The doors opened, and the stairs leading up to the suite of suited savants of Naismith's game beckoned. As he looked behind him, Fred Hoiberg saw in the reflection of a crumpled PBR can the silhouette of Monte Morris ascending, leaning back, right leg raised as he shot Iowa State into the semifinals of the Big Twelve tournament with his buzzer beater against Texas.
He surveyed the beige walls covered with torn, wrinkly posters of scantily-clad women. He had hoped to replace those beauties with the cloth of championship banners, and the silky nets from Final Four wins. There was so much redecorating to do.
Hoiberg sighed, whiskey on his breath.
"College," he said, reminiscing of what was.
"Fred, come on," waved his old friend Gar Foreman, the Chicago Bulls general manager and assistant coach at Iowa State back when Hoiberg had played for the Cyclones.
Hoiberg took one last, long pull from his handle of Jack Daniels, before tossing it over his shoulder back through the doorway. He straightened his tie, and started to climb the stairs, enraptured by the opportunity of free champagne if he won a championship.
That's how it all went down. I was there.
Well, maybe not and I'm fabricating some minor details, but the point is, Hoiberg should climb those stairs. I get the sentimental attachments to your alma mater and loyalty and all of that, but when Chicago comes knocking, you open that door bright-eyed with tie tied.
That is unless there happens to be another more desirable position. But to pass on Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, and the luster of Chi-city, there would have to be an even cooler place with like the brightest prospect since LeBron James or something.
Enter Dell Demps and the Pelicans, who have the most coveted coaching opening in recent years. With an owner willing to pay and a team that can play, the Pelicans have a nice Craigslist post. Throw in Anthony Davis and then pandemonium ensues. Because Chicago isn't the potential opening that has Jeff Van Gundy dropping his mic, or Alvin Gentry taking his vacation during the Western Conference Finals to interview.
So the Pelicans have their case to make, but we already knew that. We've seen the line of suitors and been grilling each one to find which has the necessary stuff to pop that champagne.
Enter Fred Hoiberg
Hoiberg led the Iowa State Cyclones from relative obscurity to national prominence, and he turned recruiting from an obstacle to an upper hand. And he did it all in five years.
The Pelicans are looking for a coach who can develop young talent, recruit players to give Anthony Davis some assistance, and play an effective, fast-paced tempo to maximize the team's talent. Hoiberg checks off all of those qualifications and can throw in some of his own.
First, Hoiberg helped Georges Niang evolve from a scorer to a on-ball playmaker and into a solid defender instead of an undersized liability. Niang improved his shot under Hoiberg and learned to handle the ball and make decisions as a point forward. That's what Royce White did before him and a nightmarish Anthony Davis might blossom into, a point forward but with the skills of Anthony Davis, under Holberg's tutelage.
Although he's never been a great passer, Davis does not try to lace through an impossible pass either; he plays with discretion (unlike Josh Smith, a big man who can pass but makes terrible decisions). He knows his limitations and knows the danger of turnovers. That's another thing that Hoiberg would not have to teach. More than anything else, he has been able to manage difficult personalities, so a laid back, chill fella like Davis should have no quarrels with his new coaching hopeful.
Oh and did I mention that Hoiberg develops guards as well? Take a gander at the augmentation of Monte Morris's stats in year two.
Morris almost doubled his points per game while improving his field goal percentage, rebounds, and assists. Although he had more of an involved role this past year, that fails to account for the dramatic betterment of shooting percentage.
Next, Hoiberg could lure talent away from the rival Iowa Hawkeyes, something his predecessors struggled to do. And if he could hook players on cornfields (no offense, Ames), selling Bourbon Street should be as easy as running for a touchdown from the one-yard line with Marshawn Lynch.
Lastly, Hoiberg does not lack for pace and pushing the offense. Not at all. In fact, his team was 11th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 17th in tempo according to kenpom.com. Not bad for a team whose stars used to be overweight.
If the Pelicans could run often and, when things simmered down to the half court, rely on Davis to be the main decision-maker, the birds would spread their wings to their full potential. Defensively, Hoiberg would be tasked with improving switching, as the Pelicans would often be caught scrambling after a switch on pick-and-rolls.
Hoiberg's solution was simple for Iowa State: teach the post players to guard. Although Iowa State's defensive ratings were never high, the improvement of Niang and effectiveness of Jameel McKay defensively prove that Hoiberg is far from inept. In fact, his individual improvement of players sparked Iowa State to win even grind-it-out games with stops in the final minutes.
There always remains doubters about the college-to-NBA transition, however. While I'd argue these are usually fair worries, I'd like to point out the Hoiberg played 10 years in the NBA and assisted in Minnesota's front office after. He has had more than a taste.
Against elite collegiate opposition, Hoiberg won regularly against future NBA greats. He went 7-2 against the Top 25 last year, and the Big XII is regarded for its pro production.
Hoiberg has the mindset, skill, and youth to coach this Pelicans team. His philosophy aligns with that of team members and he would surely be intrigued by the opportunity to coach Anthony Davis, a player who would fit into his system as well as if the system was designed around Davis. And more than anything, Hoiberg is a winner.
So, here's how I'd like to end that anecdote I opened with: Hoiberg walked by Foreman, making sure to acknowledge his former coach with a respectful nod, and sat down next to Dell Demps, immediately discussing plans to turn Anthony Davis into the league's best player in a fast paced offense.