Thibodeau and Hoiberg: linked by all they share, more by all they don’t

After Fred Hoiberg’s first season failed to live up to expectations, the pressure on him mounts, as fans and players contrast his style to the coach he replaced. And now that Tom Thibodeau has officially taken over in Minnesota, the two coaches will be tied to one another for the foreseeable future.

What makes their recently formed ties more intriguing is the fact that they could hardly be more different, while having so much in common.

Thibodeau’s tenure in Chicago was superb. He helped take a middling Bulls team to elite status in the NBA, winning a league-best 62 games in his first year. He coached the Bulls with a ferocity unlike many in the NBA, and his teams played to the brink of exhaustion and insanity for him every night: until they didn’t.

Tom Thibodeau walks United Center during his final season with Bulls. John J. Kim, Chicago Tribune

Tom Thibodeau walks through United Center during his final season with Bulls. John J. Kim, Chicago Tribune

In Hoiberg’s first season in Chicago his team rarely played with energy. His voice was barely audible on the sidelines, and the Bulls missed the playoffs.

When the Bulls’ front office fired Thibodeau it was the culmination of a power struggle that waged for years behind closed doors. And Hoiberg’s name was attached to the Bulls’ job long before he took over in Chicago.

Hoiberg was brought in to do what defensive-minded Thibodeau could not, create a free-flowing offense that had become vogue in the NBA. This season however, the Bulls’ offense was far worse statistically than it was during Thibodeau’s final season. But this does not mean Hoiberg’s system cannot work, or that he cannot coach. Just as much as Thibodeau’s dismissal in Chicago didn’t mean he was no longer held in high regard by many in the NBA.

These two NBA head coaches have many share experiences, having both been around basketball all of their adult lives. However, what makes them so different today are their completely unique journeys, that led them to the same place.

Hoiberg played big-time college basketball at Iowa State, earning First-Team All-Big Eight honors on his way to becoming The Mayor of Ames. Thibodeau’s college career although successful, was done largely out of the spotlight at Salem State University, a Division III school.

Iowa State retired Fred Hoiberg’s number in 1997 - Iowa State Athletics Communications

Iowa State retired Fred Hoiberg’s number in 1997 – Iowa State Athletics Communications

After college Hoiberg went on to have a ten year career in the NBA as a player. Thibodeau began his long journey as a coach right after his graduation.

Thibodeau’s first NBA assistant coaching job in Minnesota, came after years of coaching at the college level. Hoiberg spent five years in the Timberwolves’ front office, 25 years after Thibodeau first arrived in Minneapolis, having had no prior experience.

Thibodeau was an NBA assistant coach for over two decades before he was hired in Chicago. Hoiberg has never been an assistant coach at any level.

Today Thibodeau, is once again tasked with taking a roster led by a young first overall pick(s) out of NBA mediocrity. While Hoiberg, who was handed a battle-tested veteran team, must take them to the playoffs next season.

Fred Hoiberg with Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose season opener 2015. Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Fred Hoiberg with Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose during 2015-16 season opener. Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

These two men, 15 years apart in age and millenniums apart in their basketball philosophies and sideline demeanor, will be linked to one another at every turn next season. And for years to come.

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3 Responses to Thibodeau and Hoiberg: linked by all they share, more by all they don’t

  1. joesilveira says:

    Great post. This was a really heady move on Thibodeau’s part; he’s going to be given autonomous control over a really talented and young team. I’ll never understand why GM’s and Owners think that coaches like Thib’s are disposable, why get in a contest with someone when you know it’s not good for the franchise? I hope the best for Thib’s and can’t wait to see the Bulls stink it up for the next few years.

    Like

  2. rainsbenjamin1122 says:

    Hey Joe. Thanks for reading! I appreciate your take on Thibs and the Bulls, although as fan I don’t want to see them be awful for the next few years.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Talent and heart: Bulls fans want both, yet they might consider taking the latter more often | Let's Be Reason-a-Bull

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