One of the most beloved college players to commandeer the basketball court at Iowa State University in Ames thrilled his fans when he returned to coach his former college basketball team.
Fred Hoiberg grew up in Ames, a stand-out player in high school who ended up being pursued by the local Division 1 college. He captured the hearts of his female classmates and drew a legion of fans and followers while earning numerous awards and accolades as an ISU Cyclone, even wracking up a career-high 41 points in one game.
Hoiberg was a second-round NBA draft pick (52nd overall) by the Indiana Pacers in 1995. After playing professional basketball for 10 years for the Pacers, Bulls and the Timberwolves, Hoiberg returned to his hometown where fans couldn’t get enough of the ISU alum. He coached the Iowa State basketball team from 2009-2015, leading the Cyclones to the Sweet 16 in 2014. Hoiberg was named 2012 Big 12 Co-Coach of the Year.
Then he uprooted his children and wife to move from their posh Iowa home to take the job as head coach with the Chicago Bulls, a move that angered many ISU fans. But just three seasons in, Chicago Bulls officials fired Hoiberg Monday, catching many off guard with the surprise move. Associate head coach Jim Boylen has been named Hoiberg’s replacement. He has 33 years of coaching experience under his belt, including 20 seasons in the NBA.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that even Hoiberg was stunned by the move. At the time of his termination, Hoiberg’s team was 5-19 with key players out due to injuries. Under Hoiberg’s leadership, the Bulls were 115-155 and made a playoff appearance in 2017 before being booted from the bracket by the Boston Celtics in six games. His 155 losses are the fifth most logged by a coach in the Chicago Bulls franchise history.
Chicago Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson released a statement justifying leaders’ decision, which NBA.com shared.
“After a thorough evaluation, I elected to make this move with the overall development of our team in mind. As a team, I believe it is imperative that we make unfaltering strides in the right direction and build the right habits to help put our players in the best position to evolve not only now, but into the future. I want to thank Fred for his dedication and efforts, as well as for his enduring commitment to our team,” Paxson wrote.
Paxon told ESPN that Hoiberg had been given plenty of opportunities.
“And he did a lot of good things for us. But I’m tasked with, (general manager) Gar (Forman) is tasked with looking at the underlying things in an organization. And if you don’t think competitive spirit is important for an organization or basketball team, then you’re wrong,” he said.
Rumors are swirling about where Hoiberg will head to next. One possible destination is back to the Minnesota Timberwolves program where he served as assistant general manager after retiring from playing with the team. Hoiberg loses a five-year, $25 million contract in 2015 with the Bulls.