MINNEAPOLIS – Fred Hoiberg isn’t without blame.
After all, the first-year Bulls coach actually believed what was coming out of the mouth of his so-called friend in general manager Gar Forman.
Enough so that he actually left the comforts of Ames, Iowa, walked away from a successful basketball program which he built, and chose to be dropped smack dab in the middle of Team Dysfunction.
That, however, is about as much blame as Hoiberg should receive in this.
Actually, in the hierarchy of the blame game that is now the 27-23 Bulls, Hoiberg is sitting comfortably third, well below the players, and miles away from a front office that has been allowed to function for years with very little accountability.
Have there been coaching mistakes made by Hoiberg in his first NBA gig? Without question. That comes with the profession. But the idea of the coach’s job being on the line? Complete fantasy.
First of all, board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is not going to pay $9.5 million next year for both former coach Tom Thibodeau and Hoiberg to be unemployed. So go ahead and put that thought to rest.
What Hoiberg also has in his favor is the backing of his players. Besides Joakim Noah privately being very unhappy with his role changing from starter to reserve late in training camp, the complaint box for Hoiberg has remained empty.
“He’s good,’’ veteran forward Mike Dunleavy said of the coach. “He’s such an even-keeled guy. He works at it. He’s a terrific coach. We’ve been fortunate the last couple years to have a good coach in Thibs and a good coach in Fred. But as players we have to figure it out and be better.
“I’ve watched him throughout the season. He gets his point across pretty clearly. I don’t know if you’d rather see him running up and the sidelines throwing towels and getting technicals and stuff like that. But I feel good about what our coaching staff is doing and putting us in the right positions. We have to make stuff happen.’’
Well, they have to at least try over the next few months, because this roster as currently constructed is headed for a facelift. With Pau Gasol already admitting he will opt out of his player option, as well as Noah heading into free agency, the attempt at reloading will begin.
That’s where Bulls basketball is these days. One misdirection after another. Last year, this so-called “championship roster’’ was supposedly held back by Thibodeau, and this year, well, a puff of smoke from the sleeves of Gar/Pax, and look, it now magically falls on the players.
Meanwhile, as the Sun-Times reported last week, the two-headed snake of Gar/Pax is already starting to turn on each other – or at least one of the heads is – with several NBA sources saying that Forman has been busy trying to wipe his fingerprints off of the decisions gone bad just in case Reinsdorf does start taking a look at front office changes.
That, however, doesn’t fix the now. Hoiberg’s first priority is continuing to try and make his players understand that soft is no way to go through an NBA game. No easy feat considering the roster is full of different agendas, but a message he feels he is well-equipped to deliver.
“We’ve battled adversity since Day 1,’’ Hoiberg said. “You gotta find a way to battle through [adversity] and have guys step up and fill those roles.
“Getting the five toughest players you can out there and go out there and finish the games for you.’’
Good luck finding that.