There’s long been a debate around the Commonwealth about who should be the successor to the Kentucky throne if and when Cal decides to either retire or take on a new challenge. Let me preface this article by saying I hope he never has to do that in any time in the near future, but the cold reality of the situation is that eventually, he will.
Most folks today would tell you that Sean Miller would be the guy that UK would be the most interested in, should Cal leave, and it makes sense. Miller has had success at multiple stops, and has had a good deal of success recruiting – and winning – at Arizona, which is widely considered to be a top 10-15 job in America. So, one could only assume he’d have success at UK too, right?
There are other folks, certainly, that you could put on the list. Brad Stevens comes to mind if it’s a few years down the road and he’s still not winning games in Boston. Travis Ford makes sense also, as an alum, and a coach doing well these days at Oklahoma State.
Ultimately though, UK may be better off calling Fred Hoiberg.
I know, I know what you’re thinking right now: “What?”
Let me explain. Fred Hoiberg has just about every characteristic that you need from a coach to be successful in the fishbowl that is the University of Kentucky.
Is he charismatic? Check. Can he develop players? Double check. Can he recruit? Check. Can he win big games? Check. Runs an NBA like program? Check.
He’s got it all. From his extensive playing days in the NBA, Fred knows what it takes to get players there, and that is part of the reason he’s had success in bringing in transfers to Iowa State. If you look at his recruiting rankings, you may think that he wouldn’t cut it at UK, but you have to remember he’s recruiting guys to Ames, Iowa, to play for a mid-pack Big XII team. But these days, Hoiberg has prospects like Rashad Vaughn, consensus top 10 recruit, paying attention to what he’s selling.
In just four years, Hoiberg has orchestrated a tremendous turn around at Iowa State, going from 16-16 his first year, to two consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, where he went a combined 2-2. Let’s not forget also, the test that Royce White and Iowa State gave to UK in the second round up in Louisville. That game was extremely close all the way until UK turned it on in the final 10 minutes, thanks largely to Darius Miller.
This season, Hoiberg and the Cyclones are already off to a 4-0 start, including two top 25 wins against BYU (on the road), and top 10 Michigan at home.
If none of that convinces you, consider this, earlier this year, Hoiberg signed a 10 year, 20 million dollar deal with Iowa State. That may not seem like a lot, but for a program like Iowa State, that’s a huge investment. Most think that Hoiberg would likely pursue a head coaching job in the NBA before heading to another college team, but Kentucky isn’t just another program. It is the program.
Ultimately, I’m not sure what level of interest that Hoiberg would have in UK. It’s hard to be the coach that follows a legend like a Cal, or Pitino, or Rupp. Hoiberg also has a great situation in Iowa State, with fans who absolutely adore him. He’s called the “Mayor” up there, and for a good reason. Not only is he a good coach, but he’s also their most famous basketball alum, for his career in the NBA.
But that’s not the point. The point is, if you’re Mitch Barnhart, you got to give this guy a call. And if it were me, he’d be my first call.