Fred Hoiberg hired by Bulls, confident in transition from college to NBA

ByNick Friedell ESPN logo
Wednesday, June 3, 2015

CHICAGO -- Fred Hoiberg was officially introduced as the new head coach of the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday afternoon.

The former Iowa State coach said he is looking forward to the opportunity that comes with coaching at the NBA level.

"I think the big thing for me is I have always run an NBA-type system," Hoiberg said. "I'm not coming into this [having] never experienced NBA basketball.

"My 10 years as a player after my first [heart surgery] back in '05 when my career was cut short, I was planning on playing hopefully at least another five years. Reality kind of sets in, you move onto the next phase of your life. Those four years in the front office were as valuable of years, for me, as any I ever had."

Hoiberg's arrival in Chicago isn't a surprise. He has long been a favorite of the Bulls' front office and has become a close friend of general manager Gar Forman over the past two decades.

Hoiberg, 42, spent four of his 10 years in the NBA playing in Chicago, and the feeling within the Bulls' organization is that Hoiberg's pro-style offense will pay immediate dividends.

"We had the second-fastest pace of play in all of college basketball last year," Hoiberg said. "We like to get out and play with pace and play with spacing. I think we ran more pick and roll than anybody in college basketball. We really like to flow into an offense as opposed to coming down and getting set on every possession."

When Forman and executive vice president John Paxson announced the firing of former coach Tom Thibodeau last week after five seasons, both Forman and Paxson said that the Bulls needed to find a better communicator for their players.

Hoiberg seems to fit that bill, and the Bulls are hopeful that his ability to get through to players, along with his offensive acumen, can help the organization get over the hump of beating LeBron James in the playoffs. James-led teams have beaten the Bulls in four of the past six postseasons.

Hoiberg noted that after finishing his prep work for games at Iowa State, he would watch NBA games in his spare time, not college games. Forman is looking forward to seeing his friend get to work.

"Obviously we've known Fred for a long, long time and felt very highly of Fred," Forman said. "We have great respect for who he is as a person, and we have great respect for the job that he has done. He's a talented, in-demand coach that has attracted significant interest throughout the league and was on top of our list as we began this process ... as we [visited with him] it became very apparent to us that he was the fit that we had talked about. A fit with our players, a fit with our team, and he was the right guy to maximize the potential of this basketball team."

Hoiberg faces a different challenge than most first-year head coaches, given that the Bulls are built to win a championship right away and may have missed their best chance in this season's playoffs after losing to James and a depleted Cleveland Cavaliers squad.

But Hoiberg remains outwardly confident that he will be able to succeed in Chicago, despite the fact there will be a lot of pressure to live up to the standard Thibodeau set.

Hoiberg compared the pressure of taking the Bulls job to the pressure he felt when he went back to his hometown of Ames to take the Iowa State job.

"I wouldn't have taken [the Iowa State] job if I wasn't confident that I could get it where we wanted and we accomplished some good things," Hoiberg said. "We didn't reach all of our goals but we were pretty darn close getting there. This is a similar situation. I wouldn't take this job if I wasn't confident that we could continue to play at a championship level."

The pressure will be on Hoiberg's shoulders early, and by proxy, those of Forman and Paxson, given the circumstances surrounding Thibodeau's departure.

Hoiberg, who said he feels confident that he will be able to handle the physical rigors of this job after a second open heart surgery in April, called Thibodeau an "excellent" coach and hopes to build on the qualities Thibodeau "instilled" in the Bulls over the past five years.

He said he talked basketball with Thibodeau for 30-45 minutes during a recruiting trip to Chicago a couple of years ago and was hopeful he could speak to Thibodeau again later this summer about his former team.

"I love this roster, I absolutely love this roster," Hoiberg said. "I love the versatility of the players, the different lineups that we're going to be able to play. You can play small, you can play big, you've got lineups that I really think you can get out and play with pace. You've got a great group of veteran players that know how to play."

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