The Bulls have formally hired Fred Hoiberg as coach, the team announced via press release. Chicago’s preference for the Iowa State head man was a poorly kept secret and his hiring has been widely expected in the wake of the team’s dismissal of Tom Thibodeau last week. Hoiberg is receiving a five-year, $25MM contract, figures that Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported Saturday and Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports confirmed Monday.
“In Fred, we feel that we’ve got a guy who has a terrific package of skills: a winning coach, a natural leader and a great communicator,” Bulls GM Gar Forman said in the team’s statement. “He is a guy that has played in the league, has been an executive in the league and has had unparalleled success coaching at Iowa State—winning multiple Big 12 Championships, consistently having nationally ranked teams and NCAA Tournament teams. There is no question that we think he’s the right fit and that he will maximize the potential of this team.”
Hoiberg’s teams at Iowa State have ranked in the top 30 in estimated offensive efficiency among Division I schools each of the past three seasons, according to Sports-Reference. That’s a sharp contrast to Thibodeau, who’s strength is on the defensive end. The new Bulls coach guided Iowa State for the past five years after he spent four seasons in the Timberwolves front office following a 10-year NBA playing career that included a four-year tenure in Chicago.
Only 42 years old, Hoiberg underwent open heart surgery in April, helping fuel some doubt about whether he would jump to the NBA this year. Still, Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard last month framed the idea of Hoiberg becoming an NBA coach as a matter of when and not if. The Bulls spoke to Hoiberg about his interest in joining their team during the season, even as Thibodeau was still coaching, as Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv reported.
“I am very excited and thankful for the opportunity to coach the Chicago Bulls. Everyone back in Ames [Iowa] knows what Iowa State means to me and my family. I am closing a special chapter in my life and beginning a new one here in Chicago,” Hoiberg said in the team’s statement. “Being a head coach in the NBA has always been a goal of mine and to be able to do it at this time with the Bulls was the right fit for me. Having played in the league for 10 years, and then worked in a front office of an NBA team for four years, I am ready to begin this next phase of my career and help this team win an NBA championship.”
Alvin Gentry, whom the Pelicans hired this past weekend, was expected, prior to Thibodeau’s dismissal, to be a front-runner for the Bulls vacancy, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, and Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin was in the mix for the head job, too, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported. Nonetheless, the job was Hoiberg’s to lose, as K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote when the Bulls fired Thibodeau, and sources told Randy Peterson of The Des Moines Register that Hoiberg would accept if offered. Forman appears to have been the driving force from Chicago’s end, having been “obsessive” about the pursuit, as Wojnarowski wrote.
Johnson wrote over the weekend that Hoiberg was expected to accept the Bulls coaching job prior to the start of the NBA Finals on Thursday. The notion that Hoiberg would be Chicago’s next coach seemed undeniable, even as he declined to mention the Bulls by name as he spoke to reporters before boarding a plane to Chicago late Monday, and even as the Bulls sent out a press release Monday night promising a “major announcement” today.
The Bulls job will be Hoiberg’s first NBA head coaching position after he went 115-59 in his five seasons at Iowa State, qualifying for four NCAA Tournaments and making one Sweet 16 appearance. He joins Billy Donovan, who went from Florida to the Thunder, as the second college coach this offseason to jump into his first NBA head coaching job.