Fred Hoiberg has built Iowa State into a national program. The former Cyclones star has taken his alma mater to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments and will lead his team into the Sweet 16 this Friday against UConn at Madison Square Garden. CBS Sports Network and CBSSports.com's Jon Rothstein sat down with Hoiberg to discuss Iowa State's big win over North Carolina in the Round of 32, DeAndre Kane, and why the Cyclones have had so much success with transfers during Hoiberg's four-year tenure in Ames.
Jon Rothstein, CBSSports.com: What was your initial thought process when you knew you were going to play North Carolina last Sunday without Georges Niang?
Fred Hoiberg: The win against North Carolina Central was definitely bittersweet because Georges hurt his foot. I thought we played a very complete game and Georges was the best player on the floor, scoring 24 points in 26 minutes. Five of those points were on a broken foot when I put him back in the game, so initially when we found out the diagnosis you obviously first get concerned because he's a guy that you run your offense through. Plus he's a guy that's closed games for us all year long against really good teams -- Michigan, BYU, Iowa -- some of the Big 12 games. So you get concerned about it but at the same time, you have confidence in the guys that you're going to have replace him. You can't replace Georges with one guy. It's a collective effort and I thought everyone really stepped up and filled in for Georges' absence against North Carolina.
CBSSports.com: We've seen injuries rally teams in big situations. Is that what happened for your team on Sunday?
Hoiberg: Well I think so. You look at kid like Daniel Edozie who played every game in the Big 12 tournament and gave us really good minutes. We don't win the BYU game earlier in the year without Daniel. He had the key block late in that game. We were confident that he could go in there and do some of the things that would help replace Georges and then Naz Long stepped in with more minutes. Matt Thomas also got more minutes and everyone collectively filled in and stepped up to the plate. That's what you have to do when you have a key injury like that.
CBSSports.com: The ending to that game was incredibly intense. How do you maintain such a poised demeanor in such a highly stressful situation?
Hoiberg: For me, we were down eight with about four minutes to go and sitting in the huddle with the guys, I just noticed everyone was looking down. I just told them to just look up and smile. I said "smile and we're going to win this game." They went out, played relaxed and made plays one after another. It wasn't just offense, it was defense too. We had some key turnovers which led to some fast break baskets. We got some great rebounds. Those guys just went out and did what we had to do to win the game. I couldn't be more proud of the way they stepped up when their backs were against the wall but at the same time, I expect that out of them. They've been doing it all year.
CBSSports.com: Whenever you've needed answers this year, DeAndre Kane has provided them. How much has he surpassed the initial expectations that you have for him when arrived on campus?
Hoiberg: He's been unbelievable. I don't think anyone in the nation is putting up numbers like DeAndre is putting up. He's just making play after play in crunch time. That play at the end of the North Carolina game, they defended it very well but he just made an unbelievable individual play. He's a kid that I really had an open mind with when he came in. I talked to him a bunch and his big thing when he came in was he's had a lot of great individual accomplishments in his career but he had never been to the NCAA Tournament. He'd never been on the big stage where he competed for a championship. That's all we talked about when he came on his visit. He obviously built great chemistry with Georges (Niang) and Melvin (Ejim), two guys who played key roles on our tournament team from the year before. I knew he'd bring another guy that could help us win basketball games and he's been doing it for us all year.
CBSSports.com: When you think of him at the next level, who does he remind you of?
Hoiberg: That's a good question. The biggest thing about DeAndre is just his versatility. That's what you look for in the NBA. He's got positional size. He's a 6-5 point guard. He's very fast with the basketball. His game does translate to the next level and he's shot the ball extremely well, especially the last six weeks of the season. Plus he defends and competes at the defensive end of the floor.
CBSSports.com: Kane isn't the first impact transfer that you've had at Iowa State. How have you been able to mesh all these new players together effectively throughout the past few seasons?
Hoiberg: I give the guys a lot of credit. My big message to them when they come in and we have our first practice is the importance of chemistry. I tell them regardless of how much talent you have, if you don't have chemistry you're not going to get a chance to win basketball games. And that's what our guys have done. They've put all their individual agendas aside and went out and played for the team. You have to have that right away and if they get away from that, you have to reel them back in. The other thing I talked about is [they] have to police themselves. The best teams I ever played on were teams that held each other accountable. Our guys have bought into that. They have player-only meetings and I've talked to our captains about doing that from time to time and they've handled it well. So that's the big message. Go out and build that chemistry between themselves and I couldn't be more proud at how they've handled that.
CBSSports.com: Iowa State doesn't have the same brand as other blue bloods in college basketball. How important was it to make the Sweet 16 considering you were one game short of that mark in each of the past two seasons?
Hoiberg: I think it was very important. To beat a team like North Carolina was great for me because that was the last opponent I faced in college. They knocked us out when they went to the Final Four in 1995 and to get that Sweet 16 level for the fourth time in school history is just great for the fans. That's who I'm most happy for. The fans who have put so much time and energy into this team. I'm not sure there's a fan base in the country that's more supportive of their program than Iowa State. It showed in the Big 12 tournament when a large portion of the 19 or 20 thousand fans were Iowa State fans.
CBSSports.com: You have a deep-rooted relationship with Kevin Ollie dating back to your days in the NBA. What's it going to be like going against him and UConn in a game of this magnitude?
Hoiberg: Kevin is a very good friend of mine. Anytime we're out recruiting at an event together, we sit next to each other and talk and share ideas. One thing I knew about Kevin was that whatever he was going to do he was going to be successful just because of the respect that people have for him. You can't tell me one person that knows Kevin Ollie that doesn't think the world of him. It's going to be a good matchup. He's done an unbelievable job. When you replace a legend like Jim Calhoun and you have to step in and fill his shoes, that's not easy. He's done an unbelievable job and I'm so happy for the success he's had.
CBSSports.com: You've played in many big games at Madison Square Garden during your NBA career. What have you conveyed to your players about playing in the World's Most Famous Arena?
Hoiberg: The biggest thing I talk to them about is how much they're going to enjoy it. I guess the great thing for us is we get to go in there and experience it in a very casual setting during Thursday's practice. You get all that 'wow factor' stuff out of your system early. The guys can go in there, experience it when we practice, look at the banners, and be a little wide- eyed the first night. But once that ball goes up about 7:30 on Friday night, we'll be ready to play.