trainer, an intern for the Stanford women’s basketball program and, most recently, the director of video for the California women’s basketball program.

“Shannan brings experience working for both the Pac-12 and Big East programs, and she provides our staff another valuable perspective,” Hoiberg said in the release announcing her hire. “Her background in coaching and operations will enhance our basketball staff in game preparation as well. When we evaluated our entire program following the season, we wanted to enhance player development as well as look for opportunities to take advantage of the changing recruiting landscape. The addition of Shannan to our staff is another step in the process as we look for ways to elevate our program.”

Representation matters, and because of who she is Lum has the opportunity to serve as an inspiration for multiple communities.

“While it’s not the reason I fell in love with this sport,” Lum told Forbes. “I like to think this is one way to make my mother proud as well as every woman out there.”

The more people like Lum who get these opportunities at major programs the closer we get to it becoming commonplace rather than something worth celebrating.

Props to Hoiberg for making this hire, and I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of an impact Lum can have on the Huskers moving forward.

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