Besides an exchange of text messages right after Fred Hoiberg was fired last month and assistant Jim Boylen took over, the two friends have not had any contact.
A strained relationship? Just life in the NBA? Likely both, but Boylen was still hoping that the Hoiberg-to-the-Timberwolves rumors were true.
“Absolutely, he [deserves another chance in the NBA],’’ Boylen said Monday. “The best coaches at every level have been let go. I mean, you could list them. I could list them.
“I learned a ton when I was let go at [the University of] Utah [in 2011]. I learned a ton and grew a bunch, and that’s what it’s about. You take your moments at this level, and you learn and you grow, and if it doesn’t work out where you’re at, you move to the next one.’’
The fates of the Bulls and Timberwolves have been closely interwoven the last few seasons.
Minnesota hired Tom Thibodeau after he was fired by the Bulls, then the teams made a huge deal, sending Jimmy Butler to Thibodeau for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the draft rights to Lauri Markkanen.
Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose found their way up to Minnesota to help Thibodeau break a 13-year postseason dry spell last season. Luol Deng joined the T-wolves this season.
Hoiberg was fired last month, but he still wants to coach in the NBA before weighing college jobs.
Well, look at the job that just opened up.
Minnesota blindsided Thibodeau on Sunday, even though the team had won consecutive games, firing him from his coaching and basketball-operations duties. Hoiberg was quickly atop the rumor list to replace Thibodeau.
He was an assistant general manager with the Timberwolves, still has a home in Minnesota and was loved by ownership.
Those rumors died down a bit by Monday afternoon, especially with Ryan Saunders getting a chance to right the ship for the time being. Saunders, who worked as an assistant under Thibodeau, is also the son of former Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders.
LaVine knows Saunders from his time with Minnesota and gave him the thumbs-up.
• Timberwolves fire coach Tom Thibodeau; Fred Hoiberg a candidate
• Bulls’ Zach LaVine OK after ‘scary one’
“Very happy for him,’’ LaVine said. “His dad, Flip, drafted me, and hopefully I think he might be a Hall of Fame coach one day. I know he’s going to be stepping out there for the first time as a head coach, so with that Saunders name, it’s going to be big for him and his family. I’m happy for him.
“He started off in skill and development and worked his way up. Hard worker. He knows what he’s talking about. Obviously, coaching is in his blood, so there’s gonna be first-night jitters, but I think he’s very prepared for this opportunity.’’
So what exactly happened with Thibodeau in Minnesota and why did it end so quickly? The reasons vary depending on whom you talk to. LaVine, however, might have summed it up best.
“It’s the NBA, man,’’ LaVine said. “I talked to [T-wolves guard] Tyus [Jones] a little bit, just seeing what happened, and he told me that after the game he just got fired. They were all a little surprised because they just started to play well, but NBA, man. We just had the same thing happen.’’
NOTE: The Bulls waived MarShon Brooks and Michael Carter-Williams on Monday after acquiring Carter-Williams from the Rockets for a highly protected second-round pick and cash.