Forever a Cyclone

For Fred Hoiberg, formally accepting the offer to coach the Chicago Bulls was about business. Nothing more.

Hoiberg didn’t turn in his Cyclone card on Tuesday. He wasn’t quitting as an Iowan. He resigned his position at Iowa State simply to follow a different career path – one he had targeted long before coming back to Ames in 2010.

For many ISU fans, Hoiberg’s decision to leave became instantly personal. How could he possibly abandon the school he loves at an early peak of his still freshly-minted tenure? Right on the verge of returning his own program – the one he helped both build and rebuild – to glory?

As a tidal wave of rumors came crashing down over the past few weeks, Hoiberg remained silent and steadfast. Cyclone Nation, meanwhile, laid all of its raw, unfiltered feelings on the table. Hoiberg was quietly thinking with his head. His supporters were publicly leading with their heart.

Yet just as the build-up of confusion, frustration and resignation came to fruition and reality bore down on the Iowa State faithful at yesterday’s press conference, a funny thing happened: Hoiberg took the first 10 minutes of his time with the Bulls to talk Cyclones. He was appreciative. Humble. Thankful.

He reminded everyone in our state – fans, foes and all of the people in between – what being an Iowan is all about. Suddenly, the perceived disconnect started to disappear. Hoiberg met his detractors half way. And in typical Hoiberg fashion, he spoke simultaneously to the jilted loyalists and harsh critics, helping both sides understand his thought process.

In other words, he owned the room. Again.

There are no perfect coaches in sports or perfect people in this world. But exceptional leaders and special human beings do exist. Hoiberg is unquestionably both. Cyclones young and old respect him for being a basketball savant, but love him because of his confident, calming demeanor both on and off the court. They felt that way when he played at ISU, when he left, when he came back to coach, and were reminded of it even as he walked away again.

Emotions come and go, but the unconditional admiration will always be there at the core. A new zip code will never change that.

Tuesday began as the day Iowa State fans had been dreading. In a somewhat-unpredictable way, though, Hoiberg’s personal touch and decision to be retrospective first and foremost offered the kind of reassurance that evoked pride and closure – not panic and dismay.

The Cyclones will survive and advance. Instead of being their head coach, Hoiberg is the program’s biggest fan again. The relationship moving forward may not be ideal in the eyes of many, but this isn’t the end of the book – just the start of a new chapter.

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