LINCOLN — The elevator door opened and out stepped a golden age.
Something big happened here Tuesday. Something special arrived as Fred Hoiberg walked out with his wife, Carol, followed by Bill Moos and Scott Frost.
But before we get to that, Hoiberg would like to introduce a few folks.
There’s his mom and dad, Karen and Eric, both NU grads. His brother, Steve, who lives in Omaha and used to teach at UNO. There was a cousin and a niece and Uncle Dennis, the Clearwater, Nebraska, legend. And Aunt Jane.
Hoiberg introduced everyone except the doctor who delivered him in this city back in 1972, but he did mention Lincoln General Hospital, so it’s all good.
At a surreal press conference that felt like the first day of the rest of Nebraska basketball’s life, those introductions were the story.
Hoiberg has roots in this area. Deep roots. Deeper than I ever imagined.
The former Iowa State and Chicago Bulls coach had 25 million reasons to walk away from watching “The Price Is Right” in his robe, but don’t discount those roots and his history.
The pride on Hoiberg’s face as Moos presented him a framed copy of the press release introducing his grandfather, Jerry Bush, as NU basketball coach spoke volumes.
This gig is going to mean something extra for Hoiberg, and in that sense, he’s a perfect bookend to Frost, the legacy fit of Husker football.
Turns out, the “Mayor” of Ames, Iowa, is an incredible fit in Nebraska scarlet and cream.
Together, they look like an indomitable duo, a pair of golden boys about to produce a golden era of Nebraska athletics.
Imagine Nebraska playing in the College Football Playoff and making the NCAA Sweet 16 in the same season.
Twin national championships? I’ll let Hoiberg make the NCAA tournament first before I do a cannonball off the deep end. But tell Texas Tech and Auburn a Final Four isn’t possible.
Hoiberg made one Sweet 16 at Iowa State, but he was just getting warmed up when the Chicago Bulls called and offered a chance to hit the NBA lotto and live a coaching dream.
Imagine what he’s learned about himself and his offense (and occasional defense) after those two stops and what that might mean here.
Did I mention that Hoiberg brought up that he and his wife want to make Lincoln their final stop? The NBA or a college blue blood might have something to say about that, but who cares? Tuesday was all about sugar highs and big dreams.
Dream as big as you want, Husker hoops. As John Cook would say, dream bigger.
Expectations came up during Tuesday’s presser, but nobody got specific. Hoiberg twice said, “I see great potential here.” That was enough. We all know that history is the expectation, and the bar is set low for history. Get that elusive NCAA tournament win.
But this hire blows the roof off past expectations. It wipes the board clean. In many ways, it buries the past. There’s no reason to talk of the burdens and obstacles anymore.
When that elevator door opened, expectations just became whatever you want.
This was the closest that a Nebraska basketball press conference ever felt to Nebraska football. This was the first basketball event held in the all-important third-floor club level of Memorial Stadium, where athletic directors and football coaches are announced.
There were folks looking down from the fourth floor. The size of the media there was football sized.
What that meant was, it’s the first time Nebraska basketball has ever felt as important as its football big brother. I’m not saying they are equals. But this was the biggest Husker hoops has ever felt.
And it felt like, for the first time, the expectations of basketball could be as wide and open as football. League titles. Deep postseason runs. Hunting national titles.
The Big Ten just rolled its eyes again, and that’s what it does with Nebraska and these kinds of things. But the Big Ten can’t deny the résumé that just walked in the door.
Hoiberg is a guy who has been rumored for various jobs — Ohio State, Texas, UCLA, you name it. And he walked out of the elevator in front of the young football coach who could have had any D-I job a year ago.
This is a football-basketball coaching combo that any school in the country would envy. And it’s here.
That duo works at a school with deep pockets that apparently just discovered an itch to spend. Hoiberg’s three assistants will make a combined $1 million, and Moos said that ranks third in the Big Ten. The man does his homework.
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Moos also said Hoiberg would begin recruiting Wednesday, using Husker Air Fleet that will be available to coaches. You get the feeling they’ve only just begun to spend.
Take that Big Ten money, the facilities, the state’s insatiable appetite and combine them with competent coaches who play cutting-edge offense and have connections to the NBA and NFL. And suddenly, everything feels different.
Anything seems possible.
It wasn’t that long ago that it felt like a dead end around here, that football was moving toward basketball and the mentality from national media and coaches was that Nebraska can’t be great, that it should just be happy with settling.
For the longest time, it felt like football and basketball were spinning their wheels but also sliding slowly in reverse. Lost in a maze with no way out.
Then two of the hottest coaches in the country chose Nebraska because of their love for the school and history and tradition. And because they both felt a sense of pride to get things done.
Is that fate? Is that luck? Or is that what happens when a state and fan base never stop believing, never stop trying?
It’s incredible, that’s what. Two golden boys, two bookends. And a golden era, perhaps, to fit in between.