Fred Hoiberg's hire as Nebraska's newest men's basketball coach can be justified using simple methods. Nebraska has wealth to rival Scrooge McDuck and are now using it to secure big names and better coaches as they did with Scott Frost. Hoiberg, a Lincoln native, worked magic at Iowa State, a familiar hunting ground to Big Red backers, and can no doubt do so again with what the Cornhusker State's capital provides. However, this doesn't get to the real reasons behind why the hire was so important and may even eclipse Frost's in terms of eventual impact.
The Huskers' new basketball coach isn't cut from the same cloth as its football coach. He wasn't a small-town kid who would excel at his alma mater only to return after striking out on his own. Rather, Frost worked under some of the best minds in the game before crafting an offensive system that can beat any other college football team with the right talent while also being easy to tweak as opponents adapt.
Instead, Hoiberg spent his time learning how the professional level of his sport operates both as a player and an administrator. He understands not only how to get to the biggest level, but how to stay there and be useful, which eventually leads to yet more — and hopefully larger — paychecks.
Professionalism at the college basketball level isn't viewed as unseemly as it is football. We consider a college football player an amateur, someone who plays for the perceived love of the game. We view college basketball players as professionals honing their craft as part of the experience. Duke's Zion Willamson is a perfect example. His eventual payday became a popular topic almost immediately after putting on a college jersey. Few bat an eye because getting paid is almost universally viewed as the primary goal for these athletes. The academic side is merely a distraction.
FOX Sports Radio host and best-selling author Aaron Torres helps explain how this idea is mirrored by Memphis' Penny Hardaway. "Kids want to know the best way to get to the pros as fast as possible. [Hoiberg and Hardaway] truly look at the transfer portal as the waiver wire. In Hoiberg's programs, players come and go. He looks at unique locations for talent. They both know what kids want and provide unique paths to do so."
Hoiberg's work with transfers helped transform Iowa State into not only a regular participant in the NCAA Tournament but also a winner when the Cyclones went to the Big Dance. However, as Torres mentions, Hoiberg recruits at all levels despite his perceived excessive fondness for the transfer portal. Yes, his first roster at Nebraska currently features many transfer types, but also high school players and even has youthful international flavor in France's Yvan Ouedraogo. Torres is a fan of this style of roster development and points out that new Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman used a similar method when he was at Nevada and helped turn the Wolf Pack into one of the Mountain West's most successful programs.
Because Hoiberg takes advantage of opportunities open to him while others don't isn’t a reason to paint him in a bad light, Torres explains. "He was the first guy to really embrace transfers but he's known too much for that. Look at the four-year guys who played for him. Monte Morris is with the Denver Nuggets right now and he played big minutes in the NBA playoffs. Georges Niang has played in the NBA over the past couple of years."
With Nebraska's facilities and crowds, continued success should be far easier to come by. Villanova's Jahvon Quinerly and Nevada's Jordan Brown are both current transfer options and are former McDonald's All-Americans. The Huskers might not pick up these athletes straight out of high school, but thanks to Hoiberg's playing style and recruiting tactics, not unlike his football counterpart, Nebraska will secure this level of talent as an eventuality. That's when Big Red fans can realistically think about bigger NCAA tournament runs.
The fit is perfect from a geographic and cultural standpoint as Nebraska landed the biggest name on the coaching carousel, but Hoiberg got that title for a reason. He's a ruthless recruiter with a like-minded staff that has the ability to balance out teams that will take the Pinnacle Bank Arena court with expert game strategy.
When you put it all together, it's not a shock that Torres has genuine trouble thinking of another hire that was better this offseason, including Texas A&M securing former Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams. After breaking it all down, it's hard to disagree with him.
(Top photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications, courtesy of www.huskers.com)