Photo: Husker Athletics Graphic: Ashley Beckman

Fred Hoiberg, former NBA player and current Nebraska Cornhuskers men’s basketball head coach, for the past two years has had the unique opportunity to coach his own son, Sam Hoiberg. 

As a father and coach, Fred said he balances the roles of coach and parent, and strives to help Sam reach his full potential on the court. Simultaneously, he’s built an unbreakable family bond. Together, the Hoiberg’s have embarked on a journey that is filled with plenty of highs, lows and heartwarming moments that will last a lifetime along the way. 

The father-son duo have been able to bond over their shared passion for basketball. Very often, you will catch the two talking about basketball strategy and game planning. 

During Sam’s time playing basketball at Lincoln Pius X, he was recruited by Boise State and a few other smaller Division I schools in his senior year. It was actually Sam who proposed the idea to Fred about playing at Nebraska to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing for his dad.

“I always thought it would be great having the opportunity to coach my son but there are certain challenges that come with it,” Fred said. “But at the end of the day, Sam is one of our biggest competitors and everyone on the team respects him because of how hard he works.” 

Fred said he talks with all of his players about how he will run the program and the standards they need to live up to and Sam was no different. According to Fred, he treats all of his players, regardless of their relationship to him, as equal. 

Of course, there has to be some obstacles or bumps in the road when it comes to playing under your own father as the coach. Surprisingly, these two have got it figured out. 

“I have never really had to deal with any drastic challenges having played two years under my dad here at the University of Nebraska,” Sam said. “Believe it or not, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to play.”

Sam said it almost felt like it was hard for his dad to put him in games at first, but by late in the 2022-2023 season, he was glad that he was able to prove to not only himself, but his dad that he would always be ready whenever he needed him. 

According to Sam, there was a shift in team chemistry from last year to this year. He talked about how the players bonded off the court first, which was very important for them to build connections before playing together. 

This season was very special for Sam, as he became a vital asset to the team and his hard work and dedication to the sport has earned the respect of not only his teammates but his coaches as well. He played in 19 games, including one start and is one of Nebraska’s top guards off the bench. He has continuously proven day in and day out that he has what it takes to succeed at the next level and make a name for himself.

Sam Griesel, former Nebraska basketball player, said his first impression of Sam Hoiberg was his spirit and will to win. He believes that Sam truly exemplifies and embodies the key qualities needed as a leader. 

“It didn’t matter if he had zero points and five minutes or 10 points and 30 minutes, as long as the team won, that is all that mattered,” Griesel said. 

Sam Hoiberg has always wanted to be the model of playing hard no matter what and he carries that into every practice and game regardless of the amount of playing time he gets. Basketball players, if asked who they style their game after, would respond with players like Lebron James or Kobe Bryant, Sam’s response is different.  

“My dad’s style of play is what I reflect my game after,” Sam said. “He has been my role model throughout my whole life.”

Fred said he and Sam talk basketball religiously every day. He believes having raised Sam surrounded by the sport of basketball when Fred played for the Indiana Pacers for four seasons, Chicago Bulls for another four seasons and Minnesota Timberwolves for two seasons truly had a crucial impact on their bond and love for the sport.

Fred said he believes that it is important to have a good balance with Sam, family, and basketball but said it has been fun for all his family to see Sam succeed. For Fred, he gets the ability to live out his son’s dream alongside him. 

Sometimes putting two things you love together doesn’t always go the way you plan. As for Sam and Fred’s father-son duo at UNL, everything is going the way they planned. From dreams to reality, Sam continuously strives to be a better player, teammate and son day in and day out.