First came grumbles about Fred Hoiberg’s lack of coaching experience. Then the whispers about how long the clipboard rookie had strayed away from the college game.
More hand-wringing followed about second-chance situations involving players like Royce White and Korie Lucious – and questions about embracing transfers.
Now, as the Iowa State Cyclones prepare for their first Sweet 16 since “American Beauty” won an Oscar, the last possible crumbs of concern have been brushed away and an undeniable truth has emerged. The Iowa State men’s basketball program, simply, is in the best shape of its 106-year history.
As teams prepare to lace up at Madison Square Garden for the first NCAA Tournament games inside the hoops mecca since 1961, there’s little doubt that this cardinal-and-gold regime reigns as king.
Hoiberg has won 66.2 percent of his games in Ames, better than Tim Floyd, Larry Eustachy, Johnny Orr and every other coach in program history. Iowa State won the Big 12 tournament championship, snapping a 14-year drought.
Those details provide just the hard-numbers skeleton of the case for Hoiberg’s Cyclones, though. The real defense rests in a story of flat-out, flabbergasting survival.
Many wondered how Iowa State could possibly weather the departure of White, an NBA draft pick. The Cyclones responded by equaling the program’s 23 victories and second-round finish in the NCAA Tournament.
Hoiberg played 10 years in the NBA, for Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves. He averaged career-high 9.1 ppg for Chicago Bulls during the 2000-01 NBA season. In 2004-05 season, Hoiberg led the NBA in 3-point percentage with .48.
He played a total of 541 NBA games (61 started), averaging 5.4 ppg and 2.7 rpg in 18.4 mpg.Follow @exnbadotcom
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