The worst kept secret in the world will finally come to an end any day now. According to several reports, Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg will indeed accept the Bulls’ offer to become the successor to Tom Thibodeau as their new head coach. The official announcement should be made before the NBA Finals start next week, but really we all knew this was going to happen for a while now. The hiring of Hoiberg might be exactly what the Bulls need to put the Thibs drama behind them and focus on having a successful offseason.
The combination of Chicago falling apart in the Cleveland series and then immediately starting the process of firing Thibs was a depressing start to the offseason for the Bulls and their fans. The rift between the front office and Thibodeau should have been kept under wraps, but instead Jerry Reinsdorf and Co. made their relationship a public affair. The situation was messy and had almost zero to do with basketball. The imminent hiring of Hoiberg will allow the rest of the summer to be about basketball, and basketball only.
Although Reinsdorf hired Hoiberg for his relationship skills as much as his basketball acumen, there’s no denying the soon-to-be former Iowa State coach is ready to transition to the NBA. Hoiberg had a career record of 115-56 with a .673 winning percentage in Ames over five seasons, only missing the NCAA Tournament in his rookie campaign. His predecessor, Greg McDermott (yes, the father of Doug McDermott), failed to reach even ONE above .500 season in his four years as head coach at Iowa State. Hoiberg’s teams were offensive juggernauts, an area where Thibodeau was criticized nearly every season in Chicago. Hoiberg represents a stark contrast from the coaches Reinsdorf has hired in the post-Jordan era.
Scott Skiles, who will coach the Orlando Magic next season, and Thibodeau were defensive-minded coaches who wore down their players over time. Tim Floyd, who like Hoiberg left Ames for Chicago, took over a skeleton of a Bulls team and never won more than 17 games in a season. Vinny Del Negro was, well, you know how that went. Bill Cartwright, who had the advantage of being a former Bulls player, was never meant to be a long-term solution. Hoiberg provides the Bulls with a coach who’s young enough to stick around for a while (42-years old) and has a good enough relationship with the front office to be able to stick around for a while. He’s exactly what the Bulls need in this time of dread.
Hoiberg’s high octane offense might not translate seamlessly to the NBA, but Chicago will at minimum feature a much more fast-paced style next season. The backcourt of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler is a coach’s dream for anyone looking to speed up the tempo. More possessions creates more scoring opportunities, which in turn should make the Bulls much more watchable than they were in the Thibs era. The front office can now focus on complementing Hoiberg’s coaching style for the rest of the offseason, which is quickly approaching.
The NBA Draft is already in less than a month (June 25), which is surprising since the Finals don’t even start until Thursday. The Bulls will need to use the draft to possibly replace impending free agents (Mike Dunleavy, Aaron Brooks and maybe Kirk Hinrich, although doubtful because of his player option) or trade candidates (Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson), while keeping Hoiberg’s system in mind. Chicago won’t have any cap room for free agents with Butler due for a max contract, but Hoiberg will have a say on whomever Gar Forman and John Paxson consider signing.
Hoiberg will also try to get the incumbent players acclimated to his system as quickly as possible. Not everyone is going to have the immediate success of Steve Kerr and the Warriors, so jelling with the current players right off the bat is a must. A more pressing concern after his hire is official will be finding assistant coaches and deciding which current ones will stay.
The offseason will be a lot of work for Hoiberg and the Bulls’ front office with little time to waste. The draft, free agency and trade season are right around the corner. Being thrown into this situation might be overwhelming for a rookie head coach, but at least the focus will be on the basketball court from here on out. We’re all sick of hearing about the stuff off the court.