Hilton Magic didn’t start with Fred Hoiberg, and it won’t end with him, either.
The Mayor has certainly played an integral role in developing Iowa State’s nationally recognized home atmosphere as both a player (1991-1995) and head coach (2010-2015), but the legacy of the late Johnny Orr has benefited countless players and coaches over the past four decades – and it’s a big part of what attracted ISU’s newest head coach to Ames last summer.
Forty-year-old Steve Prohm, who earned conference championships, broke school records, and even met his wife during a fruitful nine-year coaching stint at Murray State (including four years as head coach), knew he wanted to make a jump to the next level of his profession. But he also knew he wouldn’t go just anywhere; his next stop had to be somewhere special.
“Iowa State University has a lot of the values that I’m all about,” says Prohm, who was introduced as ISU’s 20th head coach June 8. “It’s a small college town and a safe environment where they love college basketball. It parallels a lot of the things I loved about Murray State but on a larger scale.”
And even though Prohm had never set foot in Hilton Coliseum before he took the job, he knew he was taking a great next step.
“It goes back a long time – through Iowa State’s great teams and their average teams and through the amazing job Fred did,” Prohm says. “The fan base never wavers. The fan base has always been passionate, and it’s the toughest place in the league to play. That was the one thing that always resonated, and you can see it even on TV – the passion the fans have and the fun the kids have playing in that arena.”
Prohm says one of his strongest assets as a head coach is his ability to be passionate about where he works, and Iowa State makes that passion easy to develop.
“I’ll always have allegiance to Murray, Ky., and Murray State,” Prohm says. “You can’t be somewhere for 10 years and not get invested. And now I want to get invested here in Ames, get invested in Iowa State, and 10 years from now have that same passion for Iowa State that I’ve had for Murray. I’m looking forward to getting to know the former players, getting them back around, and just getting the opportunity to meet the former players and coaches and people in the community who have built this program – because that’s who you’re doing it all for. You’re not doing it for yourself – you’re doing it for all the people that played here and all the people who support this university.”
Among those individuals is, of course, Hoiberg (L)(’95 finance) – who made the tough decision to leave his alma mater and fulfill his NBA coaching dream with the Chicago Bulls. Prohm says it’s a unique situation to replace a coach who is also an alumnus and something of a legend, but he has embraced it.
“Fred’s been great,” he says. “He’s an icon here, and you have to embrace that. Fred has gone out of his way since day one, and I know he’s always there as a resource and to bounce questions off of or ask for advice. I always want him back and around the program, and I think he knows that.”
Prohm’s ability to build relationships – not just with alumni and fans but especially with his players – was what earned him distinction as one of the nation’s top young coaches during his four years at the helm of the Racer program, where he compiled a 104-29 record. He was twice the Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year and the 2012 Basketball Times National Coach of the Year, and his most famous pupil at MSU was All-American Isaiah Canaan, who is now playing for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.
“It’s a player’s game,” Prohm says. “It’s about the players. Just investing in those kids and seeing them grow is really just what it’s about. The relationship with those guys means more to me than anything.”
As he takes on his new challenge at Iowa State, Prohm says he is focused on getting his players to believe in him and trust one another implicitly. The magic, he believes, will flow from there.
“I’ve talked to our players about how we’re not where we were when the season ended last year,” Prohm says. “We’ve got to start all over again. I understand that, and I embrace that. Put the pressure on me and let me deal with all the expectations that are out there. The pressure should never be on the players; those guys should just go play and have fun.”
Fun: It’s something that plays a major role in Iowa State’s basketball success, and Prohm says experiencing the atmosphere at Hilton Coliseum is something he’s been anticipating all summer and fall.
“I just really can’t wait,” he says, “to get out there and be a part of Cyclone Nation.”