It’s interesting to see recent history repeat itself when it comes to Bulls coaching hires. Back in 1998 during the Bulls championship run, reports surfaced about Jerry Krause’s fascination with the NBA potential of Iowa State head coach Tim Floyd. And, sure enough, Floyd was hired the following season to preside over Krause’s failed attempt to rebuild the dynasty Bulls on the fly.
Fast forward to this season, and all the reports of the Bulls potential interest in Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg if the damaged relationship with Tom Thibodeau eventually led to a break-up. Tuesday, Hoiberg was introduced as the 19th head coach in Bulls franchise history after an extremely brief search with Hoiberg seemingly the only candidate. One thing we can say for sure, Hoiberg is a lot better prepared for his first experience on an NBA bench than Floyd.
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After covering Hoiberg as a player during his Bulls stint from 1999 to 2003, I can tell you he is an extremely bright, hard-working person who truly enjoyed competing on the highest level and welcomed his interactions with the media. During his introductory news conference, Hoiberg told the story of wanting to make a comeback as an NBA player during his time as a Minnesota Timberwolves executive, even after having a pace-maker implanted following heart surgery. Of course, he knew that would be impossible, but he missed the competition that much.
Hoiberg joked about being a bench player with the Indiana Pacers in the late 90’s, watching his teams lose some classic battles to the Michael Jordan-led Bulls. And, he even fondly remembered his days on those historically bad Bulls’ teams under Floyd and Bill Cartwright. Hoiberg was an excellent three-point shooter, leading the NBA in 2004-05 by knocking down 48 percent of his attempts beyond the arc. All in all, he played 10 seasons before his heart condition forced an early retirement, making his mark as a competitor, shooter and teammate.
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Spending four seasons in the Timberwolves front office gave Hoiberg the chance to appreciate the long hours and hard work it takes to construct an NBA roster, but he always felt that at some point he wanted to get back to the front lines as part of a coaching staff. When Iowa State’s Greg McDermott (the father of Bulls forward Doug McDermott), decided to accept a job offer at Creighton, Hoiberg was given the opportunity to coach his alma mater. Over his five seasons on the Cyclones’ bench, Hoiberg produced some of the NCAA’s most efficient offensive teams, taking Iowa State to the big dance four times.
Now, Hoiberg brings that fast paced offense to the NBA level in Chicago. He’ll ask Derrick Rose and the other Bulls guards to push the pace at every opportunity, looking for early offense and open three-point shots. Hoiberg says he will use analytic research to help devise the best way to attack opposing defenses and get the most out of the talent on the Bulls' roster.
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Today’s NBA has become a shooter’s league with all four of the Conference Finalists in this year’s playoffs ranking among the Top 5 in three-point shooting. The Bulls have some underused players on the bench in McDermott and Tony Snell, and to a lesser extent, Nikola Mirotic, who should get consistent playing time in Hoiberg’s offensive system.
Will that be enough to carry the Bulls past LeBron James and the Cavs in next year’s playoffs? Only time will tell. But in hiring a trusted friend like Hoiberg, Gar Forman pretty much ensured harmony between the front office and coaching staff. And, for all the players who chafed under Thibodeau’s relentless, demanding approach in recent years, Hoiberg’s arrival should bring some much needed smiles to the Advocate Center.