Butler apparently isn’t the only Chicago player who’s had problems with Hoiberg.
Some of them have said it publicly – Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson to a certain degree. A lot of them don’t believe in Fred Hoiberg right now. It’s just as simple as that.
The Bulls really appear to miss Tom Thibodeau. It’s as if the players forgot what playing under Thibodeau was like. Three Bulls starters – including Butler – reportedly ripped Thibodeau in exit interviews last season. Thibodeau could be abrasive and wear on people over time.
But he also won.
Chicago won at least 45 games and made the playoffs each of his five seasons. These Bulls would have to win out to win 45 games, and they’re outside playoff position right now.
Hoiberg’s transition from Iowa State to the NBA has been rocky, and he must improve to succeed in the pros. But sometimes, he receives unfair criticism. Butler, Noah, Mike Dunleavy and Nikola Mirotic have all missed significant time with injury. Butler – Chicago’s best player – still doesn’t look healthy. That isn’t Hoiberg’s fault.
Yet, it affects his standing with his players. Unaccustomed to losing, they’re looking for a culprit.
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Maybe the Bulls thought they’d do better without Thibodeau and now regret ousting him. But if management kept Thibodeau – whose defense showed major slippage last season from its previous elite levels – there’s a good chance Chicago’s record wouldn’t be much better. I’d bank on it being a little better, because Thibodeau is a better immediate coach than Hoiberg and the team would have more familiarity with the schemes. But better enough to satisfy the players?
It’s hard to follow someone as successful as Thibodeau, and perception of Hoiberg – fair or not – could turn into reality. If his players doubt his ability, they’re less likely to commit fully to his schemes. That’d help explain dropping three straight games to the Knicks, Knicks and Magic before grinding out an ugly win over the Pacers. And if the Bulls keep losing, players are even less likely to buy in.
Momentum is working against Hoiberg. He has to find a way to reverse it.