Nebraska Cornhuskers and Illinois Fighting Illini warming before the basketball game
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Relationship with Fred Hoiberg, Ties to Nebraska Bring Nate Loenser to Lincoln

April 09, 2021

Fred Hoiberg spent a good bit of his introductory press conference detailing his extensive history in and ties to Nebraska, both the university and the state. Hoiberg’s newest assistant, Nate Loenser, did the same.

Hoiberg announced the changes to his coaching staff on Tuesday — Doc Sadler is sliding into the departed Bobby Lutz’s Special Assistant to the Head Coach role while Loenser replaces Sadler as an active assistant coach — and Loenser introduced himself to the local media on Thursday.

Loenser grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, as an Iowa State fan (his parents both went there) and he went on to become a Cyclone himself. He became a sports fan in Big Eight country, and although he wasn’t necessarily a Husker fan, he did have a tie to the Nebraska program.

“I can go back to as early as a player that Husker fans know, Trev Alberts,” Loenser said. “Trev Alberts actually went to my high school and he graduated with my brother. He’s eight years older than me, so at an early age I was following Nebraska football from afar because I obviously had a vested interest in Trev’s path.”

Loenser said his older sister lived in Lincoln from 1994 to 2005, and he spent a week in Lincoln each summer visiting her. Nebraska was also one of three colleges he applied to, and it’s where he would have gone had he not picked Iowa State.

“Obviously this is the first time I’m experiencing everything first-hand and declaring residency and all that, but it wouldn’t be true to say that Nebraska’s never been on my radar,” Loenser said.

Loenser said he’d gone to football games in Memorial Stadium and he’d been to the Devaney Center to see a handful of prominent former Huskers — Clifford Scales, Beau Reid, Eric Piatkowksi, Rich King, Ty Lue and Mikki Moore — to prove his knowledge.

“I’ve been a junkie my whole life when it comes to sports and things like that, and obviously with the proximity to where I grew up, I have known probably more about this place than most people know,” Loenser said. “So when the opportunity arose when Coach Hoiberg had something on his staff, it was something that I could truly envision myself, I could envision my family being here and raising my kids here and I just look forward to getting started.”

Loenser actually arrived last week and has already gotten himself acclimated to the facilities, though he got a pretty good look at them even before joining Hoiberg’s staff, which made the decision even easier.

“I can already say I love Lincoln,” Loenser said. “I love the school. The facilities are off the chart. We played our first exhibition here with the Bulls against the Dallas Mavericks my first year with the Bulls, so that was my first time experiencing Pinnacle Bank Arena … So obviously I saw the facilities there. I went to the practice facility, the Hendricks Complex, I visited there, I think, the year after it was built. So obviously the resources were all in place.”

Loenser knows full well how much of an uphill climb Hoiberg and his staff are facing in Lincoln based on Nebraska’s basketball history and the team’s record over the last two years, but that didn’t deter him from signing up for the challenge.

“I understand that we’re obviously in an elite conference,” Loenser said. “I obviously realize that tradition-wise, there hasn’t been maybe a level of sustained success. I think there’s been blips, there’ve been times where it’s been close, so there’s obviously that. But at the end of the day, I’m not really concerned about what’s happened in the past. I’m very into attacking the task at hand and tackling things one day at a time. I think if you develop consistent professional work habits with players and try to teach them the right way and to teach them things that are going to ultimately lead to good things, and I think from there doors open. That’s how I’ve tackled my own career.”

From Northern University High School in Cedar Falls to Southern Mississippi to Spirit Lake High School to Iowa State to the Chicago Bulls, Loenser has attacked each job with the same attitude. At two of those stops, he also got a chance to work for Hoiberg.

Loenser’s first job at the collegiate level was at Southern Mississippi under head coach Larry Eustachy, who Loenser called one of the better defensive and rebounding coaches that he’s been around. After six season at Southern Mississippi, Loenser returned to Iowa to coach at the high school level in 2013, but that only lasted a year as Hoiberg lured him to Ames as a graduate assistant.

“When I decided to get back into college basketball and the opportunity arose with Fred, obviously his offensive acumen was just off the charts and I was really drawn to that,” Loenser said. “For me personally, I was excited about that opportunity when I left for Iowa State just because I felt like I had a very good defensive background and to get the offensive background as well with him I just felt would make me a more complete coach.”

Loenser took on the director of player development title his second season at Iowa State, but Hoiberg left to take the Chicago Bulls job in 2015. Loenser followed Hoiberg to Chicago, first as a video coordinator, then as the head coach of Chicago’s D-League (now G League) team, then as a full-time assistant coach for the Bulls. In total, they spent just over five years together.

“The relationship that he and I have now, it goes beyond basketball,” Loenser said. “I obviously agree with him philosophically. He and I had been hand in hand, step for step, and we’ve grown together as well so there’s a comfort level that’s there. We can already speak the same language. It’s like the last day that we had with the Bulls was the first day here; it’s like there was no gap there. To be honest with you, I followed his program here in Nebraska in his two years as well. From that standpoint, that transition was very easy.”

Loenser and his wife Jackie have three daughters — Delaney, Logan and Hadley — and Loenser said his family played a big part in his decision to accept Hoiberg’s job offer.

“I’m a basketball coach but I’m also a husband and a father as well and that’s very important to me, the family aspect,” Loenser said. “To be honest with you, Fred understands it. He’s a family man as well and he understands what it’s like to have the balance. That’s important for me personally and to get the opportunity to work again with him, both of us, our competitive nature’s off the charts, but at the end of the day our family is super important and he gets that and understands that.”

Loenser said he “got a good vibe and a good feel” for Lincoln at an early age, and now thanks to Hoiberg, he’ll finally get to call himself a Husker.

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