The Bulls’ poor performance in December could cost coach Fred Hoiberg his job, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.
Sources tell Stein that Chicago is “increasingly assessing the coaching fit” as the team slides down the Eastern Conference standings. The Bulls stand at .500 after going 6-9 this month and recently went through a stretch where they dropped six of seven. Back-to-back wins this week over the Pacers and Nets have done little to ease the feeling that a coaching change might be necessary.
The 44-year-old Hoiberg is in just his second season as an NBA coach after leaving Iowa State, and the Bulls’ front office is concerned that he hasn’t been able to take control of a veteran roster. He has been protected so far by a five-year contract worth about $25MM that would cost the organization a significant amount of guaranteed money if he is fired.
Hoiberg still has a strong supporter in GM Gar Forman, who identified him as Tom Thibodeau’s successor well before a coaching change was made. Hoiberg was considered to be an innovator on offense, but Stein points out that the Bulls’ attack remains predictable and still relies heavily on isolation.
Some of that is due to a roster that doesn’t fit Hoiberg’s preferred approach of pushing tempo and spreading the floor. Chicago’s main additions this offseason were Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, two veteran guards who are limited threats from 3-point range.
Those moves were made by Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, who are also targets of growing fan frustration, Stein notes.
Chicago currently has a tenuous hold on the final playoff spot, just a half-game ahead of the Wizards and only two games above the 12th-place Magic. If the team’s fortunes don’t improve quickly, Hoiberg could become this season’s first coach to be replaced.