Who Should Bulls Fans Blame?
What can be expected from Fred Hoiberg? Realistically, given the type of offense he was hired to run and the roster he has since been given, who do the Bulls struggles fall on? Chicago welcomed the second half of the season by adding a fifth – yes, I said fifth – point guard to their roster (Cameron Payne). Management also traded away their most consistent player, outside of the three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler, in veteran forward Taj Gibson and their best shooter, Doug McDermott.
When Fred Hoiberg was hired as head coach in Chicago, the move was meant to take the Bulls from a perennial playoff team to a legit title contender, perhaps similar to the results Golden State saw when they fired Mark Jackson and hired Steve Kerr. Hoiberg planned on running a faster offense, more in line with today’s modern NBA than Tom Thibodeau’s defensive minded coaching scheme.
Despite it already being made clear that Hoiberg’s job will not be in jeopardy and that Bulls fans will be seeing both Gar Forman and John Paxson – despite GarPax protests – next season, one or more of these parties should be held accountable for the recent struggles in Chicago.
Many have tried to determine how Fred Hoiberg has done as head coach for the Bulls by comparing the team’s statistics of his short time in Chicago to those of previous head coach Tom Thibodeau. The roster remained essentially the same between Thibodeau’s final season and Hoiberg’s first, so the numbers should clearly mark Fred’s success or failure. In Thibodeau’s last season, 2014-2015, the Bulls averaged 100.8 points per game, while holding their opponents to 97.8 points per game. The narrative the entire year was that they couldn’t get baskets late in games when they needed them the most. Last season, Hoiberg’s first, Chicago averaged more points per game at 101.6. They also struggled to stop opponents, giving up 103.1 points per game, which was a big part in why the team also won 8 fewer games last season. Based on these numbers alone it’s apparent that Hoiberg has failed thus far in his coaching tenure in Chicago, but what if the recent struggles go beyond the numbers?
Perhaps these discrepancies can be attributed to Fred Hoiberg’s different coaching style, focused more on offense and up-tempo basketball. Hoiberg inherited a roster that had been molded around a defensive style of play, a roster that was not suited to play this brand of ball.
Gar Forman and John Paxson brought Fred Hoiberg to Chicago so he could run a faster and more athletically driven team; one that focused on pushing the ball in transition and shooting more threes. Their roster moves have contradicted these plans, though. Since Hoiberg became head coach, GarPax have lost many of the shooters – via the trade market or free agency – that were on their roster, opting to sign several guards who have struggled from beyond the arc in their careers, including Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, and Michael-Carter Williams.
In today’s sports landscape, many times a coach takes the brunt of the blame when a team struggles, but it is management’s responsibility to provide their head coach a roster that can play the kind of basketball he thinks will win ball games. Gar Forman and John Paxson brought in Fred Hoiberg to run the type of fast paced offense he utilized so effectively while at Iowa State. It’s time they gave him the roster he needs to do just that. Until then, Bulls fans must have some patience with Hoiberg.
Info and stats from Basketball Reference and ESPN