Life has come full circle for Hoiberg

ROSEMONT, Ill. — Fred Hoiberg didn’t do the math.

But if there had been a law that allowed college athletes to profit from their likeness, like the one passed in California earlier this week, Hoiberg figures he would have had a fat wallet when he was playing at Iowa State in the 1990s.

Hoiberg, after all, was a product of Ames, earning the nickname “The Mayor.”

So, there would have probably been quite a few Ames business offering Hoiberg chances at endorsement money.

“I’ll say this — as a former student- athlete I would have loved to be compensated for my likeness,” Hoiberg said at Wednesday’s Big Ten media day. “There’s no doubt about that. I think especially playing in my hometown. I think that could have been a pretty good deal for a guy like me.”

Tom Izzo did the math.

“I heard he made some comments on his name and likeness,” the Michigan State coach said. “When you’re called ‘The Mayor,’ that means you’re probably bigger than anybody in that state. They might as well have called him the governor when he played, so he probably could have made a fortune in this.”

Don’t worry about Hoiberg — he’s got cash now. Made it playing in the NBA, made it coaching at Iowa State, made it coaching the Chicago Bulls, and now he’s making it as Nebraska’s coach.

Good luck finding a ticket at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln this season — Hoiberg is quite popular.

No nickname yet, but he is a local boy, and Husker fans love the family tree, even if it has quite a few branches.

Hoiberg went down the family connections to Nebraska.

“For me, I was born in Lincoln, and I have a lot of family ties to the university,” Hoiberg said. “Both my parents, they went to high school together, Lincoln Southeast. Both went to the University of Nebraska. And then when my dad got his Ph.D. back in 1974, he had two job offers actually — one was in Lawrence, Kansas, and one was in Ames, Iowa. And I’m forever grateful to my dad for making the right choice and moving our family to Ames.

“The really cool thing for me, both my grandfathers have a great history with Nebraska. My Grandpa Hoiberg was a history professor for 30 years. My Grandfather Bush was the head coach at Nebraska for nine years. And to hear stories of his former players that have come to practices or sent me letters or emails and just talk about the impact that he had on their lives, that’s been really cool. And just all the connections that people have. I have an aunt and uncle that live there, I have two cousins that live there, my brother lives in Omaha.”

So, Nebraska red is just as much a part of Hoiberg’s blood as Iowa State’s cardinal.

He’ll be appreciated in Nebraska this year, even though the Huskers looked to be a team that will struggle.

There’s little experience, but Hoiberg sees flashes of good in his team.

“I know we’ve been picked towards the bottom (of the Big Ten), and I understand that, with all the new faces and people just haven’t seen our guys very much,” Hoiberg said. “We have high school kids, we have a couple grad transfers that are eligible for us, and we have a couple junior college players.

“But you know, like I said, if we can really buy into going out there and playing together, buying into going out there and being a low turnover team, every night we’ve got to find a way to defend, and we have to rebound. That’s going to be our biggest challenge, I think, is rebounding, just with the size of our team.”

Hoiberg is back coaching, although he never went away after being fired from the Bulls last season.

It was a matter of when, not if, Hoiberg would get a new team to coach. Until then, he spent time at Michigan State where his son, Jack, was on Izzo’s team.

“For me, it was more beneficial to go up and watch the practices because Jack had a huge role running the scout team as the point guard,” Hoiberg said. “I’d spent days with Coach Izzo  — even on a game day we spent three hours together just writing ideas up on the board and talking about different things, X’s and O’s-wise. But I have relied on him, and I’ve talked to him a lot. You know, I consider him a very good friend in this business, and there’s not a better guy to lean on than Coach Izzo, who’s done as much as he has and who’s respected as much as he is.”

Izzo doesn’t think those conversations will continue into this season.

“I’ve enjoyed the chalk talks with Fred,” Izzo said. “Now he probably won’t share those same things with me, and I enjoyed watching what he did at Iowa State. I thought he did an incredible job there, taking that program to what was starting to become an elite level.

“You know, his opportunity at Nebraska, I think his grandfather was a coach there, he was born or raised there, his parents are from there, his wife is not that far away. Pretty unique situation. And the fans at Nebraska to me are some of the best. You know, when they weren’t even great they’ve packed that place, and I’ve enjoyed Nebraska people. It’ll be fun to see Fred there. We just probably won’t share chalk talks anymore.”

Two homes, it seems, are better than one for Hoiberg.

“I always consider Ames my home,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that. But it’s funny how life comes full circle sometimes, and it certainly has for me.”

John Bohnenkamp is publisher of HawkeyeMaven http://si.com/college/iowa and can be found on Twitter @johnbohnenkamp.

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