It’s all in the family for Hoiberg
By Ben Gouldsmith
Date Posted: 2010-04-28

Fred Hoiberg, left, was introduced as Iowa State's men's basketball coach Wednesday. Also pictured, from left, are wife Carol, daughter Paige and mother Karen.
Tribune photo by Ronnie Miller

In the basement of Fred Hoiberg’s Chaska, Minn., home, two pictures hang on the wall.

In one of the photos, Johnny Orr has his arm wrapped around Hoiberg.

“To one of my all-time favorite players,” scribbled Orr, the former Iowa State basketball coach.

In the other, Jerry Bush is walking down a street, pointing and winking at the camera. Bush, Hoiberg’s grandfather, was Nebraska’s basketball coach from 1955 to 1963.

“I hardly ever notice that picture,” Hoiberg said.

But late one night earlier this week, as word spread that Hoiberg was a candidate to coach the Cyclones, Hoiberg went downstairs to get a drink out of the refrigerator.

He peered at the photo of Bush.

“It was almost as if he was saying to me, ‘Kid, you’re going to be all right. Go get ‘em. Do your best,’” Hoiberg said.

Bush died when Hoiberg was barely 4 years old.

Hoiberg, 37, was introduced as ISU’s men’s basketball coach Wednesday morning at Jacobson Athletic Building.

A crowd of onlookers cheered.

“My dad would have loved this,” said Karen Hoiberg, who gave her son the framed photo of Bush.

Eric and Karen Hoiberg, Fred’s parents, are longtime Ames residents.

Before retiring, Eric was a professor and dean at ISU. Karen was an elementary school teacher.

They have three sons.

Fred, the middle child, was the star of the 1991 Ames High basketball team that won a state title. He stayed in town to attend ISU and still ranks third (1,993 points) on the school’s all-time scoring list.

“I’ve always kind of felt like Fred was a coach on the court, and I think that started way back in elementary school,” his father said.

Hoiberg became so popular among Cyclone fans that he became known as “The Mayor.” He received votes in the 1993 Ames mayoral race.

Afterward, Hoiberg went on to play 10 years in the NBA for the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves before undergoing open-heart surgery four years ago.

Since then, Hoiberg has worked in the Timberwolves’ front office, most recently as vice president of basketball operations.

“We don’t really talk basketball at home, and that’s perfect,” said Carol Hoiberg, his wife who is also an Ames native and ISU graduate.

Fred and Carol had discussed his desire to someday coach the alma mater.

When Greg McDermott accepted Creighton’s head coaching offer Monday, ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard drove to Chaska to talk with Hoiberg.

After a three-hour discussion, a contract was placed on the kitchen table.

Fred, Carol, and their four children — daughter Paige, 12, son Jack, 11, and twin boys Sam and Charlie, 7 — were headed for Ames.

“This was his dream job from day one, and there was never a doubt or a question in any of our minds whether or not this was the right decision,” Hoiberg’s wife said.

Now begins the rebuilding project.

Everyone in Cyclone nation, it seems, wants to know if Hoiberg can take ISU basketball from irrelevance (four straight losing seasons and no NCAA tournament appearances since 2005) to national prominence.

But Wednesday, recent lackluster records were temporarily forgotten. There were lots of smiles. And hugs, lots of hugs.

The local legend came home.

“This is a dream come true for him,” Hoiberg’s father said.

Only time will tell if there’s a storybook ending.

Ben Gouldsmith can be reached at (515) 663-6931 or

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