Dear Fred Hoiberg:
First of all welcome to the University of Nebraska men’s basketball program! The people of this proud state are prepared to embrace you with open arms. I think you’ll find that Nebraskans are some of the nicest, most decent people on the planet. Just make sure that you are always honest and straight forward with them or they’ll rip your head off, chew it into little pieces and spit it into the Platte River. But if you try hard and you’re aboveboard with folks around here, they will treat you like a king.
As I’m sure you’re aware you have landed a very significant job. Men’s basketball is the fifth most important sport at UNL behind football, spring football, football winter conditioning and volleyball.
Good luck finding your way around Lincoln. I realize you were born here but your family moved away when you were very small. Perhaps because of Lincoln’s convoluted street system? If you figure out this concrete maze, please explain it to me.
I understand you’re called The Mayor. In Omaha we have somebody also called the Mayor. But she’s very mean and nasty and used to complain about me all the time when I worked at the newspaper. She’s incredibly thin skinned. She’s also awful at fixing potholes and clearing the streets of snow - I’m sure you could do much better at either, Mr. Mayor.
I imagine UNL will take some getting used to for a guy like you. It’s not Iowa State. You’re no longer in the Big 12 so you don’t have to worry about dropping to your knees in worship whenever the Texas A.D. enters the room.
Lincoln is not the Chicago Bulls, either, so your days of fans in the stands chanting “Bring back Phil Jackson!” when you fall behind 2-0 are over.
You’ll be playing in the Big Ten so you’ll face pretty much the same level of competition you did when you coached the Bulls in the NBA’s Central Division. OK, I’m being politically correct. The competition in the Big Ten is actually tougher than what you encountered in the Central Division.
In Lincoln you will report to the guy who hired you, Bill Moos. He’s quite a character, am-i-rite? He seems like the kind of dude you could sit down with and have a drink. Or two. Maybe three. Well, seven or eight drinks. Neat, with no ice. Followed by some Jello shots. Does he really have “Happy Hour” tattooed on his butt? Like you’d know!
The coach you’re replacing, Tim Miles, was sort of a character himself and I’m not saying that just because his dog, Sammy, has a Twitter account. I doubt your dog has a Twitter account. Actually, you seem more like a cat person to me.
You’re also going to be scrutinized by university chancellor Ronnie Green who basically acts like an athletic director himself. Green is second in command at the university behind a man named Matt Davison who once made a spectacular catch of a deflected football in the end zone during a football game and has parlayed that into a 22-year career, believe it or not.
The University of Nebraska is currently without a school president after the old guy was run out of town because the football team went 4-8. I say that in jest. No, he got axed because he didn’t finish painting Larry The Cable Guy’s Memorial Stadium luxury suite in time.
I understand your grandfather, Jerry Bush, used to be the head Nebraska men’s basketball coach. Well, sit down, I’ve got some bad news for you. You know that elusive first NCAA Tournament win that Nebraska was striving for when Grandpa was coach? WELL THE PROGRAM IS STILL STRIVING FOR IT! I’M NOT JOKING! Nebraska is the only big time school without a tournament win. Everyone’s counting on you to change that. YOU MUST WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME. I know you led Iowa State to a Sweet Sixteen; in Lincoln you merely have to win one tourney game. A win vs. Wofford or Farleigh Dickenson or Montana State or James Madison would be enough. Just. One. Win.
I hope you enjoy fancy venues because Pinnacle Bank Arena is certainly that. But the team hasn’t lived up to the arena. Frankly, it’s felt a little bit like putting Carrot Top inside Buckingham Palace.
Of course having a big, high tech building does put more pressure on you than in the old days when Nebraska used to play in an arena that resembled a place that a donkey basketball team might practice in.
Overall it’s a plus. Utilize the arena as a recruiting tool. Use your connections to the NBA too. Tell kids that if they pan out you’ll make some calls on their behalf to NBA front office people. They’ll love that more than they love 1,000 new Instagram followers.
Finally - and this may be my most important tip - to communicate with people in this great state you should constantly drop in references to our horrible weather. Practice saying phrases like, “I hear McCool Junction had hail the size of outdoor shitters!” and, “How about that 400-mile wall of ice working its way across the Panhandle?”
When addressing Nebraskans it’s always best to work in lots of football references too. If somebody says, “How ya doin’?” you oughta respond, “About as well as the ‘64 Husker Orange Bowl team!” and the other person will know exactly what you mean.
I wish you luck, Fred. Can I call you Fred? How about Freddie? What about “Hoi-ster?” I think that’d be a good thing. See, that’s really my big concern here, that you may come off as, well, stiff. Nebraskans are a loose, informal bunch. One of the reasons Miles was liked despite his so-so record is because he was fun which is a big part of your job now - coming off as an amiable dude. We used to have an athletic director named Eichorst who was very formal, uptight, stiff and...well, that’s a story for another day.
If I were you I’d undo a couple buttons on that dress shirt you always wear under your sport coat and begin referring to yourself as “Freddie.” Oh, and from now on when you get those shirts laundered? Skip the starch.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Brad Dickson is a former writer for "The Tonight Show," a humor columnist for the Omaha World-Herald newspaper, a best-selling author of two books and a professional speaker. You can find Brad on Twitter at @brad_dickson.
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