Fred Hoiberg

Wolves Notes: Hoiberg, Saunders, Wiggins, Thibodeau

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is trying to quell speculation that Fred Hoiberg is in line for a coaching or front office job with the organization, relays Danny Lawhon of The Des Moines Register. Hoiberg, who was fired by the Bulls last month, has past experience with Minnesota, both as a player and an assistant GM. But during a trip to Iowa today to see the team’s G League affiliate in action, Taylor emphasized that he is committed to seeing what interim coach Ryan Saunders can do.

“My goal would be that Ryan would be successful,” Taylor said. “That would be the ideal thing for us.” Saunders, the youngest coach in the league at age 32, got off to a good start Tuesday with a win at Oklahoma City.

Taylor told reporters he reached out to Hoiberg after he was fired in Chicago last month, but hasn’t talked to him since the Wolves dismissed Tom Thibodeau on Sunday.

“We had already made up our mind on Ryan (as interim coach), because Ryan has worked with these players, been there all year,” Taylor said. “That was the easiest way to make the transition.”

There’s more Timberwolves news to pass along:

  • Saunders didn’t get much time to prepare before taking the reins as head coach, writes Sid Hartman of The Star Tribune. He left the Target Center after Sunday’s win over the Lakers, but was asked to return and learned that Thibodeau has been fired. He ran his first practice Monday and had his first game as head coach last night. “With not a lot of sleep, coffee and not a ton of food,” he said of the process. “There wasn’t much time to do anything other than prepare. Really just trying to dive into the work. And talking to the team, to meet with the players and get their thoughts on things.”
  • Saunders held individual meetings with each player on the roster, including one in which he encouraged Andrew Wiggins to become more assertive on the court, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Wiggins responded Tuesday with 40 points and 10 rebounds. “He’s excited. We’re excited for him,” Wiggins said. “To get this win for him, I know it means a lot to him and his family. We’re going to keep at it.”
  • Thibodeau will probably have to be successful as an assistant again before he gets another head coaching job, states Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. He cites Thibodeau’s strained relationship with the front offices in both Minnesota and Chicago as reasons that other teams will be reluctant to give him much power right away.

O’Connor’s Latest: Spurs, Porzingis, Sixers, Wolves

The Spurs are viewed by front office sources around the NBA as a team with “significant interest” in Kristaps Porzingis, reports Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Porzingis will be a restricted free agent this summer and while the Knicks are expected to retain him, they may be pushed by rival suitors if they’re unwilling to put a fully guaranteed maximum salary offer on the tables themselves.

Of course, as O’Connor acknowledges, San Antonio isn’t particularly well positioned to make Porzingis a lucrative long-term offer. Even if they waive and stretch Pau Gasol, who has a partially guaranteed salary for 2019/20, the Spurs will have about $96MM+ in guaranteed contracts on their books for next season.

That $96MM+ figure doesn’t account for San Antonio’s first-round pick or any other cap holds. Assuming a projected salary cap of $109MM, the team would need more than $27MM in room to offer Porzingis his maximum salary. In other words, even if the Spurs’ does have serious interest in the Knicks’ young big man, they’d have to reshape their roster substantially to go after him — New York’s top competition for Porzingis may ultimately come from elsewhere.

Here’s more from O’Connor:

  • While Jimmy Butler‘s issues with the Sixers‘ offensive system appear real, league sources tell O’Connor that the All-NBA swingman has “developed a good relationship” with Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. On Monday night, we passed along Butler’s comments on Brett Brown and the coach’s system.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns said on Monday that no one saw the firing of Tom Thibodeau coming, and it seems that doesn’t just apply to the Timberwolves‘ players — sources tell O’Connor that the decision came as a shock to many in the organization, and some staffers are “in limbo with no idea about what will happen next.”
  • According to O’Connor, league sources believe Fred Hoiberg will be a top candidate for the Timberwolves‘ permanent head coaching position, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Sunday. However, there have been no formal conversations between Hoiberg and owner Glen Taylor about the job, and the club is expected to wait until the offseason to make any decisions on its full-time coach and general manager. For now, coach Ryan Saunders and GM Scott Layden will remain in those roles.

Hoiberg To Seek Coaching Job, Not Front Office Role

After being fired by the Bulls earlier this season, Fred Hoiberg appears to be taking his time to determine his next step. When he does get serious about lining up his next job though, he’ll be seeking a coaching role – either in the NBA or in college – rather than a front office position, he tells Zach Lowe of ESPN.com.

“My passion is in coaching,” Hoiberg said, “and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.”

In the wake of Tom Thibodeau‘s firing in Minnesota on Sunday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski identified Hoiberg as someone who could be in contention for the Timberwolves’ GM or head coaching job, given team owner Glen Taylor‘s fondness for him. Before he coached in Iowa State and Chicago, Hoiberg served as an assistant GM in Minnesota’s front office, so a return to a management role wouldn’t be out of the question.

Still, a report today indicated that the Wolves have no immediate plans to pursue Hoiberg as their coach or GM. And given Hoiberg’s comments to Lowe, it sounds like he’ll exhaust his potential coaching opportunities before he gives serious consideration to taking another front office job.

As for what those head coaching opportunities might look like, Hoiberg will probably have to wait until the spring, when a number of NBA teams and NCAA programs figure to conduct full-fledged coaching searches. After Hoiberg was let go by the Bulls, reports suggested he’d prefer to remain in the NBA’s coaching ranks, but he tells Lowe that’s not necessarily the case.

“I am not prioritizing one over the other in respect to the NBA and college,” Hoiberg said. “The jobs are so different that you cannot compare them, so I plan on evaluating whatever opportunities may come independently.”

Latest On Tom Thibodeau, Wolves

Contrary to a report that emerged last night in the wake of Tom Thibodeau’s firing in Minnesota, former Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg is not an “immediate candidate” to become the team’s next coach or president, a source tells Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Interim coach Ryan Saunders will be given an opportunity to earn the job on a permanent basis, Krawczynski adds, and he has strong support from his players, who respect his work ethic and welcome his approachable nature as a change from Thibodeau. The organization will consider hiring an assistant who has experience as a head coach to help Saunders with the challenges of his new position.

GM Scott Layden was retained last night and will likely remain in place for the rest of the season, but he may need the team to make the playoffs to keep his job beyond that.

While the Wolves have a disappointing 19-21 record, the decision to part with Thibodeau was based on business as much as basketball, Krawczynski writes. The coach had become unpopular with fans, who routinely booed him every time his name was announced in pre-game introductions. Even worse, they were staying away, as Minnesota has dropped to 29th in home attendance after ranking 21st last season. The organization didn’t want to keep an alienating presence in place with a season ticket drive looming.

It’s no secret that owner Glen Taylor was unhappy with Thibodeau and Layden over how they handled the situation with Jimmy Butler before he was traded to the Sixers. Taylor commented several times that he believed both men were dragging their feet on Butler’s trade request and that they let the volatile star hijack the team during training camp and the early season.

Thibodeau has long had a reputation of giving heavy minutes to his starters, and several players complained about poor communication over their roles. Krawczynski reports that Gorgui Dieng, who has fallen out of the rotation after signing a huge contract, was “openly seething” in the locker room after Friday’s game. Tyus Jones, Anthony Tolliver and Jeff Teague have also expressed frustration over their status on the team.

As one of the few remaining coach/executives left in the league, Thibodeau’s standing was also harmed by several personnel decisions that didn’t work out. He was the driving force behind the decision to send Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a draft pick that turned out to be Lauri Markkanen to the Bulls to acquire Butler. He also convinced Taylor to part with Ricky Rubio in exchange for Teague. And of course, he was responsible for bringing Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, his former players in Chicago, to Minnesota to form the “Timber-Bulls.”

Taylor was in Florida last night as Layden and CEO Ethan Casson delivered the news to Thibodeau. Taylor’s only comment came in an official statement from the organization, saying, “These decisions are never easy to make, but we felt them necessary to move our organization forward.”

Timberwolves Fire Tom Thibodeau

The Timberwolves have fired Tom Thibodeau as their head coach and president of basketball operations, according to Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (via Twitter). After dealing with the Jimmy Butler fiasco, the Timberwolves currently sit at 19-21 and are on the outside looking in on the Western Conference playoff picture.

Krawczynski is also reporting that Ryan Saunders will take over as head coach on an interim basis while Scott Layden will still serve as the team’s general manager.

Meanwhile, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that Fred Hoiberg is a serious candidate to become the team’s GM or coach. Hoiberg previously served as the Timberwolves’ assistant GM before leaving to be the head coach at Iowa State University. Wojnarowski also believes that Monty Williams may emerge as a serious candidate for the coaching position due to previous interest that the Timberwolves had in bringing Williams in as head coach.

Team owner Glen Taylor spoke to the media about the decision to fire Thibodeau, stating that “we’ve gone up through halfway through the season and I don’t think we’re where we thought we would be or where we think we should be.” Taylor also expressed a desire to make the playoffs, believing that making such a change with half the season left may give the Wolves a chance to do so.

In two and a half seasons with the Timberwolves, Thibodeau had a 96-107 regular season record, leading the club to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2004. However, his decision to acquire Butler from his old team in Chicago ultimately led to his downfall. Although the All-NBA swingman helped Minnesota win 47 games in 2017/18, his offseason trade request – and Thibodeau’s initial reluctance to grant that request – created several weeks of drama within the organization and didn’t reflect well on Thibs.

Thibodeau’s firing represents a continuation of a trend in the NBA’s head coaching ranks. Within the last two years, four head coaches who held president of basketball operations titles within their respective organizations have had those responsibilities removed or have been fired altogether. Mike Budenholzer (Hawks), Doc Rivers (Clippers), and Stan Van Gundy (Pistons) were the others. Gregg Popovich of the Spurs is now the only NBA head coach who is also his team’s head of basketball operations.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

And-Ones: UCLA Coach, Withey, Delfino, NBAGL

With Steve Alford out as the head coach at UCLA, and the program launching a search for Alford’s replacement, a pair of former NBA head coaches have already been linked to the position.

Marc Stein of The New York Times tweets that there have been “persistent rumbles in NBA coaching circles” that the Bruins would pursue Fred Hoiberg, though it’s not clear if Hoiberg would be open to returning to the NCAA. After he was let go by Chicago earlier this season, reports indicated that Hoiberg wanted to remain in the NBA.

Meanwhile, a source tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link) that former UCLA guard Earl Watson would have interest in the job. Watson, who coached in Phoenix from 2016-17, has strong AAU ties and was close with Bruins legend John Wooden, Spears notes.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Veteran NBA big man Jeff Withey had been playing in Turkey this season, but he and Tofas Bursa have parted ways, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Withey, who has logged more than 200 regular season NBA appearances, played in nine games for Dallas in 2017/18.
  • An NBA forward from 2004 to 2013, Carlos Delfino had been playing with Fiat Torino this season, but his time with the Italian club came to an abrupt end last week. According to Carchia, Delfino had a heated argument with Fransesco Forni, who is Fiat Torino’s VP and the son of the team’s owner. Forni issued a statement saying that Delfino “almost assaulted” him, and the club opened disciplinary proceedings against the veteran after cutting him. Delfino disputed the notion that there was any sort of physical confrontation and explained his side of the story to Carchia.
  • Former first-round pick Rashad Vaughn has changed NBA G League teams, with the Delaware Blue Coats acquiring him today from the Texas Legends, per a press release.
  • Speaking of the G League, Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days recently took a look at some of the challenges facing Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who is taking over as the NBAGL president.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Hoiberg, Blazers, Young

While Fred Hoiberg would prefer to continue coaching at the NBA level, Marc Stein of The New York Times believes league-wide interest in the former Chicago head coach will be limited. Stein suggests that the Timberwolves – and owner Glen Taylor – are fond of Hoiberg, but they’re “the only known team to rate Hoiberg so highly.” It’s possible that Minnesota could move on from Tom Thibodeau at season’s end and consider Hoiberg at that point, but speculation about Thibodeau’s job security has quieted down since the Jimmy Butler trade.

Here’s more from around the Northwest division:

  • After getting off to a 10-3 start this season, the Trail Blazers have dropped 10 of their last 15 games and are currently the ninth seed in the West, on the outside of the playoff picture. Jason Quick of The Athletic takes a look at whether Portland can turn things around with the current roster, or whether it might be time for president of basketball operations Neil Olshey to go out and make a move.
  • Newest Nuggets swingman Nick Young has yet to appear in a game for his new team, but spoke earlier this week about getting another shot to contribute in the NBA, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post relays. “(Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly) called me, he said, ‘Are you 240 (pounds) right now, 250?’ I was like, ‘I’m close. No, just kidding.'” Young joked. “I told him I’m ready whenever.”
  • The Thunder‘s offseason upgrades went beyond simply swapping Carmelo Anthony for Dennis Schroder, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman, who explores all the ways this season’s OKC squad is better than last season’s.
  • David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders explores which teams in the Northwest are likely to be buyers at the trade deadline and which will end up being sellers.

Bulls Notes: Record Loss, Hoiberg, Dunn, Arcidiacono

New Bulls coach Jim Boylen didn’t hold back his criticism after Saturday’s 56-point loss to the Celtics, the worst defeat in franchise history, relays Malika Andrews of ESPN.

“I think your play is embarrassing,” said Boylen, who pulled his five starters for the night three minutes into the third quarter. “… I worked for [Spurs head coach] Gregg Popovich. He subbed five guys a ton of times. Nobody says a word to him about it. He felt that was best for the team. I felt that was best for the team where we were at. I wanted to give the other guys a chance to see if they could right the ship a little bit. If I don’t like the five guys out there, if I don’t like the combination, I’m going to look at a new combination. Take them all out, let them sit there and think about it.”

There was plenty to think about, and none of it was good. Chicago fell behind 17-0 and went more than six minutes of the first quarter without scoring. The deficit was 32 points when Boylen decided to pull Ryan Arcidiacono, Zach LaVine, Justin Holiday, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter, who combined for 27 points on the night, the lowest total for a Bulls starting lineup in 11 years. Fans booed loudly throughout the game as the team fell to 6-21.

“We don’t have that internal toughness yet to play at this level consistently,” Boylen said afterward.

There’s more this morning from Chicago:

  • Bulls management claims that former coach Fred Hoiberg was dismissed because he lost his influence with his players, but the real reason was a deteriorating relationship with GM Gar Forman, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Bobby Portis was the latest player to come to Hoiberg’s defense Saturday. “He’s a players’ coach, lets guys go out there and do what they do, get better,” Portis said. “Me, personally, he helped me develop my game a lot, so I credit a lot of things toward him. To say that he lost the respect of the locker room, I don’t think that’s a good way to put it.’’
  • Portis and Kris Dunn are both close to returning from knee injuries, although neither played Saturday. Dunn’s return will mark a critical time in his career, as he becomes eligible for a rookie contract extension at the end of the season, Cowley notes in a separate story. Dunn has been effective since coming to Chicago last year, but it’s not clear if the front office is fully invested in him as the point guard of the future. Cowley states that the team had a private workout with Trae Young before the draft and considered taking Collin Sexton with the seventh pick before opting for Carter.
  • Arcidiacono’s high-energy game has made him an effective fill-in during Dunn’s absence, writes Sam Smith of NBA.com.

Bulls Notes: Hoiberg, Boylen, LaVine, R. Brown

Within an article on Fred Hoiberg‘s dismissal, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic passes along several interesting tidbits, reporting that multiple league sources said Hoiberg had lost the team, with Bulls players no longer believing in his system.

Those players were also “increasingly emboldened” to challenge the head coach’s authority, according to Mayberry, who cites specific instances where Jabari Parker and Antonio Blakeney undermined Hoiberg and weren’t reprimanded. Zach LaVine was also essentially given “carte blanche” by Hoiberg to get away with whatever he wanted, writes Mayberry.

One source told Mayberry that Jim Boylen had essentially been the Bulls’ de facto coach in the early part of this season, though a team source disputed that idea, explaining that Hoiberg “coached his desired portions and delegated other aspects to Boylen.” Still, that team source acknowledged that Boylen was “always the bad cop,” with Mayberry suggesting that the players respected and responded more to Boylen’s personality.

Here’s more out of Chicago:

  • While Boylen initially said that he expected the rest of the Bulls’ assistants to remain on the staff, the team announced in a press release on Tuesday that assistant coach Randy Brown had resigned. According to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter links), Boylen confirmed that Brown stepped down after being asked to take on a different role — Brown would have moved behind the bench and would have had fewer in-game duties, though his out-of-game responsibilities would have increased.
  • Boylen spoke this week about his goal to “build [the Bulls’] culture in a positive way” and explained why he believes he’s the right man for the club’s head coaching job, as Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago details. Meanwhile, Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago explored how the Bulls’ offense and rotations figured to change under Boylen.
  • In a pair of pieces for ESPN.com, Malika Andrews weighed in on why Hoiberg failed to have success in Chicago, and relayed some comments from Bulls players on the club’s coaching change. According to Andrews, Zach LaVine said on Tuesday that he sent a text message to Hoiberg thanking him for the hard work he put in with the Bulls. “At the end of the day, Fred is a great dude and you respect that,” LaVine said. “You know he did a good job here. He was under some circumstances that he can’t control.”

Bulls Notes: Hoiberg, Boylen, Markkanen, Parker

The Bulls‘ decision to fire Fred Hoiberg wasn’t based on his win-loss record as the team’s head coach, executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson said today to reporters, including K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Instead, Paxson explained, it was more about Hoiberg’s struggles to get his identity across to his team (Twitter link via Johnson).

“We were in a similar situation last year at this time. Poor record,” Paxson said (Twitter link via Johnson). “But the entire energy about this group was different then. What we’re lacking is an energy and spirit. It’s not as simple as saying we would’ve got that with healthy players.”

Associate head coach Jim Boylen will take over for Hoiberg, and he won’t just get the interim title. Paxson said today that the organization believes Boylen will be able to “affect change,” adding that the longtime assistant will be given the opportunity to remain in the role next season and possibly beyond (Twitter links via Johnson). For his part, Boylen told reporters that he believes he’s “a more passionate in-game coach” than Hoiberg (Twitter link via Johnson).

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • The eventual firing of Hoiberg was inevitable after his relationship with Jimmy Butler deteriorated, in the view of Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago. Meanwhile, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News and ESPN’s Zach Lowe both make the case that the Bulls’ management group didn’t put Hoiberg in a position to succeed.
  • Lowe also observes that Hoiberg is not a “forceful personality,” which may have contributed to his inability to succeed in Chicago: “I have come to believe after talking to lots of sources over lots of years now,” Lowe writes, “that (Hoiberg’s) tepid nature played some role in his inability to imprint any foundational belief upon any of his four Chicago teams.”
  • In a separate article for The Sporting News, Deveney identifies eight potential candidates to become the Bulls’ next long-term head coach, starting with Boylen.
  • Boylen’s first move as the Bulls’ head coach will be to insert Lauri Markkanen into the starting lineup, shifting Jabari Parker back to the bench, per The Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link).
  • The rest of the Bulls’ assistants will be retained, and the team will also add G League coach Dean Cooper to its coaching staff, according to Boylen (Twitter link via Johnson).
  • As we detailed in an earlier story, Paxson said today that GM Gar Forman is “absolutely safe” in his current role.