Full disclosure: I am a casual fan of the Chicago Bulls. I was a kid during the Michael Jordan era. Thanks to his high-flying ways and WGN’s Bulls broadcast schedule, I really didn’t have any choice. Like everyone else, I wanted to "be like Mike."
Last night, I kicked my feet back to watch the Bulls – now led by head coach Tom Thibodeau – do work in a 99-92 second round playoff victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavilers.
All game long, I sat to myself thinking, “What in the world is all the talk of firing this guy about? He’s one of the best coaches in the game. No reason could be good enough to let this guy go.”
I have always been an admirer of “Thibs.” Thibodeau is a defense first guy, a disciplinarian if you will. Thanks to the fragile nature of Derrick Rose, Thibodeau has endured nothing but bad luck during his five years in the Windy City.
However, Thibodeau is anything but a likeable guy. I’ve been told this by many smart people in the game. He doesn’t see eye-to-eye with ownership and management. He’s hard on the players. Thibodeau comes off as a bit of a grouch in general.
I – the fan – says, “Get over your differences, improve in the offseason and win multiple championships with a healthy Derrick Rose (laughable, I know) leading the way."
This is what is stupid about the NBA. Egos always seem to get in the way. To a lesser degree, we saw the same thing happen last year in Golden State when Mark Jackson was shown the door and Steve Kerr took over (although this transaction didn’t turn out too badly for the Warriors).
I’m not writing this today to be a Fred Hoiberg to the NBA whistle blower. Over the next couple of months, I’ll be the guy who does anything but that. But after making a few phone calls to friends in the industry and more importantly, reading this piece written by (in my opinion) the most connected journalist in the NBA, Adrian Wojnarowski, this job is opening at the end of the season regardless of what the Bulls do in the playoffs.
“Even now, his stature won’t stop the inevitable parting this spring,” Wojnarowski wrote.
The words "last stand" appearing in the headline?
Wow. That’s strong stuff.
The Hoiberg to Chicago rumors have been out there for almost a year now. I’ll give credit to a guy I love, ESPN’s Bill Simmons, for being the first to float that one out there last June.
Do I think that this will be the case this offseason? Honestly, I don’t know. But gun to my head, I’ll take Fred being in Ames at least one more year.
Do I think that the Bulls job is going to open after Chicago is eliminated from the playoffs? Again, the Bulls fan in me loves “Thibs.” I think he is a top 10 basketball coach in the world. I think he is the best man for the job and I want him to be there.
Gun to my head? Yes, this job will be open. It’s all over between "Thibs" and the Bulls in Chicago. Sadly, the two sides appear to be past the point of no return.
Who will the Bulls target? Hoiberg will absolutely be on the list. In many ways, he is the anti-Thibodeau. Fred has no ego. He’s an offense-first “players coach” who has yet to develop an enemy in 42 years of life.
But the Bulls will have a championship caliber team again next season. Replacing “Thibs,” this franchise will have the pick of the litter in the offseason. Within reason, Chicago will have the funding and the talent to go out and hire any man of its liking.
Will that really be a rookie named Fred Hoiberg out of Iowa State? It could be, but I don’t think it is a slam dunk either. A who’s who in the world of basketball coaching will be lining up for interviews.
Fred very well could have a decision to make. He’s made other decisions in the past to stay in Ames. I hope that he does this time around as well.
If Fred doesn’t plan on moving up though, I’d love to see a Kevin Ollie/UConn, “I’m not going anywhere,” type of statement released at some point in the near future. All of this noise can’t be helpful on the recruiting trail.