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.
“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.
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“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.