Bulls forward Taj Gibson has a harsh message for Fred Hoiberg’s detractors.
Gibson, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:
“They need to just shut up,” Gibson said. “Everybody tries to discredit this man, and it’s rough. He’s a rookie coach taking on a veteran group. Give him some slack, man. It’s hard enough as it is to come in. You’ve got the whole city of Chicago on your back. It’s tough. But I think he’s just learning. He’s learning, he’s doing a good job, he’s staying with us, and I’m riding with him no matter what.”
The awkward part: Some of Hoiberg’s critics might share a locker room with Gibson. Jimmy Butler publicly criticized Hoiberg earlier in the season. Joakim Noah was reportedly unhappy with Hoiberg before the center’s season-ending injury. “A lot” of Bulls don’t believe in Hoiberg, according another report.
I wonder how Gibson’s teammates feel about Gibson’s comment.
Gibson’s assessment is pretty fair. Hoiberg is in his first season as an NBA coach, coming from Iowa State. Brad Stevens (for college coaches) and Steve Kerr (for first-year coaches) have raised expectations ridiculously high for those following them. By a reasonable standard – like pretty much every college-to-NBA coach in the 25 years before Stevens – Hoiberg is doing OK. Unlike Billy Donovan, Hoiberg can’t rely on superstars like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
That said, Chicago isn’t positioned to ride out an inexperienced coach learning on the job. This is a veteran team, and the Bulls were certainly looking for an immediate boost when they fired the successful Tom Thibodeau. Maybe Thibodeau will grow into a long-term upgrade, but he’s not providing the desired immediate boost. The roster doesn’t perfectly fit Hoiberg’s desired up-tempo offensive system, and he hasn’t proven capable of adjusting.
Gibson sounds patient enough to wait for the roster to change or Hoiberg to develop the ability to coach a different system. The forward’s public support could help give Hoiberg breathing room to work on his craft. This could all work out in time.
But until then, Gibson might have contributed to a locker room divide with such pointed comments.