The Chicago Bulls, Fred Hoiberg, Tom Thibodeau, and Rumors Versus Reality

Injured, banged up, with rumors of an impending firing of Tom Thibodeau whenever the season was to be over, the Chicago Bulls are no longer in the NBA playoffs.

Sad face, right? Well, maybe not if you are management, which has reportedly been wanting to fire Thibodeau when the season was over. That time is now for the Bulls, and without a deep playoff run which would have enabled Thibs to be beyond reproach, Chicago can now move on if that is what it truly wants to do.

Tom Thibodeau will be fine, regardless. If Chicago does indeed pull the plug on the relationship, it won’t be too long until an organization (New Orleans) calls him for a gig. For all his limits — chiefly the ways in which he manages his players’ minutes — he manages to transcend them. He can succeed in a new place, where his talents have yet to be worn thin by his supposedly gruff nature.

What will be next for the Bulls, though? More reports — or “rumors” — have Chicago eyeing the Mayor of Ames, Fred Hoiberg. To be clear, in the interest of full disclosure: I think Fred Hoiberg is all that like Rachael Leigh Cook. I also, selfishly, hope he stays in college to continue his “Five More Athletic Freds” (FMAF — say it with me) system with Iowa State.

The Fred Hoiberg is wanted by an NBA team banter is nothing new. He has been mentioned for nearly every open gig over the last two seasons — for good reason, too. He has NBA connections, been a tremendously successful college coach, and there are even reports that his “dream” is to coach in the NBA.

That’s sad news for people like me, who prefer him to apply his craft at the college level because there simply aren’t enough guys in that part of the basketball realm who allow their players to play, and do not micromanage games to the point of nausea. (I digress.)

As much as I am a fan of Hoiberg, though, there is a reason to think Chicago is not the best fit for him.


While one of his best attributes as a coach is letting his players dictate the system by relying upon their talents, most associate Hoiberg’s brand of basketball with an up-tempo, free-wheeling, “jack’em up if you’re open” style of play. Those qualities are not exactly synonymous with the Chicago Bulls or their players.

He could certainly adapt his system to fit that roster, but what roster — exactly — would he adapt it to? Jimmy Butler is rumored to be in line for a max deal; Joakim Noah is a terrific player, but one that spent much of the year playing through injuries; Derrick Rose has zero knees; and there aren’t a ton of guys on that roster, even if everyone comes back, which fit that up-tempo, three-point-heavy style of play.

Again, Hoiberg can change his system to fit the roster’s talents. In fact, it is a safe assumption that not only can he do so, but put in a better offensive structure than the one the defensive-minded Thibodeau had in place.

Even if we were to put aside a theory that Hoiberg might stay in college forever because he likes it, let’s pretend it is inevitable: Fred Hoiberg is going to one day coach an NBA team.

Why would he choose the Chicago Bulls?

There’s talent on the roster, for sure. At the same time, though, it is aging, hurt roster with the type of talent which has clocked many minutes on aging, hurt legs, all thanks to the coach the Bulls will supposedly fire at some point in the relatively near future.

Is this the best job Hoiberg can or will be offered? Coaches with less experience, success, or any other tangible attributes, have certainly been gifted better jobs.

Maybe Hoiberg would prefer to look for a job that has a roster he has fewer worries about — perhaps not one with as much talent, but certainly a younger one that he can mold, with a front office that will put his “type” of players on it, and a group which isn’t mentally scarred from the year-after-year reality of having its star player(s) injured, while others play hurt. Hoiberg should relish freedom from the hyperbole, narratives, and general hogwash that come with having Derrick Rose on a roster — which should be noted: It is not Rose’s fault.

It doesn’t really matter, though — not right now, at least. Rumors are going to be buzzing in and around Chicago until Thibs is fired, and when his replacement is hired. However, those are all indeed rumors — much like like Area 51 being a secret alien laboratory place, Atlantis being at the bottom of the Susquehanna River, and there being a fully functioning set of neurons and synapses inside my cranium. All pure speculation.

For the NBA, specifically its offseason, rumors drive the discussion. It is fun, probably even important, for fans to do such things to keep their hopes, dreams, and fantasies alive. For Bulls fans, maybe the idea of Fred Hoiberg coming to Chicago to implement a system similar to the one he has in college does that for them. It is their offseason medical marijuana, their drug which keeps their hopes high, while attempting to get over the 2014-’15 season.

However, Chicago, don’t get so excited that you end up being yet another NBA fan base disappointed that Hoiberg didn’t answer your organization’s beckoning call.

About Joseph Nardone

Joseph has covered college basketball both (barely) professionally and otherwise for over five years. A Column of Enchantment for Rush The Court on Thursdays and other basketball stuff for The Student Section on other days.