Somebody up there really must not like Fred Hoiberg. Somebody above the pay grade of a Reinsdorf, any Reinsdorf.
What higher power would allow the torture that John Paxson and Gar Forman inflicted on the former Bulls coach? Or, for that matter, on the rest of us? And for so long?
Think about it: Hoiberg watched two-thirds of the core of the Bulls’ rebuild go down with injuries — Lauri Markkanen before the season began and Kris Dunn after one game. Oh, and Bobby Portis went down, too. Then Hoiberg had to sit through Cameron Payne and Jabari Parker and the rest of the hellishness of the early season. He watched his offense reduced to whatever Zach LaVine wanted to do with the ball whenever he wanted to do it.
Then finally, gloriously, Markkanen made his season debut Saturday. And the Bulls fired Hoiberg on Monday and replaced him with associate head coach Jim Boylen.
Apparently, you don’t want to cross the Man Upstairs. Or the two guys with jobs for life, Gar-Pax, who pulled out the knife Monday.
‘‘What we’re lacking is kind of an energy and a spirit about our team, and we need to get that back,’’ Paxson said of his decision. ‘‘It’s not as simple as saying we would have gotten that with healthy players, with Lauri coming back, Kris Dunn coming back, Bobby coming back. It wasn’t going to be that simple; it was more than that. We need to find a spirit to our group that’s been missing and missing for quite some time.’’
Who cares about the spirit and energy of a group that didn’t include two of the three building blocks for the future? It’s like caring about the brown bag holding cheap wine. It wasn’t Hoiberg’s fault that the rest of the Bulls’ roster was made up of marginal NBA players. Paxson is taking Hoiberg to task for a lack of effort and passion by some of the players on his team, but who signed those players? Whose job was it to look into the character of those players? Who should have known some of them might quit when times got hard?
Gar-Pax is the answer to all three questions.
I wouldn’t begin to try to make the case that Hoiberg was a great coach or that he deserved another season beyond this one.
But now? Really? Twenty-four games in and the cavalry finally coming?
The Bulls at least should have given Hoiberg the opportunity to see what he could do with Markkanen, LaVine and Dunn. That was the whole idea of this season. If the Bulls were judging him for his work with Parker, Robin Lopez and the rest, there should be combat pay involved. You can argue that he’ll get paid the rest of his $25 million contract through next season, but Hoiberg wasn’t in it for just the money. He was also in it for the light at the end of the tunnel.
He might want to leaf through the Geneva Convention to see if he’s in line for reparations. What happened Monday is beyond cruel.
This goes back to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf because almost everything does. Coaches come and go, but the vice president (Paxson) and general manager (Forman) stay. It’s the Reinsdorf Way to stand for ages by executives who haven’t delivered. See the White Sox.
‘‘From Jerry Reinsdorf, [president] Michael [Reinsdorf], myself and Gar, we have a high standard for how we want the game to be played,’’ Paxson said, breaking some news at the news conference.
Gar-Pax gets the Reinsdorf benefit of the doubt on the rebuild, but Hoiberg doesn’t.
Scott Skiles, Vinny Del Negro, Tom Thibodeau and Hoiberg go, and Gar-Pax, who hired those coaches, stays.
‘‘Gar is absolutely safe,’’ said Paxson, whose job, too, appears to be as safe as an air-raid shelter.
It’s not good when the first reaction to much of what the Bulls do is a bewildered shake of the head.
Boylen will get a chance to see the rebuild take positive steps. The Bulls say they want him for the long term.
‘‘We believe Jim will be able to effect change, hopefully quickly,’’ Paxson said.
Of course, he will. He’ll have two players Hoiberg didn’t — Markkanen and Dunn, also known as Energy and Spirit. Boylen said he’ll be more passionate during games than Hoiberg was. Hoiberg sometimes passed for a mannequin on the sideline, so I think Boylen is on to something here.
But still. Hoiberg might not have been the coach to take the Bulls from Point C to Point B. But it wasn’t fair to fire him 24 games into Point C.