Are The Bulls Bringing in ‘The Mayor’?
The Mayor is moving to Chicago.
The Bulls plan to introduce Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg as their new coach on Tuesday, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
Hoiberg had long been rumored as the replacement for Tom Thibodeau, who was fired last week after five seasons in Chicago. The person spoke to the AP on Monday night on condition of anonymity because the contract had not been finalized.
The Bulls said in a release they would make a major announcement on Tuesday.
Hoiberg went 115-56 with the Cyclones, including four straight NCAA Tournament appearances and back-to-back Big 12 tournament titles. He had open-heart surgery in April.
Before flying to Chicago to speak with the Bulls, Hoiberg acknowledged that several NBA teams had approached him about their vacancies in recent years.
“When this opportunity came about, this was something that interested me greatly,” Hoiberg said. “One of my life goals is to coach in that league.”
Hoiberg said the speculation over his future had been “extremely tough.” Hoiberg grew up in Ames and earned the nickname “The Mayor” while starring for the Cyclones in the 1990s.
Hoiberg joins a team that entered last season with championship aspirations with Derrick Rose back from his latest knee injury and Pau Gasol in the lineup after signing last summer, only to come up short. The Bulls struggled through injuries to win 50 games and got knocked out by the banged-up Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Their season ended with a listless loss in Game 6. By then, long simmering tensions between Thibodeau and the front office had boiled over, and the Bulls let him go May 28 even though he took them to heights they had not reached since the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen championship era.
Hoiberg played four seasons with the Bulls and has a long history with general manager Gar Forman, who was clearly enamored with the successes enjoyed by Iowa State. Hoiberg also spent four years in the Timberwolves’ front office.
Hoiberg had never coached at any level before the Cyclones took a chance on him in 2010. It proved to be one of the smartest risks in school history.
Hoiberg’s fast-paced style was a hit with fans and players, and he leaned heavily on transfers like Royce White and Will Clyburn to quickly bring the Cyclones into national prominence. Iowa State was a trendy Final Four pick in March before a stunning opening-round loss to 14th-seeded UAB.
Hoiberg was poised to coach his most talented team yet next season, with six of his top eight players back and a top-10 ranking all but a certainty. The lure of a reunion with the Bulls proved to be irresistible.
The Bulls are following a familiar route by hiring Hoiberg to take over for Thibodeau, who had a 255-139 record in Chicago. After all, they brought in Tim Floyd from Iowa State and parted with Phil Jackson when they broke up the dynasty.
In Chicago, Floyd’s players included Hoiberg, who also played for Larry Brown and Larry Bird in Indiana as well as Flip Saunders and Kevin McHale with the Timberwolves before his pro career ended abruptly when an aneurysm required open-heart surgery at the age of 33. The 42-year-old Hoiberg had another procedure on April 17 to replace an aortic valve and was expected to need four to six weeks to recover.
Floyd posted a 49-190 record in three-plus seasons with the Bulls. But the circumstances are different this time.
Hoiberg, who played at Iowa State when Forman was an assistant to Floyd, inherits a far more talented team.
He will have a former MVP running the point in Rose. Guard Jimmy Butler is expected to sign a maximum contract as a restricted free agent after making his first All-Star team and winning the Most Improved Player award. Gasol made his fifth All-Star team. Nikola Mirotic emerged as one of the league’s top young players.
But there are some big questions.
It remains to be seen if Rose can consistently play at an elite level the way he did before he suffered season-ending injuries to each knee. Gasol turns 35 in July. Joakim Noah struggled coming off knee surgery.
Noah and Rose were on minutes restrictions this past season, a big point of contention between Thibodeau and management. The idea was the Bulls would be in better shape for the playoffs, but it went against Thibodeau’s belief that good habits are developed through repetition.