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Fred Hoiberg Redux

A Big Ten conference record of 6-29 and the three worst seasons in Nebraska men’s basketball history would normally send the head coach to the train station. But every leadership decision has to be taken in context. If Fred Hoiberg was fired he would be owed 18.5 million dollars on top of the millions he has already been paid. (That would come out to approximately 4 million dollars per conference victory)* Renegotiated contracts with Nebraska head football coach Scott Frost and Hoiberg will save the athletic department 15 million dollars if both coaches are unsuccessful and fired after the upcoming year. (Frost has made significant changes in his coaching staff in the off-season and the Huskers were much more competitive in football than in men’s basketball.)

It would be nice to think that Coach Hoiberg or any coach making millions of dollars would say, “You know, I let you down. I’ll resign and we can split this buyout in half.” Then Trev Alberts could lure Brad Stephens, the head coach of the Boston Celtics who led Butler to two consecutive NCAA championship games to come to Nebraska where Brad’s great-grandfather built a ranch in the Sandhills. Stephens then provides the structure necessary for a successful program and everyone is happy. Of course, none of this is possible or true.

An athletic department, like a successful team, has to have attention to detail in every decision it makes. Keeping Hoiberg for another year shows Nebraska donors that the department values stewardship and does not take their financial support for granted. I also suspect that Coach Hoiberg is open to the mentoring that Trev Alberts can provide. Coaches tend to overvalue comfort and loyalty when they put together a new coaching staff. I would expect changes not just in the support staff but in the vision of how a school that does not have a great basketball tradition develops one by keeping a core group of players together. (Note: See Colorado State, Wisconsin, and Iowa) A bonus may be that Bryce McGowgans, perhaps the top freshman in the Big Ten, might return for a second year rather than enter the portal. Fred Hoiberg had to adjust on a daily basis to have a ten-year career as a player in the NBA. We are about to find out if he can adjust, even for one year, as the head coach of Nebraska men’s basketball.

*footnote: If John Cook were paid 4 million dollars for every conference victory he would be owed several hundred million dollars.

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