Necessary leadership

Being “The Mayor” certainly has its perks, but the title is truly earned when a leader is forced to deal with the community’s pitfalls.

Fred Hoiberg is the favorite son of Ames, Iowa. He is beloved, admired, respected and even idolized. As the basketball coach at Iowa State University, though, Hoiberg must make the tough — and oftentimes unpopular — decisions for the long-term good of his program.

One of Hoiberg’s watershed moments came at the conclusion of a 12-plus hour Cyclone whirlwind Thursday, when star guard Bryce Dejean-Jones was arrested and charged with keeping a drug house, hosting a loud gathering and breaking a noise ordinance at 3:30 a.m. And when the most serious of the three charges — stemming from marijuana found in Dejean-Jones’ apartment — was later dismissed, Hoiberg suddenly had a choice to make.

He didn’t bat an eye. Hoiberg suspended Dejean-Jones — a senior transfer from UNLV — for Iowa State’s biggest game to date. Dejean-Jones will not play when the Cyclones face Iowa on Friday night inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Hoiberg could have made it easy on his team by giving Dejean-Jones a slap on the wrist. After all, Hoiberg has been understanding and forgiving in taking so many transfers under his wing at ISU checkered pasts and all.

Dejean-Jones, in particular, has been here before. There were incidents at Southern Cal — both on and off the court — before he split for UNLV. The Iowa State Daily also reported that Dejean-Jones hadn’t exactly been the ideal neighbor since arriving in Ames; this apparently wasn’t the first time police and Hoiberg were contacted stemming from noise issues at odd hours.

Even so, being a loud college kid doesn’t exactly merit a suspension of Dejean-Jones — even if he’s been an habitual offender. And when a Story County judge ruled the criminal complaint lacked enough probable cause to support Thursday’s initial drug charge, a window of opportunity opened for Hoiberg.

Suddenly, discipline didn’t seem to be imminent. We’re all well aware of the fact that the Cyclones would have a much better chance of defeating Iowa with Dejean-Jones on the court.

Instead, Hoiberg sent a stern message to his program. Boorish behavior will not be tolerated, and can — or even will — create immediate consequences. Hoiberg does not discriminate based on a player’s talent, or who is up next on the schedule.

Hoiberg didn’t succeed in this game by cutting corners, and he knows now is not the time to start. Given the opportunity to make an exception or soften his stance, Hoiberg stood firm.

Iowa State fans may be frustrated by how their team plays without Dejean-Jones on Friday, and some may even lament Hoiberg’s decision. But this isn’t about winning at all costs, or succeeding regardless of the process. It’s about respect. Dejean-Jones didn’t show it, so Hoiberg made sure his player will learn a lesson the hard way.

Hoiberg isn’t “The Mayor” simply because he’s been a successful basketball player and coach at Iowa State. He reigns in Ames because he never wavers from doing the right thing as a person. Suspending Dejean-Jones was just Hoiberg staying true to form.

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at sports@messengernews.net