The dawn of a new era was on full display at the Advocate Center, as new Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg sat patiently, and confidently, alongside the man who hired him for 48 minutes upon his introduction.
It was hard to imagine Bulls general manager Gar Forman and Hoiberg’s predecessor, Tom Thibodeau, sharing space on a dais for more than 48 seconds at a time, let alone enough time for four quarters.
“In Fred, we feel strongly that we’ve got a guy with a skill package of a winning coach, a guy who is a natural leader and a great, great communicator,” Forman said. “He’s a talented, in-demand coach that has attracted significant interest throughout the league and was atop our list as we began this process.”
Nobody believed anyone else was on the list, that Hoiberg was “The List,” and the Bulls were on a similarly short list of teams Hoiberg would leave Ames, Iowa, for.
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“When this opportunity presented itself, I kind of said at that time, 'If a situation comes about where you can compete for a championship ... a lot of coaches don’t walk into this,'” Hoiberg said. “To come here, again with an organization I’m familiar with, was I guess the overriding factor.”
If Vinny Del Negro got the Bulls from irrelevancy (first quarter), followed by Thibodeau establishing a strong foundation by taking them to the doorstep of the elite (second and third), Hoiberg is tasked with getting them over the hump in the “fourth quarter” to an NBA title — with far less friction of the last two.
Forman was on the Iowa State staff during Hoiberg’s college playing days, and he has plenty of familiarity with the Bulls organization, having played in Chicago from 1999 to 2003.
That synergy made it an easy choice for the Bulls, considering all the drama they had with Thibodeau.
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All Hoiberg is charged with doing is upgrading a stagnant offense, ensuring the harmony that flowed on Day 1 continues that way, all the while keeping the lines of communication open with his front office.
“I’m very confident in my relationship with these guys,” Hoiberg said. “Like Gar said, I’ve known him for a long time. John (Paxson) was doing radio when I was playing here the first time. I really got to know him very well, as well, so yeah, I’m very comfortable with my relationship and I’m excited about this moving forward.”
Oh yeah, and bettering a .647 winning percentage — the fourth-best in the NBA in the last four years. The other three franchises have made it to the NBA Finals at least once.
“I had a rival GM call me last night first of all to congratulate us on getting Fred to come as our head coach,” Forman said. “It’s a guy who tried to hire Fred in the last year or two. Quite simply, what he said to me is, 'You’re getting a special coach ,and you’re getting a special person.' He couldn’t have said it any better. We know we’re getting a special coach and person.”
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Hoiberg ran down the list of Bulls’ players — including Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, who were in attendance — running down mini scouting reports and the like for a roster he said he didn’t have much knowledge of until Forman and Paxson came in armed with owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s millions a few days ago.
Of course, he addressed the two main guys who couldn’t put it together good enough against the Cavaliers in the second round two weeks ago: Derrick Rose and restricted-free-agent-to-be Jimmy Butler.
“Derrick's obviously a guy who's at his best when he's playing downhill,” Hoiberg said. “If we can get the wings out running, you get that first big running to the rim, and you give Derrick space on the fast break, that's going to create a lot of opportunities.”
As for Butler: “I'm excited about Jimmy, obviously getting out and running on the wings. Jimmy's an attack player. If you can get him the ball on the run, on the move, and attacking the basket with pace, I think it's an ideal system for him.”
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And clearly, he, the front office and ownership believe he’s the ideal fit for a team that needs a bit of a facelift before taking the next step.
“I wouldn’t take this job if I wasn’t confident that we can continue to play at a championship level,” Hoiberg said.
The right words were said, and hopefully for his sake 12 months from now, there will be less talking and more playing — in June.