The NBA’s worst-kept secret has finally revealed itself, as Fred Hoiberg is expected Tuesday to be announced as the new coach of the Chicago Bulls, replacing the fired Tom Thibodeau.
Monday night, the Bulls announced that they will make a major announcement at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, which will air on Comcast SportsNet and stream live on CSNChicago.com. The deal is expected to be in the $5 million range annually.
Hoiberg, most recently coach of Iowa State since 2010, told reporters Monday as he left Ames, Iowa, for Chicago that he had meetings set up for Monday night. He is expected to take over a team that hopes to get back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1998.
The 42-year old former Bull (1999-2003) has a strong relationship with Bulls general manager Gar Forman and has been rumored to be Thibodeau’s successor for months, and when Thibodeau was dismissed, all the buzz words used by Forman and Bulls VP John Paxson appeared to let everyone know they were making a beeline for Hoiberg.
The only holdup appeared to be Hoiberg’s health, as he underwent a second open-heart surgery in April, but apparently is OK to make the move to another high-pressure environment in Chicago.
“I coached Fred and was with him five years,” said former NBA coach and current coach at Southern Methodist, Larry Brown, on the “Four Quarters Podcast” with Adam Zagoria and Zach Schonbrun. “Unbelievable respect and admiration for him. He’ll do great. He has a pro background. He knows how to deal with people. The kids he got at Iowa State weren’t always the greatest kids in the world, and he dealt with them and dealt with them extremely well. He can handle personalities. He’s going to a great team.”
Hoiberg spent time in the Minnesota Timberwolves front office before taking a coaching job at Iowa State, earning a 115-56 record that included four NCAA Tournament appearances.
Brown added he spent time with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, the two Bulls mainstays, and he feels Hoiberg will be a good fit for a veteran team with strong personalities and a foundation laid by Thibodeau.
He continues the trend of college coaches getting fertile and lucrative NBA jobs, in the mold of Boston’s Brad Stevens (Butler) and Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan (Florida).
There doesn’t seem to be the fear that accompanied making the leap, which was rampant for the last 10 to 15 years. Brown jumped back and forth, becoming one of the most successful coaches in basketball history.
“They always talked about I was the only college coach who went to the NBA and done well,” Brown said. “I had owners that gave me a chance and stuck with me. Most of these guys who’ve gone to the NBA haven’t gotten a lot of time to show how good they can coach. I think Fred will do great.”
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It starts with the relationship with the Bulls executives Forman and Paxson, the one thing most glaring about Thibodeau’s tenure with the Bulls. Both sides were frequently at odds, and Hoiberg will have to win over a fan base that stood behind the coach who took them back to relevance.
“We're really looking for the right fit,” Forman said at the press conference addressing Thibodeau’s dismissal. “I went through some of those things that I talked about, obviously someone that could lead, someone that can communicate at a high level, has a great knowledge of the game. Obviously experience is a plus, as far as coaching is concerned. If they've been a head coach, even more so. But we're not going to limit the search in any way.”
Hoiberg seemed to be the only man on the Bulls’ radar, though, and he's expected to be tasked with elevating the Bulls’ offense and by proxy, helping the franchise take the next step in an Eastern Conference that seems to be ripe for the taking.