DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State’s beloved "Mayor" is gone, lured to the riches and excitement of the NBA.
At least Fred Hoiberg left his alma mater stocked with talent.
The 42-year-old Hoiberg grew up in Ames, served as a ball boy for the Cyclones and starred for legendary coach Johnny Orr. As a coach, he brought back the "Hilton Magic" to a success-starved fan base.
The record stood for itself: Four NCAA tournament appearances in five seasons and back-to-back Big 12 tourney titles.
But Monday brought the news that Iowa State fans have been dreading: Hoiberg is leaving to coach in the NBA — for the Chicago Bulls — and Cyclones fans will be forced to move on without him. Hoiberg was introduced as Chicago’s new head coach at a press conference Tuesday.
"He’s has been a hero for so many of us," said Iowa State fan Mike Rouse, 35, of Norwalk, Iowa. "There’s a lot of people in shock. But at the same time, most of the people that I know are just completely thrilled for him. Because he’s taken us to places and made everybody dream of Final Fours and things like that. Just had to enjoy the ride, you know?"
Hoiberg hardly left them hanging either.
The team he built for 2015-16 has all the makings of a national title contender.
Senior forward Georges Niang will be a top candidate for preseason first-team All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year honors. Senior center Jameel McKay is the league’s defensive player of the year despite sitting out the first month of last season.
Junior point guard Monte Morris led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio in each of his first two seasons. Guards Naz Long and Matt Thomas and forward Abdel Nader are Big 12 tested, and transfers, Hallice Cooke (Oregon State) and Deonte Burton (Marquette) should push for playing time on a team where minutes will be at a premium.
Iowa State fans had hoped that Hoiberg would be the man to lead what could be the most talented team the school has ever had.
Hoiberg’s five years as the coach of the Cyclones will always be remembered fondly in Ames anyway.
Hoiberg hadn’t coached a day in his life when athletic director Jamie Pollard tabbed him to resurrect a program that had fallen on hard times. Hoiberg rewarded the school’s faith in him, going 111-56 at Iowa State with a school-best four straight NCAA tourney trips and a berth in the Sweet Sixteen in 2014.
"He brought the magic back. I mean, the favorite son coming back — it’s the fairy tale you read about but never get to live," said Mark Fitzpatrick, 48 and an Iowa State fan from Kansas City. "We got to do it for five years. I don’t hold any animosity whatsoever."
Through it all, Iowa State accepted the fact that Hoiberg might leave for the pros someday. After all, he spent 10 years playing in the NBA and left a front office post with Minnesota to coach the Cyclones.
Hoiberg ignored the annual NBA speculation and kept returning to Iowa State.
But the Bulls, an organization he played for for four years, offered an opportunity that proved to be too intriguing to pass up.
"Although Fred’s connections to Iowa State are evident on so many fronts, he has always expressed a desire to coach in the NBA if the right opportunity presented itself. We are happy that he’ll realize his personal dream and wish him success going forward," Pollard said.
Now those heartbroken Cyclones fans will have to hope his successor — and the loaded roster he’ll inherit — can build on what Hoiberg started.
Assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger, who recently returned to Iowa State after two seasons at Washington, is sure to get a look from Pollard and school president Steven Leath.
Otzelberger likely won’t be the only candidate though, given that the Cyclones can offer their next coach a real shot at the Big 12 title and the Final Four.
"Coach Hoiberg was like a dad to us. It’s like your dad getting a raise," Niang said Wednesday. "At the end of the day, we’re going to be all right. The administration, I know they’re going to put us in position to be successful with whoever they hire."