Posts Tagged ‘Gary Thompson’

Emptying the notebook from Fred-a-palooza

April 29, 2010

AMES — More heart surgery is in Fred Hoiberg’s future, though it is not imminent.

Hoiberg was forced to cut short his NBA career in 2006, 10 months after having an enlarged aortic root corrected. He needed to have a pacemaker installed.

The new Iowa State basketball coach said another procedure will happen because of a deterioration in his aortic valve.

“I hope it is years away,” Hoiberg said. “If I had any concerns about my health I wouldn’t have taken this job.”

Hoiberg said he nearly returned to the NBA during the 05-06 season, but decided the risk was too great.

MORE ON MAC. Cyclone legend Gary Thompson said Greg McDermott’s departure (some would call it an escape, but whatever) for Creighton probably saved he and the school some face.

The coach and fans had endured four straight losing seasons and finishes of 10th or lower in the Big 12 Conference each of the last three years.

Next season wasn’t looking terribly promising either. McDermott was under contract through the 2014-15 season.

“It was a win-win situation for both parties,” Thompson said. “Everybody wanted McDermott to succeed, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out.”

MOVING UP. Assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger is a big winner in this deal. The talented recruiter has parlayed his skills and wealth of contacts into the job as Hoiberg’s associate head coach.

The 32-year-old from Milwaukee, a junior college assistant in Florida just six years ago, has done well for himself.

“This is an unbelievable situation and opportunity for me individually to continue to be a part of this athletic department,” he said. “And to be able to work for someone everyday like Fred… for me it is a dream come true.”

Otzelberger’s presence was a high priority. He was key in recruiting most of the returning players and the incoming recruits who have signed letters of intent.

“T.J. was being pulled in eight different directions,” Hoiberg said. “He was my first call.”

Another former Cyclone great, Jeff Grayer, also is coming back to coach for his alma mater. Grayer is ISU’s all-time leading scorer. Hoiberg ranks third.

“Jeff is the best player to play at Iowa State,” Hoiberg said. “I’m thrilled to have him on my staff.”

Two more coaches still must be hired.

Experience in the college game — preferably with a head coaching background — will be key.

“We are trying to put the most complete staff together that we can supplementing each others’ strengths,” Otzelberger said.

Left out in the cold may be Jeff Rutter, who decided against joining Greg McDermott at Creighton because of family concerns. He wants his son, A.J., to finish high school in the area and not have to live in Omaha while his wife, Shari, stays back in Ames.

“It came down to family,” Rutter said. “Two years was too much.”

Rutter, a McDermott assistant since 2003 at Northern Iowa and ISU, was at Wednesday’s event and has made it clear to Hoiberg he is interested in remaining a part of the program.

“It’s a great fit. He’s going to do great things,” Rutter said.

CHANGE OF HEART? So, could Ames star Harrison Barnes be talked out of going to North Carolina to stay home in Ames like Hoiberg did almost 20 years ago?

Not very likely, but it could be worth some effort. Barnes signed with the Tar Heels last November.

“We’ll see,” joked redshirt freshman guard Bubu Palo, a starter on Ames’ state championship team two seasons ago and close friend to Barnes.

YOUTH IS SERVED. Watching the NBA Playoffs recently with grandson, Jack, Karen Hoiberg noticed how young one of the teams’ coaches was.

It got her to thinking. So she picked up the phone to get in touch with her 37-year-old son.

“I texted Fred and asked how did he get a coaching job?” Karen said. “I told Fred he should be coaching.”

Brackins’ return could be a turning point

April 25, 2009

Few people have the perspective on Iowa State men’s basketball of Gary Thompson.

That’s why the Roland Rocket was grinning from ear to ear Friday as Cyclone star Craig Brackins sent Cyclone Nation into a tizzy in announcing he was returning for at least one more season.

Brackins’ choice to come back is monumental on so many levels. Thompson knows it.

Future recruiting efforts will be buoyed. Next year should involve postseason play of some kind. The program’s profile will get a leg up. Fans have reason to believe this team isn’t starting from stratch yet again.

Most importantly, Thompson says, Coach Greg McDermott and his staff finally can look ahead to the coming season with confidence in their roster.

“It’s great because it’s the first time this staff has been able to get some continuity and carry it over from one year to the next,” Thompson said. “They were dealt a short deck with all the kids that left that first year and that just perpetuated itself.”

Before McDermott got his name on the door, guards Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock jumped to the NBA. A half-dozen of his inherited players and recruits followed.

The following year it was Mike Taylor, Dodie Dunson & Co.

Last spring Wesley Johnson stunned us all by leaving the program and transferring to Syracuse.

Brackins showed loyalty to his coach and teammates when he could easily have left behind a team that’s gone 29-32 in his two seasons. Could you have blamed him?

With the 6-10 big man in the fold, ISU is no longer a candidate for last place. If newcomers can have an impact, and returning players continue improving, this can be a good team.  

“You are going to see fans who are more optimistic about the season,” Thompson said. “If (Brackins) doesn’t come back you are on the negative side and think we are starting all over. It’s a great situation for everybody.”

McDermott, in particular.

We may look back on this day years from now as a turning point. Had Brackins bolted, ISU likely has another losing season, which would be four and counting for McDermott.

Not good, even with the difficult situation he walked in to and other programs seeing quick results after making coaching changes.

Thompson knows.

Brackins back — even for one season — changes everything for Iowa State basketball.


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