Fred Hoiberg Would Be A Terrible Fit For Bulls Head Coaching Position


Despite the Chicago Bulls management’s insistence to the contrary, Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg would be a terrible fit for the Chicago Bulls head coaching job if Tom Thibodeau ultimately decides to leave.

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His coaching philosophy doesn’t jive with the pre-existing culture that has been established in Chicago, which could ultimately prevent the Bulls from continuing to be championship contenders in the upcoming years.

Fred Hoiberg played 10 seasons in the NBA, including four with the Bulls. In his five years as head coach of the Iowa State Cyclones, he’s amassed a 115-56 record and four NCAA Tournament appearances. His team has never advanced beyond the Round of 16.

Hoiberg is from Ames, Iowa and has spent his entire life in and around Iowa State. Many believed that his family connections in Ames and his recent heart problems would keep him at Iowa State for the life of his coaching contract which runs through 2023.

However, Fox Sports reporter Bear Heiser tweeted on Monday that Hoiberg would accept the Bulls head coaching position if offered.

Yahoo! Sports reporter Adrian Wojnarowski stated as early as the beginning of May that Hoiberg is “management’s choice to ultimately be the replacement [for Thibodeau].”

Likewise, ESPN reporter Marc Stein reported that Hoiberg is the Bulls top candidate to fill a potential head coaching vacancy this season.

"It is widely — and I mean widely — believed throughout the league that Fred Hoiberg is the top choice of the Chicago Bulls to replace Tom Thibodeau in the event that the Bulls and Thibs indeed part company at season’s end."

A new report on Thursday adds a twist to the story. Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said that Hoiberg hasn’t told him whether or not NBA teams have made contact with him regarding possible head coaching positions.

Despite the conflicting reports, Hoiberg remains one of the Bulls top candidates to fill a potential head coaching vacancy. Therefore, it is useful to dedicate an article to exploring how well he would fit with the Bulls organization as the head coach.

Hoiberg’s coaching philosophy runs contrary to everything that Thibodeau has tried to instill into the culture of this team for the last five years. His coaching resume and the fact that he doesn’t have any experience coaching in the NBA makes him completely unqualified for this position.

Yet, the Bulls front office is likely going to hire him as the next head coach for one, extremely unjustifiable reason.

May 12, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau speaks to the media prior to game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Hoiberg’s coaching philosophy and style doesn’t mesh with the existing culture already in place in Chicago and that is a huge problem. College basketball analyst Randy Sherman provided insight into the style of play that he has tried to impose at Iowa State.

"For fans of free-flowing uptempo basketball (and really, who isn’t?), Fred Hoiberg’s offense is entertaining. There’s almost no “false action” in Hoiberg’s offense. In layman’s terms, his team gets right to the business of scoring.His system benefits 3 point shooters the most. Tony Snell, Nikola Mirotic, but of course Doug McDermott. Hoiberg being hired by the Bulls would be the best thing to happen to McDermott’s professional career. I recall saying once to a coaching colleague that if every player played like McDermott, college basketball would be infinitely more entertaining.Wouldn’t describe Hoiberg as a balanced coach. He definitely tilts towards offense. His teams have struggled a bit with dirty work. UAB bounced them from the NCAA Tournament this year by dominating the rebounding battle and crashing the boards. “Finesse team” can be a damning label, but many would describe Iowa State as such. If Bulls management is wanting to hire the “anti-Thibs,” Hoiberg is it. This is, without a doubt, a coaching candidate that would be all about adding offense."

Yes, some of the principles could help the Bulls especially the one pertaining to the more up-tempo style of offense. However, the big problem is that it’s an entirely new system that will likely take a large acclimation period to get used to.

With expiring contracts in the foreseeable future and the championship window becoming more closed with each passing year, the Bulls can’t afford to have this acclimation period.

There is also a question of whether this group of players is willing to learn and buy into a completely new system that runs contrary to everything that they have been taught under Thibodeau.

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  • Sherman even says it in his analysis: Hoiberg is an “anti-Thibs”, the antithesis to everything that the Bulls have worked to instill in the culture of this team over the last five years.  The metaphor “it is hard to teach old dogs, new tricks” applies perfectly in this situation.

    There will likely be reluctance from these players to learn an entirely new system especially when the Bulls have had success (Thibodeau has a 62 percent winning rate with Chicago) with the system that is already in place.

    Another reason that Hoiberg would be a poor fit for the Bulls head coaching job is his lack of NBA head coaching experience.

    He was briefly a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves coaching staff and front office, but lacks formal experience running a team from a head coaching position. 

    The issue of whether this group of players will take Hoiberg seriously and want to listen to what he has to say becomes a real concern.

    NBA analyst and former NBA player Kendall Gill believes that there will be respect issues between an accomplished group of core players and Hoiberg.

    "I don’t know really what’s going to happen with Fred Hoiberg. However, in my experience as an NBA player, if you’re going to bring in a guy, you need to bring in a guy who is going to be respected. You got Derrick Rose former MVP, Joakim Noah All-Star, Jimmy Butler All-Star, Pau Gasol Champion and All-Star. You have to bring in somebody that they will respect. I don’t know whether Fred Hoiberg carries the weight.”"

    Bulls general manager Gar Forman and Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson are going to try to justify the Hoiberg signing under the dissimulation of this coach being able to help the team offensively.

    However, the analysis provided earlier in this article shows that a complete change in the existing system would be counterproductive. The reason that Forman and Paxson are so keen on hiring Hoiberg is to preserve their fragile egos.

    Sep 29, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman during media day at the Advocate Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    Although neither party will publicly admit it, media personnel were already reporting as early as January that the relationship between Tom Thibodeau and the front office is irreparable.

    K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote recently,

    "And while there are no plans to replace Thibodeau during the season, a mutual parting of the ways after this season wouldn’t surprise many league personnel familiar with the deteriorating dynamic[between Thibodeau and the front office]."

    ESPN reporter Nick Friedell wrote a detailed report describing the origin and escalation of the conflict between Thibodeau and the front office. In summary, Thibodeau violated minute restrictions mandated by the Bulls front office and in turn, Forman and Paxson undermined their head coach by trading or firing some Thibodeau’s most trusted confidants (former player Luol Deng, former assistant coach Ron Adams).

    The Bulls front office is so keen on hiring Fred Hoiberg because he won’t damage their fragile egos. He won’t impose his own judgement on situations in which superiors have already made decisions. He will obediently listen to his superiors; essentially serving as a puppet for a group of people who are fixed on achieving absolute power within the organization.

    For Forman and Paxson, their collective policy is ‘their way or the highway’. Hoiberg will actually abide by this policy, hence why he will likely be brought in as the replacement if Thibodeau ultimately ends up leaving.

    It is a shame that the Bulls front office is willing to pick a head coach based on whether or not he can be controlled as opposed to picking one that fits best with the current structure of the organization. Hoiberg’s coaching philosophies completely undermine the established culture of this team and his lack of head coaching experience brings to the forefront questions of whether this group of players will take him seriously.

    The only group that thinks he is the right fit is the Bulls front office and they think this for all the wrong reasons.

    Next: Fred Hoiberg would consider Chicago Bulls job if offered, but would it work?

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