Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg has emerged as an intriguing NBA head-coaching candidate, multiple front-office executives told Yahoo! Sports.
After resurrecting the Cyclones program and nearly pushing them into the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA tournament, Hoiberg's college coaching success, combined with his pro pedigree, has convinced league officials he's the ideal college coach to make the transition to pro basketball.
"If I had to make a hire this year, [Hoiberg] would be one of the first calls I'd make," one NBA general manager told Yahoo! Sports on Sunday. "He is a natural for our league."
Among seven GMs contacted on Sunday, there wasn't a single one who expressed skepticism about Hoiberg's ability to make an immediate leap to an NBA coaching job should he have a desire to do so.
Two GMs who expect to have openings told Yahoo! Sports that they planned to feel out Hoiberg's interest in the NBA once they begin search processes.
After 10 years as an NBA player and four more in the Minnesota Timberwolves' front office, Hoiberg has long been respected professionally and well liked personally within the NBA.
In three seasons at Iowa State – which include two NCAA tournament trips and victories – Hoiberg has shown himself to be one of the rising stars in the coaching profession.
Iowa State lost 78-75 to Ohio State in the third round of the West Region on Sunday, ending the Cyclones' season at 23-12. Hoiberg has his best recruiting class arriving on campus in the fall.
Prying Hoiberg out of Ames, Iowa, won't be easy. He grew up in Ames, graduated from Iowa State and has shown a strong inclination to coach his alma mater for the long term. Long ago, his popularity and loyalty in the community gave him his nickname of "The Mayor." Hoiberg has long expressed a desire for his children to have a similar upbringing in Ames as he did.
After beating Connecticut in the 2012 NCAA tournament and earning the Big 12 coach of the year award, Iowa State gave Hoiberg an eight-year contract extension that pays him approximately $1.5 million a year.
Eight years ago, Hoiberg's NBA career ended prematurely with heart surgery for an enlarged aortic root. Doctors inserted a pacemaker into Hoiberg and future heart procedures haven't been ruled out.
Nevertheless, Hoiberg has the perfect disposition, proven Xs-and-Os acumen and understanding of the NBA to make himself an attractive candidate. The Cyclones play a fast, pro-style offense.
"It would need to be a long-term commitment, because he could stay at Iowa State forever," says one assistant GM who stays in contact with Hoiberg.
More NCAA tournament content from Yahoo! Sports:
• Marshall Henderson wants to hang out with Johnny Manziel
• Dance party: Wichita State coach knows how to celebrate a shocker
• Photos: NCAA tournament players with relatives in the pros
• NCAA tourney an event made for Las Vegas