It’s incredibly odd that they exist at all. Thibodeau is by no means a perfect coach, but the Chicago Bulls seem utterly unhappy with him, even after he’s led them to recurring playoff berths despite a host of injuries to key players over the last four seasons. He’s either not coaching up to the front office’s standards, or he and Chicago’s brass just don’t get along.
Whatever the issue, assuming there is one, his future in Chicago remains up in the air. And before you say anything negative, it’s been that way for a while, so he’s “survived” offseasons before. Difference this time is, the Bulls reportedly have a replacement in mind: Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg.
Per ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:
It is widely — and I mean widely — believed throughout the league that Fred Hoiberg, whose Iowa State Cyclones were bounced in the first round of the tournament Thursday by UAB, is the top choice of the Chicago Bulls to replace Tom Thibodeau in the event that the Bulls and Thibs indeed part company at season’s end.
Hoiberg has been linked to NBA gigs for a while. His uptempo, spacing-friendly offense system aligns with the NBA’s modern-day ideals, and he’s helped reinvent the Iowa State Cyclones into an NCAA powerhouse—this year’s first-round exit at the hands of UAB notwithstanding.
Last season, the Minnesota Timberwolves were the team most often associated with Hoiberg, but to no avail. He had a cushy new contract extension with Iowa State, so an NBA jump quickly became a fantasy for any interested in franchises.
Like the Timberwolves, the Bulls are one of the NBA squads Hoiberg spent time with during his playing career. If he’s nostalgic at all, or perhaps interested in taking over a possibly ready-made contender, they could be a serious threat to poach him from the college ranks.
At this rate, we’re not even asking if he’s a better fit for Chicago than Thibodeau. We’re more wondering whether Thibs has run his course in the Windy City.
Incessant rumors aren’t helping anyone, from Thibs himself to the front office to the players. It implies the Bulls are creating an unstable infrastructure, making it difficult for us to buy into their contender status at all, incumbent talent be damned.
Switching to a guy like Hoiberg would be a breath of fresh offensive air. His system is more inventive and might actually help a healthy Derrick Rose, who would have more available driving lanes thanks to the smaller lineups Hoiberg would presumably run. Unlike Thibs, Hoiberg is also more likely to rely on youngsters like Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Tony Snell out of sheer hope and interest and belief, rather than desperation.
The coup de grace: Hoiberg is better-suited to pilot a rebuild. In the event the Bulls are unable to contend this season (likely) and face even more health concerns next year (incredibly possible), a rebuilding track, where they scrub the roster of veterans in favor of picks and prospects, becomes an option they must at least consider, if not all-out pursue.
Thibodeau, again, isn’t known for his patience with the raw. Hoiberg would come in as something of a Brad Stevens figure, a fresh face in a big basketball market, ready to endure a years-long process that must be staged, no matter how unsavory it seems. And if this rebuild, if this reset, is in any way possible, he would be the guy, not Thibodeau—if not because of the potential redirection itself, then because the Bulls and Thibs just seem better off without each other in general.