Fred Hoiberg’s first season as the Bulls head coach was underwhelming, and failed to live up to even subdued expectations. Fire him now. He can’t cut it. He is simply not the right man for the job! All of these statements could be true, but he deserves the chance to prove they aren’t.
Head coaches in the NBA have a very short shelf lives. In fact they have the shortest average tenures of all four major professional sports. The last time the Bulls hired a college head coach was fellow Iowa Stater Tim Floyd, who famously flamed out in the post-Jordan era.
A hallmark of some of the most dysfunctional franchises in professional sports, is having an extremely short leash on head coaches. The examples in the NBA alone are shocking.
At eight years, Erik Spoelstra is the second-longest tenured head coach in the league. His current run is really amazing considering he was thought to be unfit for the job at the beginning of the Big-3 era in Miami; even after leading the Heat to the playoffs in his first two years.
Hoiberg came to Chicago with NBA pedigree, 10 years as a player and five in the front office.
Very few successful college coaches have gone on to win in the NBA. John Calipari failed to live up to expectations at the next level, yet he is still linked to NBA jobs. Rick Pitino spent a few failed seasons in with the Celtics before returning to college. His failure did not prevent the Celtics from hiring another successful college head coach years later.
Past failures do not mean Hoiberg cannot coach in the NBA. Just as the success of Brad Stevens in Boston doesn’t mean Hoiberg will turn things around in Chicago in his second year.
Most players go through some ups and downs when making the transition from college to the pros. Coaches are rarely given a similar opportunity.
The job of a head coach in major professional sports is similar to a CEO’s (relax, I understand they aren’t the same thing). And NBA coaches are often under far more public pressure to succeed quickly. Yet the average tenure for a CEO is roughly nine years. The average for an NBA head coach is less than two.
These are cutthroat jobs, and there are very few of them. The need to win, and win quickly, is paramount. And it will always be much easier to fire a head coach then revamp an entire roster. Therefore it happens a lot, which can be a hard sell in a players’ league.
Hoiberg was brought to Chicago to bring a new, more modern brand of basketball to the team. At the time most outlets were excited about the hire. It did not work out in Year 1. But the Bulls were hoping to make a gigantic change overnight, which is very hard to do.
This is not to say that Hoiberg will be able to flip the switch in Year 2, but he could. Hastily making a change after one season is what loosing franchises do. Look at the complete train wreck going on in Sacramento.
Tom Thibodeau was replaced for many reasons. The biggest basketball reason for his dismissal: he was never able to get the offense flowing.
Hoiberg failed to do any better in his first year. And his sideline demeanor leaves this writer yearning for more heart (no pun intended, seriously). But far too often people on the outside assume they understand more about basketball then NBA head coaches.
That being said, Hoiberg should take the summer to try and better understand what rotations he wants to play next season. He featured far too many different lineups this season, highlighted by sporadic playing time. However, much of this was due to injuries, as well as completely inconsistent play throughout the roster.
Hoiberg’s biggest mistake was having Joakim Noah come off the bench, which internally rubbed him and most of the team, the wrong way. This decision very well could have come down from the front office, since they deemed Pau Gasol the only big above coming off the bench. Thibodeau, and eventually Hoiberg, made a point of addressing Gasol’s issues by benching him at the end of games due to his inability to defend at an average level.
With Gasol likely to opt out this summer, this problem will be alleviated. Without Gasol, and even if Noah does not return, the Bulls will be able to start at least one front-court player who has the ability to guard the pick-and-roll.
Many very reasonable people are blaming the Bulls’ failures squarely on Hoiberg. This may be true, but he deserves to prove that it is the case, and one year simply isn’t a large enough sample size.
Firing him now would only make an offseason full of turmoil and rumors even worse.
The Mayor’s sophomore season in Chicago will be here soon enough. And it might very well be disastrous, but he deserves a real chance to prove he can’t coach this team.