Mark Hankins was in college at the time, taking swings with the Iowa State men's golf team.

He'd still make time to get to the Ames rec center, where he'd play some pickup games with a high school junior who had already been making a name for himself.

"He become 'the Mayor' well before he got to college," Hankins said of the tall, lanky blond kid. "He was pretty well-known at Iowa State before he got to school at Iowa State."

Hankins, of course, was referring to Fred Hoiberg.

Hankins and Hoiberg were college roommates a couple of years later. More than 20 years after that, they're co-workers at Nebraska — Hankins serving as the Husker men's golf coach and Hoiberg, as of Saturday, running Nebrasketball.

Their reunion in Lincoln may have been kick-started during a standard AD-coach meeting between Hankins and his boss, Bill Moos, to talk golf.

"He sent me a message, 'Love to visit with you about a number of things,' and we did," Moos said moments after Hoiberg's introductory news conference Tuesday at Memorial Stadium.

Moos and Hankins chatted about plans for a new practice facility for the golf teams. A big-time recruit that NU had been courting was discussed, too. Then Hankins, knowing there could be a change with the Husker basketball program, gave Moos a name to potentially keep in mind.

His good friend, Hoiberg.

"I said, 'That's interesting,'" Moos recalled. "'We may be talking down the road.'"

Fast-forward to Saturday when Hankins learned of the official hiring. The former Cyclone golf standout was pumped.

"I just went, 'That's a perfect hire,'" Hankins told the Journal Star earlier this week. "'That's the one.'"

There were mixed emotions for Hankins.

"Coach (Tim) Miles did a great job of setting the stage and as a coach here and of fellow coaches, I feel bad," he said. "You never know when these things are going to happen and we get an email saying, 'Hey, this coach is getting let go,' and it's not a good day for any of us."

So how did an All-Big Eight basketball player and an All-Big Eight golfer end up in the same Ames apartment complex?

Hoiberg's then-girlfriend and now-wife Carol and Hankins' girlfriend were best friends at the time, and they got to know each other. Later, Hankins was looking for new roommates after a couple of golfers moved out, and it probably didn't hurt that Hankins and Hoiberg shared a common interest.

"He loves golf," said Hankins, who was hired by Moos last June.

"I always joked: He always wanted to go golf," Hankins added. "'Come on, man, let's go play golf,' and I'd say, 'Let's go work on your left hand.' I wanted to go play hoops on my own time and he wanted to go play golf."

Their relationship grew. Hankins was in the gym with Hoiberg the summer before Hoiberg's senior season. Iowa State had a new coach and Hoiberg was expected to take on more of a point-guard role for Tim Floyd. Hankins recalls watching Hoiberg work all summer on handling the ball and working to get his own shots a little better.

Hoiberg went on to play in the NBA and Hankins began his own path as a professional golfer. But the two stayed in touch and started an annual golf trip.

Despite living busy lives as coaches, the relationship has stayed strong. In fact, Hankins offered some guidance for Hoiberg's son Jack, who was contemplating a scholarship offer to play golf at South Dakota before deciding to walk on to play basketball at Michigan State.

Hankins, who coached golf at Iowa and Michigan State, rattled off reasons why Hoiberg fits the Nebraska job, starting with his family roots to the school and state. And then there's that competitive side that Hankins has seen since those rec center days in Ames.

"I know one thing that I'll tell you about him, he's as competitive as they get," Hankins said. "He's definitely not super-animated, but he is a competitive guy, he's a smart guy.

"He hates to lose. He really, really hates to lose, and I've seen it firsthand. I'm telling you, coming from someone that's as competitive as I am, he really wants to win and it drives him crazy, and he gets fired up to go and compete and win basketball games."

Listen to Hankins, and it's easy to see how a golfer and a basketball player were able to relate to each other in college. Hankins hates losing, too.

"I'm the same way with my players," said Hankins, who led Iowa to six NCAA regional appearances in seven seasons. "We talk about it all the time. I'm here to win golf tournaments. It's not going to be fun and games. It's going to be hard work. But at the end the day, what's really going to be fun is when we go to NCAA regionals, when we got the NCAA finals and everyone's saying, 'How in the world did Nebraska get to the NCAAs?'

"I think we're going to get that from Fred at Nebraska."

Hankins said it might be tough for he and Hoiberg to find much time to hang out. He's working on getting the NU men's program to a higher level, and Hoiberg will be focused on doing the same over at Hendricks.

Safe to say, the avid golfers will connect for some golf rounds in town. But when it comes to a game of one-on-one — don't count on it.

"Now it's more about playing golf and working out," Hankins said. "I don't want to get hurt."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.


Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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