McGraw: Why Hoiberg makes sense for the Bulls

  • Everyone is convinced Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg is far and away the top candidate to be offered the Bulls' coaching job.

    Everyone is convinced Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg is far and away the top candidate to be offered the Bulls' coaching job. Associated Press

Updated 5/29/2015 7:26 PM

One of the first questions for the Bulls in the aftermath of Tom Thibodeau's dismissal is how long will Gar Forman and John Paxson spend on the coaching search.

Everyone is convinced Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg is far and away the top candidate to be offered the job. Will the Bulls get down to business and try to close the deal quickly or will they conduct a "search" and interview some other candidates before making a decision?


Hoiberg makes sense for a number of reasons. Since becoming Bulls general manager in 2009, Forman has shown a preference for surrounding himself with longtime allies. His top assistants are Randy Brown, who played at New Mexico State while Forman was on the coaching staff, and Brian Hagen, once a student assistant for Forman and Tim Floyd at Iowa State.

Forman was an assistant at Iowa State during Hoiberg's senior year in 1994-95. Hoiberg then played for the Bulls from 1999-2003. When Hoiberg joined Minnesota in 2003, he sold his house in Buffalo Grove to Forman.

It all makes sense, now we're just waiting for a resolution. In the meantime, here are some thoughts on the events of Thursday, when Thibodeau was officially fired:

• No matter how Bulls fans feel about the firing of Thibodeau, they should feel good about Hoiberg, if he does end up taking the job. He's smart, played 10 years in the NBA and worked in the Timberwolves front office for a time.

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Since taking over at Iowa State, Hoiberg led the Cyclones -- which hadn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 2005 -- to the tournament four times in five seasons. His current record at Iowa State stands at 115-56, with one trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

His basketball life is similar to Steve Kerr. Hoiberg is a few years younger and didn't have quite the same success as Kerr. In his first season as an NBA head coach, Kerr led Golden State to a 67-15 record and a date in the NBA Finals.

One thing Kerr has with the Warriors is an experienced staff around him. He has two of the most respected NBA assistants on the bench in Ron Adams and Alvin Gentry.

Would the Bulls make sure Hoiberg had the same type of support? Well, Adams worked for the Bulls twice and was asked to leave both times. The rift between Thibodeau and the front office was never more apparent than when Adams -- Thibodeau's best friend in coaching for more than 20 years -- was let go as the lead assistant in 2013.


When Vinny Del Negro was hired by the Bulls in 2008 with no previous coaching experience, they gave him two veteran assistants in Del Harris and Bernie Bickerstaff. Harris lasted just one season.

In both cases, the offending assistant coach had a reputation of being head strong. Forman and Paxson seemed to make it clear they want the next coach listening to them. An experienced NBA assistant might have different suggestions, so it's easy to see this becoming a touchy subject.

• The most surprising occurrence on Thursday wasn't Thibodeau getting fired. Everyone saw that coming. It was Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf lending his name to a blistering critique in the team's official news release.

If you missed it, some of the highlights were "there must be free and open interdepartmental discussion" and "internal discussions must not be considered an invasion of turf."

Remember, Reinsdorf spends most of the winter in Arizona and isn't involved in the daily operations of the Bulls. Most likely, the statement included the critical thoughts of Forman and Paxson, and Reinsdorf agreed to endorse them.

Reinsdorf is showing loyalty to his management team, and firing Thibodeau is a gamble that could end up backfiring. But Forman and Paxson will be in good standing as long as the United Center stays full.

The better question is why say anything at all? Just thank Thibodeau for helping produce the second-best stretch in team history, insert a line about it being time for a change and move on.

The repeated attempts to blame and discredit Thibodeau -- who owns the sixth-best winning percentage in NBA history -- just make the Bulls look petty and unprofessional. Whatever happens with the new coach, try taking the high road next time.

• Get the latest Bulls news via Twitter by following @McGrawDHBulls.


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