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.
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.
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.
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.