Bulls

Bulls: Fred Hoiberg leading candidate to replace Tom Thibodeau

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Bulls: Fred Hoiberg leading candidate to replace Tom Thibodeau

Who’s next?

It’s an open secret the Bulls front office have a particular fondness for Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, and although general manager Gar Forman and VP John Paxson didn’t address Hoiberg by name, nothing they said at the press conference to discuss the firing of Tom Thibodeau dissuaded anyone from thinking Hoiberg is the leader in the clubhouse.

Hoiberg’s name has been floating around this particular job for some months now, and league sources tell CSNChicago.com they expect him to be the next coach of the Chicago Bulls.

Whether that’s in quick order or sometime later, it appears to be his job to lose. Hoiberg spent four seasons with the Bulls after signing as a free agent in 1999, and later played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the other team that appears to covet the current college coach.     

[MORE BULLS: Where there's smoke, there's fire - Could Fred Hoiberg be next man up for Bulls?

“I just don't think we're going to put ourselves in a box,” Forman said. “I know that's kind of an easy thing to say, but we've got certain criteria, some of which I've already said, but we're not going to put ourselves in a box that it had to have been a head coach, an assistant, what level they've coached at.”

The relationship between Thibodeau and the front office had been fragmented for some time, sparked by various incidents and disagreements, both practical and philosophical, though the years.

Finding someone they’re simpatico with is of chief importance and their familiarity with Hoiberg places him at the front of the pack. The front office believes their championship window is still very much open, and obtaining a coach who can get the best out of their young talent is a priority.

[MORE BULLS: Tom Thibodeau dismissed as Bulls head coach]

“Our young guys need to continue to make steps,” Forman said. “Jimmy Butler made a huge one this year, something that Tony [Snell] and Doug [McDermott] and Nikola [Mirotic] and some of those guys need to continue to do. Just in general, we feel we have a talented team and a deep team that can continue to grow and improve and play at a high level.”

A coach who opens up the offense and won’t have it grinding to a halt with long scoring droughts is also high on the list, which is why many have suggested Golden State Associate head coach Alvin Gentry may receive a call.

Gentry is the mastermind behind Golden State’s spacing and quick-attacking offense, and he’s coached in Detroit, Phoenix and with the L.A. Clippers.

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“We're really looking for the right fit,” Forman said. “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.”

Many don’t expect the search to go too far or too wide, as Hoiberg has coached at his alma mater for five seasons, leading the Cyclones to four NCAA Tournament appearances and has an overall record of 115-56.

The only deterrent could be Hoiberg undergoing open-heart surgery in late April, an issue that played a part in his retirement from the NBA in 2005.

He’s earning $2 million per season and would be due for a big raise should the Bulls come calling. Thibodeau will be owed $4.5 million over the next couple seasons, which could be offset by whatever salary he makes should he take another coaching position.

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

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AP

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

The Bulls couldn't have known it at the time, but when LeBron James blocked a Derrick Rose 3-point attempt in the final seconds of Game 5 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, it was the closest those Bulls would ever get to the promised land.

It happened on May 26, 2011, seven long, long, long years ago today.

The game was an ugly one and certainly a fourth quarter the Bulls would love to have back. They took a 12-point lead on a Ronnie Brewer 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining. The Heat closed the game on a 19-4 run, with James' emphatic block on Rose the lasting image of the series.

James finished with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, and added six assists, three steals and two blocks in 46 minutes.

Rose went just 9-for-29, finishing the series shooting 35 percent from the field after being named league MVP over James.

It's probably unfair to say James and James alone shut the Bulls' championship window. Rose's ACL tear the following postseason realistically was the biggest culprit. But these Bulls had won 62 games, had homecourt advantage, had the MVP, the Coach of the Year and all the momentum. And still they couldn't get it done against James.

That win also sent James to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. He's been there every year since, though that could change as he faces the Celtics on Sunday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.