On Friday, coming off a 28-win season that featured a Big 12 tournament title and a run to the Sweet 16, Iowa State gave head coach Fred Hoiberg a raise. He'll make $2.2 million next year and an average of $2.6 million over the life of the deal, which runs through 2023. It places him in good company, comfortably among the top 20 best-paid coaches in the country and nearing the top 10. There is no column on the spreadsheet for the value of hero worship, of course. But the man known as "The Mayor" around his hometown of Ames, Iowa, is also well-compensated in that way by an adoring Cyclones fan base.
That pile of money is more than just a reward for the 41-year-old Hoiberg, who has a .657 winning percentage and has led his alma mater to three straight NCAA tournaments. It also helps form a wall, buttressed by quality of life, that might just shield him from jumping the NBA and the many challenges and many millions of dollars it can offer. If Hoiberg wants to work at the professional level, he is going to do so, even if the residents of Ames pass the hat during the dinner rush at Hickory Park to try to keep him in town. But when he says he envisions finishing his coaching career where it began, it is increasingly easier to believe that he's the rare guy who means it.
"I’d love to end my career here,” Hoiberg told the Ames Tribune. “I’ve got something special in Ames. My kids get to see their grandparents every day if they want to and that’s stuff you can’t replace. To look up in the crowd (during games) and there’s my parents, my in-laws, my brother, my sister-in-law, my other brother drives over from Omaha a lot, just to have that family support, you can’t replace that. I’m very happy here. My kids love it. I’d love to spend the rest of my career here."
The timing of this new agreement, more than the money in it, reinforces that. The NBA coaching carousel will begin spinning shortly, and the Minnesota Timberwolves -- for whom Hoiberg played and worked in the front office -- could be one team in the market for a new head coach. The team's president of basketball operations, Flip Saunders, has abiding admiration for Hoiberg, whom he coached in Minnesota. No amount of money will stop Saunders from inquiring about Hoiberg's services. But it's reasonable to think that Hoiberg, his agent and Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard heard more than just rumors and rumblings. And they came to an agreement that effectively quashes the tumult before it begins. That's a no-brainer for Iowa State. It's a stronger statement by Hoiberg, to recognize a potential opportunity and wave it off.
Even stronger would have been matching his buyout to take an NBA head coaching job ($500,000) to his one for a college gig, which is a staggering $2 million. That might be Pollard's next consideration. Should Iowa State be in position to give its coach yet another raise, it might argue for enhanced security against the NBA lure as it enhances Hoiberg's bank account. In the near-term, The Mayor's election to stay was most significant. Iowa State loses DeAndre Kane and Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim off this year's team, but will have a returning core led by Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue, Naz Long and Monte Morris. Likewise, it currently is courting former UNLV guard Bryce Dejean-Jones, who led the Runnin' Rebels in scoring last season (13.6 points per game) and who should be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer. As long as Hoiberg is around, Iowa State fans should have a panic-free attitude. Sort of like how the coach comports himself on the sideline, a spot it's easier and easier to believe he'll occupy in Ames for a while.