Bulls

Could Fred Hoiberg leave the Bulls and return to college coaching at Ohio State?

Could Fred Hoiberg leave the Bulls and return to college coaching at Ohio State?

Could Fred Hoiberg leave the Bulls and make a return to college coaching?

CBS Sports' Gary Parrish tweeted Wednesday night that the Bulls' head coach is a "real candidate" to succeed Thad Matta at Ohio State.

Matta's 13-year tenure with the Buckeyes ended earlier this week, when Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith opted to make a change as poor results in offseason recruiting accompanied a diminishing win total in Columbus.

Hoiberg had great success in the college ranks, leading Iowa State to four NCAA tournament appearances in his five seasons at his alma mater. After the 2014-15 season, which featured the Cyclones' second straight Big 12 Tournament championship, Hoiberg left to succeed Tom Thibodeau as the head coach of the Bulls.

Things haven't gone exactly as hoped on the West Side, as Hoiberg has posted an 83-81 record in two seasons, the first of which featured the Bulls missing the playoffs. This season, the Bulls made a first-round playoff exit, losing their series with the top-seeded Boston Celtics.

Given the performance over the past two seasons, Hoiberg's job status going forward has been a frequent topic of discussion. But the Bulls' brass said after the season ended that Hoiberg would be back as the team's coach for the 2017-18 season.

While the prestige of an NBA job — particularly with a franchise as iconic as the Bulls — remains high, Ohio State is considered one of the top jobs in college hoops. The abundant resources of one of the highest-profile athletics departments in the country are made even greater by Ohio State's membership in the Big Ten, one of the best conferences in college basketball. Matta, Ohio State's all-time winningest coach, led the Buckeyes to a pair of Final Fours and a national championship game appearance during the heyday of his tenure.

What Bulls’ Coby White must do to maximize tantalizing potential moving forward

What Bulls’ Coby White must do to maximize tantalizing potential moving forward

Every weekday for the next three weeks, NBC Sports Chicago will be breaking down the 15 full-time players on the Bulls' roster, with each week featuring a different position groups. Next up is Coby White.

Past: Zach LaVine

2019-20 Stats

13.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.7 APG | 39.4% FG, 35.4% 3P, 79.1% FT | 23.5% USG

Contract Breakdown

June 2019: Signed 2-year, $10,879,800 rookie-scale contract (one year, plus two team option years remaining for total value of $18,824,395)

2020-21: $5,572,680 | 2021-22: $5,837,760 (team option) | 2022-23: $7,413,955 (team option) | 2023-24: RFA (QO: $9,942,114)

Strengths

Electricity runs through Coby White. It shows in his blinding end-to-end speed, and dances off his fingertips when jumpers are falling. Distilled simply, those are White’s two greatest NBA strengths: He can really run, and he can really shoot it.

His rookie season with the Bulls was a bit uneven (read: everything before the All-Star break) as he acclimated to sporadic playing time and an off-ball role he hadn’t been asked to play in high school and college. But the stretch run validated all those who stood by his scoring prowess. In 10 games post-All-Star-break, White’s minutes bumped to 33.7 per game, and production followed. He averaged 24.7 points and 4.3 assists over that span and shot the air out of the ball, canning 40.7% of 8.6 3s per game (44.8% on 2.9 pull-up 3s per). 

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That torrid shooting was an outlier, but White’s work off the catch was steady all season — he finished the year a 37% marksman on 3.7 3-point attempts per game in that context; he gets his jumper off quickly — and post-All-Star, the Bulls averaged 103.41 possessions with him on the floor and 97.84 with him off, roughly the equivalent difference between the sixth- and 29th-ranked paces in the league. In general, the offense cratered in minutes he sat over that span. All of which is to say, White’s strengths are conducive to the run-and-gun style the Bulls want to play, and he’s liable to catch fire at an instant. 

That White was able to vault the rookie wall he self-admittedly hit is a testament to his work ethic and maturity, which teammates and coaches past and present are quick to laud him for. Those intangibles should only amplify his on-court talents throughout his career. (Oh, he was also one of two Bulls to appear in all 65 of the team’s games this season — for this group, no small feat.)

Areas to Improve

White will enter Year 2 with a number of questions looming over him. Can he man true point guard duties for the Bulls moving forward? Do he and LaVine comprise a tenable starting backcourt defensively? Can White once and for all kick the microwave scorer rep and be a reliable option on a nightly basis, regardless of whether the jumper is falling? What’s his role if the Bulls draft a lead guard with their upcoming lottery pick?

Unfortunately, evaluation on all those fronts was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted the NBA season with White fresh off his first career start, and LaVine sidelined with a quad injury. What we do know is that White’s dynamism and off-ball adaptability make him an exciting backcourt mate for LaVine on the offensive end if he finds consistency. Underwhelming season-long shooting numbers (39.4% FG) are a reminder that’s not a guarantee yet, but, man...

 

An average athlete with a 6-foot-5 wingspan, White will also have a hill to climb to be an above-average defender at either guard spot, and an above-average finisher around the cup. His speed and shooting ability grant him gravitational pull on the offensive end, but he’s still unproven as a facilitator, logging just a 13th percentile assist-to-usage ratio (0.67) in Year 1. To be an ideal partner for LaVine, his defending and playmaking will have to trend upwards.

White is unquestionably a bucket, and with how hard he works, it’s reasonable to expect continued progression on all those fronts — in his rookie season, his restricted area field goal percentage ticked up every month, he competed hard on the defensive end and passing lanes opened up as the game slowed down for him over time. A larger sample size will tell us more, but optimism is warranted.

Ceiling Projection

White’s speed is truly unnatural, and if his jumpshot steadies out, he has the tricks in his bag to be a 20-point scorer and game-breaking transition threat. That alone would make him a quality starter in the league for many years. While his defense will likely always be a question mark, bumping his assist average into the five-to-seven range would be the key to unlocking All-Star level potential.

But if we’re being real, it’s silly to slap a ceiling on a just-turned 20-year-old who improved so markedly in his first season. The sky’s the limit for Coby.

RELATED: Does Bulls’ Coby White have All-Star potential? One NBA insider thinks so

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Keith Smith of Yahoo! Sports on mechanics of NBA bubble

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USA Today

Bulls Talk Podcast: Keith Smith of Yahoo! Sports on mechanics of NBA bubble

The NBA bubble in Orlando is underway, but how are Disney and the NBA handling it? Keith Smith of Yahoo! Sports, Real GM — and the first to speculate about the idea of the bubble in Disney World — joins Jason Goff to discuss how the bubble is functioning, how the players are adapting to their new environment, and what is Disney doing to accommodate. Smith provides all the details you want and need to know about what is going on in Orlando.

(5:10) - Coming up with the idea of the Bubble at Disney World

(16:40) - Is there worry about the uptick in Coronavirus cases in the Bubble

(22:00) - Life in the Bubble for the players

(30:00) - Fan reaction to the Bubble`

(38:40) - A lot of the players want to finish the season

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Bulls Talk Podcast

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