As Fred Hoiberg prepares to make his debut at Nebraska, I felt now would be an appropriate time to share a fun and absolutely bizarre story from the preseason of Hoiberg’s first year at his previous job.
Our tale starts on a cold Sunday afternoon in January at the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, circa 2015. Hoiberg was still coaching at Iowa State, and I was an immature freshman engineering major who had ironically chosen the major for its lack of writing assignments.
The Dallas Cowboys were playing the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. Like most other Packers-Cowboys games, it was a nail-biter. As a Wisconsin native, I was paying close attention to this game at my airport terminal as I was preparing to fly back to Lincoln to start my second semester of college.
As my flight was preparing to take off, I saw Twitter explode over a big catch made by former Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant that set the team up to score the go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes. My flight took off with me assuming the Cowboys were going to win because of this play, and as we all know, that didn’t happen.
Because Twitter is Twitter, Cowboys fans complained about the reversal of Bryant’s catch for about two years after it happened. The overused joke on the website quickly became commenting ‘Dez caught it’ under any random post.
Fast forward to October of 2015, and First National Bank had former Creighton and Chicago Bulls player Doug McDermott take over their account for a Q&A session. Being the trolling nitwit that I was, I responded to the tweet asking, “Did Dez Bryant catch the ball?”
I never did receive a response from McDermott, but several days later I was mentioned in a Tweet by First National Bank.
As it turns out, by responding to the original tweet I entered myself into a sweepstakes drawing for a VIP Experience at an NBA Preseason game at Pinnacle Bank Arena that I didn’t even know was happening. Even if it was just a dumb, overused joke that got ignored.
Before I knew it, Doug’s brother, Nick, was texting me the information for how to pick up my tickets for the game and where to meet Doug after. I was allowed to bring one guest, which was an easy decision since one of my friends is a Creighton basketball season ticket holder.
The seats were really nice, near half court of the lower level. About halfway through the game I realized we were sitting next to then-Bulls shooting guard Tony Snell’s parents, who were incredibly nice and talked to us throughout the game. They offered some hilarious critiques of former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and Snell’s college coach, former UCLA coach Steve Alford.
The game itself was actually entertaining. Derrick Rose played his first minutes of the preseason and Hoiberg drew up a crafty play for McDermott to hit the game-winning shot in front of the pro-Nebraska crowd.
Afterwards, Nick took us back to a room where it was just the entire McDermott family and us, two shocked 19-year-old college kids. Doug was incredibly nice and took pictures with us and chatted for a little bit, although we had no idea what to say.
No one kicked us out after the meet and greet, so we stayed and took pictures with several other players, including Snell, Taj Gibson and Deron Williams. Near the end of the night, we saw Hoiberg up in the stands, talking with his family. He was nice enough to take a picture with us and talked with us for a little while.
I can’t remember exactly what was said, but I remember we wished him well at the end of the conversation and left having absolutely no clue that he would ever be back at Pinnacle Bank Arena, much less as Nebraska’s coach. I’m sure that my friend, a die-hard Creighton fan, regrets getting in that picture with him now.
Without a doubt, it was one of the top five most random sequences of my life.
Four years later, nearly everyone involved in that night has moved on. McDermott lasted in Chicago for another season, was traded to Oklahoma City and now plays for the Indiana Pacers. Rose failed to lead the Bulls to the playoffs that year and was traded away to New York. Snell was traded multiple times and now plays for the Detroit Pistons.
Hoiberg’s coaching tenure with the Bulls would end after just over three seasons. I was inspired by some friends I made that fall to join The Daily Nebraskan the following year. Now, my fourth and final year on the men’s basketball beat for the DN will coincide with the inaugural year of the much-anticipated Hoiberg era of Nebraska hoops.
I don’t think any McDermotts will be helping him out this time around, though.
Is there a moral to this story? Of course there is. Twitter can be a vile place where people throw mean insults at other people they either know or don’t know. Twitter can also be a place where responding to a bank with an overused joke about Dez Bryant leads to you meeting the 2015-16 Chicago Bulls at a preseason exhibition in Lincoln, Nebraska.