The storm is brewing…
Right on the heels of stating Fred Hoiberg would be heading to the NBA soon, the first rain started to hit the window as the Chicago Bulls decided they could no longer live with Tom Thibodeau and fired him.
The one piece that I feel is important in this is that it has been claimed numerous times that Chicago would not fire Thibs unless they had a plan already in place. Well he is gone, so what is the plan?
Everyone and their monkey has been claiming the short list is Hoiberg and Gentry, but Gentry is currently on the bench in the NBA finals. Taking the time to put a plan in place seems unlikely. Hoiberg, on the other hand, has been recuperating from his most recent surgery and doing his patented “Bull Durham” clichés.
There are more options available, of course (Mark Jackson, who rebuilt the Warriors, George Karl, and Mike D’Antoni, just to name a few), but their names haven’t been leaked as often. I’m actually a little surprised D’Antoni hasn’t been mentioned for the Chicago job sooner, perhaps he and Karl are asking for too much control that Paxon won’t relinquish.
That’s the piece of this puzzle that is hard to solve. As Steve Rosenbloom aptly points out, three coaches he’s hired have been walked out the door due to his micromanaging of the coaching position. They don’t call Hoiberg the Mayor for nothing. He may have a position privileged by just a handful of college coaches; namely the fan base adores him to the point he can do no wrong and the administration lets him run his program. Paxton, and to a degree, Gar Forman, will be managing the Bull’s roster of expensive talent. Will that make this deal hard to take for some coaches? I would imagine so.
But someone is already in place, or they wouldn’t have fired Thibs. Expect this answered by the weekend.
…Across the plains
Let’s pretend for a moment, however, that Hoiberg is the replacement for Thibodeau and the lush green fields of Central Iowa are now awash in the despondent colors of cardinal and gold. Iowa State Athletic Director, Jamie Pollard, the man rightfully credited with building fan support at the long suffering department and bringing hope to one of the largest universities in the Big 12, will have the monumental task of replacing CyclONEnation’s favorite son.
As I mentioned earlier, it is that process, not if Hoiberg leaves, that has the most impact on Iowa State, and the rest of the Big 12 going forward. Hoiberg or not, Iowa State has at least an eight deep roster of top five talent that should could easily contend for another conference and possible national title. For the first time in, perhaps, ever Iowa State could actually be a destination a coach wants to go, if for no other reason than to win early.
As Pollard has proven time and time again, he is pretty smart and does his homework before hiring coaches. If anyone is aware that Hoiberg always wanted to be in the NBA, it is Pollard, who worked an easy release for the Mayor into his contract. It wouldn’t shock me if he has had a short list of contenders for the past few years that he updates at the end of each season…just in case. So who could they be?
Long before the Mayor was lighting up the NBA with threes another Iowa State guard with his number retired at Hilton was an integral part of the Utah Jazz’ yearly playoff run (who also retired his number). Jeff has never really dabbled in the college game, but the nation’s leading assist to turnover king, Monte Morris, could probably learn a thing or two from Iowa State’s career assist leader. Hornecek’s two years leading the Suns haven’t produced any post season wins, but he does have a winning record, won Coach of the Month honors, and plays a similar mismatch style that Hoiberg uses in college. Maybe he could teach them how to shoot free throws too.
Oh, and did I mention he makes less money with the Sun’s than Hoiberg makes with the Cyclones? Only lingering question is recruiting, which brings me to…
Hoiberg just recently lured back Assistant Coach T.J Ozelberger from Washington, after he spent several years on the Iowa State bench under multiple coaches. Initially I saw the move as Hoiberg grooming his heir apparent, due to the fact that T.J.’s wife played basketball for the Cyclones and he was instrumental in recruiting pretty much every current player on Iowa State’s roster. While he is an accomplished recruiter, I will admit to having several doubts about his coaching ability. However, Hoiberg hadn’t coached a day in his life when he started. T.J.’s leg up is he moved back to Iowa because that is where they want to live, something probably pretty important to Pollard.
My guess is whoever gets the job will have to keep T.J. on staff.
Sidelined for most of the year left Cronin being Cincinnati’s biggest cheerleader. It also made a strong case for his replacement, Larry Davis, as the Bearcats gave Kentucky a good run before losing to them in the NCAA Tournament. Cronin isn’t the offensive mastermind of some of the others, but he has built solid defenses. Iowa State needs to learn how to play D in order to balance their style and turn the corner into a perennial contender. A terrific recruiter, he could probably lure better talent to the Big 12 than the AAC.
He is from Cincinnati, however, and has stated he has no desire to leave. That being said, he’s paid quite a bit less than the Mayor, wants a new stadium and only a few rival Hilton, and now knows Cinci is in good hands with Davis. This could be the surprise match.
Sampson is dragging around an anchor of NCAA violations at Oklahoma and Indiana, but has proven that he can recruit and is a winner. With talent on the bench, Kelvin could easily resurrect his career with the Cyclones and keep them as successful as he kept the Sooners before leaving. Should make the Sooner/Cyclone match-ups interesting as well
Like Cronin, Pastner has done quite well in the AAC, going 148-58 in his six years at Memphis. A former Arizona Wildcat he learned under Lute Olsen and John Calipari before heading off on his own. At 37 he is younger than the Mayor and has the potential to stick around longer, but already has quite a bit of fan and financial support, earning a contract equal to the Mayor’s. This move would have to offer more exposure or a better shot at titles.
Tim coached Hoiberg in college and could have had an amazing run at Iowa State, but, ring the irony bell, left to coach the Bulls. His style relied on hardnosed defense and driving to the lane offenses; using the shooting more free throws than your opponent even attempted mantra. That’s not really how the current team is built and, while Tim’s agent may be leaking his name left and right to get a healthy raise from his Texas El Paso gig, the chances of Iowa State going back to the well for anyone other than the Mayor when he leaves the NBA seems like a stretch at best.
Hoiberg’s dance off partner has built a solid record at Pitt, but didn’t transition well into the ACC last year ending with an 8-10 record. Moving to the Big 12 is currently a lateral move considering all the top coaches it employs, but Iowa State is much closer to the the top of the Big 12 than the Panthers are in the ACC and has a fan base that blows Pitt out of the water. Dixon currently makes $2.4 million a year so it would take more than some hip hop moves to lure him away.
The odds of him leaving Villanova and the East Coast for the heartland and Iowa State seem fairly slim. However, Jay is one of the top offensive coaches in the game and has what is needed to take next year’s Cyclone talent to the Promised Land. The downside is he already makes more than Hoiberg and recruiting from Des Moines isn’t the same as recruiting from Philadelphia. Iowa State does, however, have a history of pulling high end talent out of the NYC playgrounds.
This one feels like the biggest reach, since Gregg has turned down offers to move to Power Five programs in the past. Though, he’d get to stick it to Kansas more often than with the Shockers. I’d call this slim, but still a chance.
So, what would you do if you were Mr. Pollard? Who would you try and lure to Iowa State?
Let’s hear it Cyclones.
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