Fred Hoiberg knows how perception works.
After all, Ames, Iowa, isn’t that tiny of a town.
When the Bulls parted ways with Tom Thibodeau after last season, despite the coach still owed $9 million over the next two years and owning a ridiculous .647 regular-season winning percentage, all eyes instantly turned to Iowa State and Hoiberg.
Not only because he was rumored to be on the radar of general manager Gar Forman for over a year, was friendly with Forman, but maybe the most important reason as far as both Forman and VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson were concerned: He wasn’t Thibodeau.
To label the breakup between Thibodeau and the front office as irreconcilable differences would be kind.
But there’s one misconception out there that Hoiberg adamantly wanted to clear up. This idea that Gar-Pax got their anti-Thibs, their puppet, their yes man?
“I’ve never been a yes man, I’ll never be a yes man,’’ Hoiberg told the Sun-Times. “I’ve got a job to do, and I hired a great staff that I’m excited about and the chemistry we have. But yeah, if they wanted a yes man they hired the wrong guy, because that’s definitely not me and has never been me.’’
Well, so much for that.
Hoiberg even took it a step further, and doubled down when asked about the dialogue he has with Paxson and Forman.
“No, I wouldn’t say that,’’ Hoiberg said, when asked if there have been disagreements between himself and the front office since he was brought on. “I’ll ask their thoughts. John played this game for a long time at a very high level. He coached this game, so I’ll ask them things.’’
Then asked if he has the final say, however, Hoiberg responded, “Absolutely, no question.’’
A no-nonsense, fiery answer, and not at all what many would expect from Hoiberg.
Not that Hoiberg isn’t used to that perception. Whether it’s Midwest upbringing, his nickname “The Mayor,’’ or his calm demeanor on the bench, he’s undoubtedly typecast. Fact is, Hoiberg has more in common with Thibodeau than many think, and that’s a competitiveness to win at anything and everything.
“It’s not bothersome,’’ Hoiberg said, of the perception of him. “I think the people that know me well, they understand my competitive drive. They understand what I’m all about. My equipment manager with the Timberwolves said I would have been a great pitcher because I had some great tantrums in the locker room. I’d throw all kinds of stuff if I didn’t play well. I’d break things, throw things, so I’ve got a tremendous competitive streak, it’s just … I don’t know if I hide it well or what it is, but it’s something I was born with.
“If I lost in a board game when I was a kid I would throw the board across the room. I hated losing. People that know me well, they understand that competitive drive and that I will do anything to win.’’
Not just talk from Hoiberg, either.
Through the first two weeks of the regular season he’s already moved Joakim Noah from a starting job to a bench role in a contract year, been very public about the expectations required of Derrick Rose and followed that up when they weren’t met, and has made first-round pick Bobby Portis wait his turn – like it or not.
“Obviously I was hired to come in and do the job to the best of my ability,’’ Hoiberg said. “All that other stuff … people can think what they want.’’