LINCOLN — Fred Hoiberg isn’t sure if he’s parked legally.
He may not have any photos on the walls of his office. Or anything inside his new townhome beyond a bed, couch and TV. He’s still living out of one suitcase and most of his belongings are split between Chicago and in boxes scattered around Lincoln.
But Hoiberg has already learned one crucial element of living in Lincoln: Keep a watchful eye out for UNL campus parking and Park & Go.
Hoiberg decides — after a long pause — his parking spot just outside of The Mill on Innovation Campus is fine. He talked this past week at one of the only places he knows in Lincoln as basketball practice starts Monday.
“Matt (Abdelmassih) introduced this place to me, and I’ll come here every now and then,” Hoiberg says, sipping black coffee with a side cup of water. “Most of the time he just comes here and brings back a cup of coffee. It’s great coffee.”
A few students double-take when Hoiberg walks in wearing a gray T-shirt that has Herbie Husker spinning a basketball. He doesn’t notice. For all the pomp and circumstance that has surrounded him since he was hired in March, he’s used to most everything now.
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This month, he traded his robe and morning yoga for a whistle and officially got back into coaching. The frustrations are back. He left a workout miserable last week. The joy is back, too, especially during individualized drills.
But the past month or so has been four hours a week of workouts. Barely any 5-on-5, especially with only 11 guys on campus. A core group of next year’s contributors won’t be here until next week. So it’s been a lot of 3-on-3. Not a lot of real basketball.
That changes Monday, when preparations begin for a 10-day trip to Italy in August.
Nebraska will get 10 practices. Monday will be the first time a majority of Hoiberg’s team will be under the same roof.
Transfers Matej Kavas (Seattle University), Shamiel Stevenson (Nevada), Cam Mack (Salt Lake Community College) and Haanif Cheatham (Florida Gulf Coast) will be on campus. All should be able to play in Italy.
The only player missing, freshman Yvan Ouedraogo, will be competing in the World Championships instead.
The plan over the next 10 practices, Hoiberg said, is to install about 10 percent of the system.
“I’m not gonna put in too much at this time. With only 10 practices you don’t want to put in too much that they don’t remember the basics of what you’re trying to accomplish,” Hoiberg said. “The good thing about this trip is we’ll be able to experiment some and we’ll be able to see if it works.”
The next couple of months will be trial and error. Though the workouts the past few weeks generally went well, Hoiberg still isn’t sure what he’s got on the roster for next year.
Nebraska has 11 new scholarship players, and Hoiberg hasn’t seen any of them play in a live game. He isn’t sure who fits where and who can do what.
So practices for Italy — and the games themselves — will be an opportunity to throw lineups out and see what sticks. Ouedraogo won’t be allowed to play or practice in Italy, but after concluding the World Championships, he will join the team in Rome. With his absence, NU will be without a 6-foot-9, 260-pound center who will likely be a key element to next year’s team. But Dalano Banton and Derrick Walker — two transfers who have to sit out next season — will be allowed to play overseas.
And Hoiberg has liked what he’s seen from Walker, a Tennessee transfer.
“That’s one guy that has been incredible, Derrick,” Hoiberg said. “His voice, I mean, he’s been leading, he’s been talking through the good times and the bad.”
This trip, Hoiberg said, is a luxury. He doesn’t think he’ll learn a lot about his team — a starting five likely won’t emerge, or even a real rotation.
But had this trip not been planned, the four hours per week of workouts would’ve persisted. Instead, Hoiberg gets 20 hours the next two weeks and four games in a foreign country to figure his team out.
“I think you’re gonna be able to figure out what we’re looking for on who your competitive guys are, who is gonna be able to perform when there’s pressure,” Hoiberg said. “The Lithuanian team is gonna be a good team. So, can your guys compete through adversity? Who are they? Who are the guys you can play down the stretch? I think you’re gonna start to learn some of that.”
Normal hasn’t set in for Hoiberg yet. His family remains in Chicago. They’ll be here in August.
He’s still not totally settled, living in the townhome alone while he closes on a house. He’s been busy enough that he hasn’t been able to make it to Lee’s Chicken yet, a spot his grandparents used to take him when he was young.
But as Hoiberg eased his way back into coaching since his firing by the Bulls last December, he feels like he’s back to where he could be.
Out of the corner of his eye, Hoiberg spots a Park & Go attendant.
“She’s writing tickets,” he says, panicked.
He downs the rest of his coffee, says goodbye and jogs off to his car, beating a potential ticket, fitting right in whether he realizes it or not.