Like just about everyone else, I was surprised — no, shocked — that the Chicago Bulls fired coach Tom Thibodeau. Despite injuries and defections, he coached the Bulls beautifully, a team that over-achieved and which nearly pulled off a miracle. The new coach is Fred Hoiberg, who was highly successful at the NCAA level at his alma mater, Iowa State. However, there are some that hold him responsible for a few front-office decisions, when he was with the T-Wolves, pre-Iowa State, that did not exacly pan out. So, the jury is still out on his player evaluations.
Now, I should explain that I’m not really a ‘fan’ of the Bulls. They became a franchise in 1966, when I was 30 years old. I think you start to be a fan of a team when you are a youngster, as I became a fan of the Cubs, the Bears and the Blackhawks. I was a fan of Chicago’s first NBA franchise, the Chicago Stags, which started with the old BAA (later merged with the NBL to become today’s NBA) in 1946 and folded in 1950. So, I tell people I’m happy for the Bulls when they are successful, as they are a Chicago team, but my heart is still linked to the Stags.
That’s a good thing, as it gives me an impartial view of the Bulls and their ups and downs. Their previous success was due to having the right people. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf is controversial but he’s won big with both the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Bulls. He had Jonathan Kovler and Rod Thorn in the front office when they drafted Michael Jordan, the key to their success. He later handed the GM reins over to Jerry Krause, who filled in the other 11 slots around Jordan. He hired Phil Jackson as their coach and Jackson’s work speaks for itself.
So, it’s going to be interesting to see if Fred Hoiberg can duplicate the success of Tom Thibodeau. Yes, former college coaches are, once again, the rage, as they were in the 1970s: Brad Stevens with Boston; Billy Donovan with Oklahoma City; now Fred Hoiberg with the Bulls. I don’t think he’ll have an easy time of it but they do have a solid team, a playoff-level team. Under ‘Thibs,’ they played great team defense and unselfish offense. Well, the jury is out on their choices to fire Thibodeau and hire Hoiberg. They’d better be right.