Kansas University’s Danny Manning, who is the Jayhawks’ all-time leading scorer, and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg, the Cyclones’ No. 3 point producer, didn’t compete against each other in college.
They were, however, on opposing sides during eight seasons in the NBA — seasons in which Manning regularly visited with Hoiberg during pre-game warmups before games.
“Fred is a wonderful guy. He went through some hardships with his health and handled those like a champion. He’s doing great things,” KU assistant coach Manning said of ISU’s first-year head coach, whose NBA career was cut short when it was discovered he had an aneurysm in his aortic root.
Manning, 44, played 15 seasons in the league. Hoiberg, 38, played 10 seasons, then went on to work four years in the front office of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“We visited whenever our paths crossed just because of the connection of the Big Eight/Big 12. Fred was a very good player, one of the best shooters to ever come through the conference,” Manning said.
The two will be sure to exchange pleasantries today — during Hoiberg’s first trip to Allen Fieldhouse as leader of ISU’s program.
Tip for the contest between No. 2 KU (23-1, 8-1) and unranked ISU (14-10, 1-8) is 3 p.m., with a live telecast on channels 8 and 208.
It’s a rematch of KU’s 84-79 victory on Jan. 12 in Ames.
That game was close — KU’s Marcus Morris barely outscored ISU’s Diante Garrett, 33-27 — but not near as close as some Hoiberg heartbreakers in his debut season. The Cyclones held the lead or were tied with less than a minute remaining in regulation in four of their eight Big 12 losses. Overall, ISU has dropped six games where it held a lead or was tied with less than a minute to play.
“They’ve been really unlucky,” KU coach Bill Self said. “It’s amazing to me they’ve lost so many games which they controlled it or led in the last minute.
“They’re close to being .500 in the league or better. What he has done,” Self added of Hoiberg, “is has given his guys (who average 76.3 points per game) a free mind offensively. Their players have really improved offensively, particularly Garrett (17.9 ppg). His stats warrant that he definitely should be on the all-Big 12 first-team ballot right now. Any time you average 18 and lead the league in assists (6.0 per game) ... defenses are designed to slow him down. He’s obviously having a great year.”
The Cyclones have had a week to think about their latest nailbiter — last Saturday’s 86-85 home setback to K- State.
“I think they are hanging in there,” Hoiberg said of his players. Scott Christopherson, Jake Anderson, Jamie Vanderbeken and Melvin Ejim average 14.2, 11.9, 11.5 and 10.8 ppg, respectively.
“We’ve competed after having some tough losses. It’s a group that has pride and has competed almost every game. One game we didn’t was Texas Tech (92-83 loss in Ames). It’s a group that has to find a way to win to get that confidence up. We have to find a way to get one of these to get the guys believing we can win these games,” Hoiberg added.
Ames native Hoiberg is in it for the long haul. He says this is his dream job.
“My ultimate goal was to get back to Iowa State one day and be the head coach. It happened before I thought it would happen. I’m excited to be back,” Hoiberg said.
“Look at (Brady) Morningstar down at Kansas. Similar situation. You get to play in the town that supported you growing up. People watched me and supported me in AAU tournaments all the way back in the seventh and eighth grade. So to play in front of them in college, and now to have the chance to coach in front of those people who supported me is such a thrill.”
ISU football coach Paul Rhoads also is from Iowa. “I guess the big thing is we’re not viewing this as a stepping stone to a bigger job. This is where we want to be,” Hoiberg said.
Of KU’s program under eighth-year coach Bill Self, Hoiberg said: “Love his teams. Love how they play. Love how they compete. Love how they defend. They play up-tempo. I think it’s something where every school in the league strives to get there. I think they won, what is it, seven conference championships in a row (six)? It’s what everyone strives to get to. You want to get to the top of your profession, and coach Self has done a great job of doing that.”