In The Scope: Hoiberg’s Firing Covers Deeper Issue With Bulls Management

By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)

Chicago Bulls fans and observers across the NBA came into this season knowing that it would be a struggle for survival for this team, but no one, including me, thought that such a fight would include getting rid of their head coach.

Fred Hoiberg was relieved of his duties earlier this week as the Bulls head coach; assistant coach Randy Brown would also follow him out the door, himself resigning after the staff only lead Chicago to a 5-19 start.

The new leader of this young squad is former top assistant Jim Boylen and the team is already claiming him as the coach for the near future, which for now includes next season. Yes, change is needed in Chicago, but it should not come from the coaching staff, at least not only. Change in this case would be more needed from upper management.

General Manager Gar Forman and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson have not always been so trustworthy when it comes surrounding a solid roster players around the right coach. Yes, the duo known as GarPax can be credited with the hiring of coach Tom Thibodeau, with whom they accumulated a 476-286 record and a trip to the playoffs each of the five seasons he coached — which also included a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011, and more importantly, an established winning culture.

But since things soured with Thibodeau and led to his being replaced by Hoiberg in 2015, only mediocrity has been established at the Advocate Center. Hoiberg’s record as Bulls coach in three-plus seasons was 115-155, featuring only one playoff berth and that was a first-round exit as an eighth seed. 

I have never been a fan of Hoiberg as a head coach, especially since he was a rookie head coach chosen as the successor to Thibodeau, who is arguably the second-best coach in Bulls history. At no point to me did he seem the appropriate successor to lead a very talented Bulls team featuring the youngest MVP in league history, Derrick Rose, and rising star Jimmy Butler.

But the Bulls guaranteed the city that change was needed, and Hoiberg was going to be the guy to help re-shape the franchise and make it one to compete in the moment and going foward, even though none of us saw it.

Hoiberg was coming in expected to help strengthen a rebuild process that management promised him, however Gar Forman and John Paxson changed courses within a year of his hiring.

Even though they showed signs to pull the plug and rebuild at the end of the 2016 season, they brought in veterans Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo. At the 2016-17 trade deadline, when the Bulls had the opportunity to attempt adding some depth to the roster, they traded away Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson to the Thunder for basically nothing in return.

Not to mention that during that season numerous big chemistry outbursts occurred, creating an emotional roller coaster among the three “alpha males” and the rest of the young players in the group who they alienated in most ways.

After that, they officially stamped the rebuild button and traded Jimmy Butler for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the team’s 2017 first-round pick Lauri Markkanen.

This trade, due to the positive contributions of Markkanen and LaVine, can be seen as the highlight of GarPax’s post-Thibs era contributions, but it still came with complications, including LaVine being out over half of his first season in Chicago due to an ACL injury and injury issues with Dunn dating back to last season up to the present, and Markkanen, who missed the first 20-plus games of this season and is just returning.

We also should not forget to highlight the lack of depth in the point guard position between Cam Payne and Ryan Arcidiacono and the injuries to Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine, who is out for the season with ankle surgery.

It is management’s job to provide their coach with the necessary players and resources for the coach to excel. Hoiberg was never given that chance and was set up to fail from the beginning.

It was not a good look for Forman and Paxson to fire Thibs, bring in their guy in Hoiberg in a deal that was reportedly plotted months before the firing of Thibs, claim that he is their coach of the future and fire him mid-season while juggling a shortened roster without offering the guy the option to see what the future holds.

Hoiberg’s firing is just another reason why the GarPax era must end, and until that direction is taken by the Bulls this once proud franchise will continue to only lick its wounds to heal without applying proper medical treatment.  

 Joshua M. Hicks is the lead columnist of WARR 
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