Lorenzo Romar’s tenure at Washington came to an end on Wednesday as the school finally relieved him of his duties. The Huskies now have the task of replacing a guy who has run the school’s basketball program for 15 years. With an incoming super-recruit and some incredibly high stakes, Washington needs to get this next hire right. And the perfect guy to replace Romar and take the program to the next level is Fred Hoiberg.
With the Chicago Bulls struggling to barely make the playoffs, Hoiberg and the team appear headed for a messy divorce. His two years in Chicago have largely been a disaster, but it hasn’t all been his fault. The team’s roster construction is completely flawed and a full-scale rebuild is likely needed. Besides, Hoiberg’s style fits the modern college game far better anyway. The Mayor’s 74-75 record during his two seasons with the Bulls shouldn’t be completely tossed out, but his tenure at his alma mater, Iowa State, is a far better gauge of his coaching abilities.
In 2010, Hoiberg took over as head coach of the Cyclones for the departed Greg McDermott. The team was uninspiring during McDermott’s four-year tenure, posting an overall record of 59-68 and never finishing above .500. In his first year, Hoiberg’s squad went 16-16, then followed that up by going 23-11, reaching the NCAA Tournament’s second round and earning Hoiberg Big 12 Co-Coach of the Year honors. The Cyclones went 23-12 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament again in 2013, then went 28-8, won the Big 12 Tournament and reached the Sweet 16 in 2014. In his final year before jumping to the NBA, Hoiberg led his team to a 25-9 record and another Big 12 Tournament title, before bowing out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
His overall record at Iowa State was stellar at 115-56 (.673 winning percentage) and in his final four seasons, the Cyclones went 46-26 in conference (.638 winning percentage). The Bulls obviously took notice and hired Hoiberg after the 2015 season. Pretty much everything since then has been a mess in Chicago, but a lot of that can be blamed on an ill-constructed roster.
Hoiberg’s teams run an up-tempo, exciting style of basketball that relies heavily on floor spacing, players moving off the ball and a ton of unselfish ball-movement. It hasn’t been an easy transition for the Bulls because previous coach Tom Thibodeau built his teams on defense and a slow, grinding style. Hoiberg essentially employs the exact opposite approach as a coach, which had to be a shock for Chicago’s players.
While Hoiberg’s system may have gone over like a lead balloon in the Windy City, it would fit perfectly in the Pac-12, where wide open offenses are reigning over the conference.
Hoiberg’s style and his NBA connections — he played in the league for 10 years and worked in Minnesota’s front office — could be exactly what the Huskies need to keep top recruit Michael Porter from asking out of his Letter of Intent. Porter is a Seattle kid who is the No. 2-ranked player nationally on the 24/7 composite. He has the talent to be a program-changing kind of guy and Hoiberg has the personality and the NBA chops to convince him to stay home. But even if Porter bolts (potentially to Missouri, where his dad will be an assistant), Hoiberg will be able to attract other talent.
It’s sad to see Romar’s long tenure end with a disappointing 9-22 record and six-straight years without an NCAA Tournament berth. But Hoiberg would be the perfect guy to give Washington’s dormant program a big boost.