Well that’s not what I was expecting. Hoiberg, for those of you unfamiliar with him (which is probably a fairly large number that until twenty minutes ago included myself), is an alum and current basketball coach of the Iowa State Cyclones. The Cyclones most recently ran into the University of Kentucky during the 2012 championship run, in a game that saw Royce White get most of the attention. White, who was as unbalanced as he was talented, occupied much of the available media space by proclaiming he was the best player in the country, while his unassuming coach sat meekly on the bench accruing wins.
Okay, so maybe “meek” isn’t the right word for any college coach. Heck, “sit” probably doesn’t apply to 90% of them come game time. But Fred Hoiberg, in only three years at Iowa State, has surpassed Coach K, Bill Self, Billy Donovan, and even Coach Cal as the NCAA’s “Next Brad Stevens.” And why? Well, according to the coaches polled, it’s “practically guaranteed” that he’ll make the jump due to his diverse resume, experience in the NBA, and ability to win with few resources at Iowa State.
And frankly, that’s all good news for Kentucky fans. Not that we don’t want Coach Cal to succeed, we’d just prefer he did it while staying in Lexington. And by all accounts, it looks like he’s in the same boat there, too. But it’s a little surprising to see him in the #5 spot on the list, provided how many media outlets report that he’s being considered for every single NBA job on the market these days. But in spite of his previous tenure with the Nets, Calipari would still make a good NBA coach, apparently.
Coach Cal has evolved as a coach and is just a better pro coaching prospect now than he was when he was at UMass. He always has talent and he does not try to over-coach or over-think things for his teams. I love the fact that he is not stubborn strategically. If you look at his UK teams, they were all different in terms of type of talent but still successful. His 2011 UK team truly exemplified this as they played a different style than the prior UK and Memphis teams he had coached and went to the Final Four.
Regardless of how this praise impacts his future career (it won’t), it’s a great weapon for UK fans to use in response to trash-talkers who say that he’s only a recruiter, and can’t actually coach X’s and O’s. If other college coaches are taking note of Cal’s ability to adapt to the strengths of his team, and come up with a game plan that allows all his squads to be successful, then surely there must be some doubt to the whole “roll the ball out” claim.
Bottom line, if Coach Cal couldn’t coach, he wouldn’t be sniffing this list. Oh, and did you notice who’s not on there?