An era ended yesterday, but rest assured it isn’t the end.
I was fortunate to be able to work with Fred Hoiberg and his team the last two seasons and what a ride it was for me those two years.
Back-to-back Big 12 Tournament Champions. 53 wins. 23 Big 12 wins. Multiple All-Americans and All-Big 12 Players. A Big 12 Player of the Year. A Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. A Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
The list could go on and on and on.
As part of my tasks, I’m assigned with running the @CycloneMBB Twitter account. I’ve seen reactions to Coach Hoiberg’s decision to become head coach of the Chicago Bulls that have been on both sides of the spectrum.
That’s okay. The reason the emotions are so high is because you care. You care again because of Fred Hoiberg.
The fourth game I worked as men’s basketball contact, Iowa State beat No. 7 Michigan with Johnny Orr in attendance. I went home thinking it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I was living my dream.
A few weeks later the team came back from 18 down to beat Northern Iowa. Then Georges Niang got all crafty and made a reverse layup to beat Iowa in a top-25 showdown that left Hilton Coliseum in frenzy. There was a trip and title at the Diamond Head Classic and before I knew it we were 14-0, the best start in school history.
Amazing things continued to happen. On Feb. 3, we stormed into Stillwater and won for the first time since 1988. Of course it was in triple-overtime. And of course it was on Big Monday. Because why not?
That weekend, while still recovering from returning home after 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Melvin Ejim went nuts for a Big 12-record 48 points against TCU. Unfathomable.
In the regular-season finale against Oklahoma State, it was again Naz Long who saved the day.
Then the Cyclones went down to Kansas City and Cyclone Nation simply took over. ISU steam rolled its way to a Big 12 Tournament title. Georges got smacked in the face, Cyclone fans everywhere purchased band-aids they didn’t need. Man, was that fun or what?
The excitement continued into the tournament and a trip to the Sweet 16 was the result.
That summer, Fred danced.
There was a ton of promise as we headed into the 2014-15 season, Hoiberg’s fifth at the helm.
A 25-9 mark, including 12-6 in conference play, culminated in ISU earning the second seed at the Big 12 Tournament. Another trophy came home to Ames. It didn’t end the way we all wanted, but altogether it was still a lot of fun.
There was ESPN GameDay live at Hilton Coliseum, where Cyclone fans showed why they are the nation’s best.
Who can forget the five wins after trailing by double-digits? The senior night come-from-behind win was like nothing I’ve ever seen.
We’ve had quite the run, Cyclone Nation.
I think the best thing, however, that Coach Hoiberg provided us was the opportunity to cheer for such quality young men. I can only speak to the guys I have worked with, but they’ve been nothing but terrific. They’ve handled an extremely difficult situation with class and dignity.
They’ve all got big hearts. They all love Iowa State and their teammates just as much as the man that drew them to Ames. That much was evident with their tweets to the man that has molded them at Iowa State.
That high character is why I’m not concerned about the future. Whichever coach ISU Athletics Director Jamie Pollard and President Steven Leath decide to hire will be getting a team full of guys that are playing for the name on the front of their jersey according to Naz Long.
“We play for the school, we play for the name on the front and we let Jamie make that decision. We are students. We have to go to school and play ball,” Long said. “The decision is theirs to make and we’ll play hard for the new coach.”
It is the lead of four-year players like Long and Niang that will carry the Cyclones through this coaching change.
I said to someone the other day, “If you would have been told that you can have Fred Hoiberg as your coach for five years only and the results would be what they were, would you have changed a thing?”
My answer is not in a million years.
As John Walters tweeted yesterday, he picked us twice.
How lucky were we?
Thanks for picking us twice, Coach Hoiberg! Good luck with the Bulls!