The squeaky clean image served Fred Hoiberg well throughout most of his basketball career, as an NBA player, a member of the Minnesota front office, and of course the Iowa State head coach in his hometown of Ames, Iowa.
He was the kid next door that helped the old lady cross the street. He was “The Mayor.’’
Truth be told, however.
Behind the scenes Hoiberg can curse with the best of them. At times enough to make a truck driver blush.
He can be sarcastic and he can throw his share of verbal jabs.
Thank goodness for that because it’s now needed.
After last season’s disaster of not only missing the playoffs, but looking like a collection of players that were broken from the top on down, squeaky clean was the last thing this latest version of the Bulls wanted to see.
“He’s more talkative,’’ veteran forward Taj Gibson said of Hoiberg’s new approach in Year 2. “He understands the game a lot more from an NBA coaching standpoint than last year. This year already, he’s been going at guys. He’s been cursing a lot more in the early parts of practice than last year.’’
You hear that Jimmy Butler? Yes, Hoiberg is coaching harder.
It was Butler who publicly undressed his then rookie coach last season, insisting after a December loss in New York that Hoiberg needed to not only hold players more accountable, but “coach harder.’’
That started a domino effect that Hoiberg never really seemed to recover from.
Fair or unfair, Butler’s comments fed into the image that Hoiberg already had, and pretty soon the court of public opinion had deemed Hoiberg soft. It didn’t help that his team often played soft, especially in the second half of the season.
Changes were demanded, and changes were made, as Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah were either traded or allowed to walk.
But changes were also asked of Hoiberg, and while he insists he’s the same guy in this training camp, the players that were around last season beg to differ.
“I’ll say this, the guys have been great,’’ Hoiberg said, when asked about his new attitude. “If we’ve gotten on them, they’ve handled it the right way. They’ve tried to get better with the mistakes that have been made. One thing we’ve talked about, it’s gonna be a demanding camp.’’
Starting with the coaching.
“Everyone has their own ways of getting things across,’’ veteran Dwyane Wade said. “I think last year, a lot of the things that were said about Fred, I don’t see it this year. I think that was his first year, he was like a rookie. Coming in, he’s really made the adjustment, coaching this team.
“But he has guys that are going to let him coach as well. I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying the way he’s leading us. When he wants to get on us, he gets on us and when he’s ready to lay back and let us make mistakes, which we’re gonna do, he’s done that. It’s been good.’’
Nice to hear from Wade. But an even better endorsement when it comes from Butler.
“It was his first year last year,’’ Butler said of Hoiberg. “I think he studied himself and us and the way we were up and down in so many areas of the game last year that he’s trying to correct it. That’s just like anybody going into the offseason. He didn’t just not work. He studied and got better at what he needed to get better at.’’
Curse words included.