Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg opens up about pressure he feels heading into Year 4
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LAS VEGAS — Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg still has some unease discussing two topics.
First and foremost, he still shakes his head — almost in disgust — when the term ‘‘Hoiball’’ is thrown his way.
The nickname for his offense carried weight in his days coaching at Iowa State, but now? No, thanks. He wants nothing to do with it.
Second, Hoiberg seldom gets into his personal feelings, especially his emotions.
But his guard came down a bit when talking Saturday to the Sun-Times. Hoiberg was open about knowing exactly what’s at stake this season, especially heading into the fourth year of his five-year contract.
‘‘It’s too hard to operate when you have that mindset of what could potentially happen,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘You have to live in the moment and you have to coach in the moment. There is a tremendous amount of pressure that comes with this job for all 30 of us in this position. You just try and go out and handle it as what’s best for the future of the franchise.’’
That means not dwelling in the past. That’s not a big problem for Hoiberg, who has tried to stay even-keeled through the good and bad that has come his way since he took over for Tom Thibodeau in 2015.
But for his family? Well, that’s a sore spot, given what they’ve gone through. There’s a reason his children started attending fewer home games the last two seasons.
‘‘Again, there’s a lot of pressure in this job, especially in this market, so I understand the pressure and the expectations to get this turned around quickly,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘You can’t sit around and consume yourself with the negativity that’s out there; you can’t. You have to continue to go out and keep your head down, grind and do what you can for the betterment of your team.
‘‘I think the hardest thing is when it affects your family. When your kids are at games, that’s not easy. It hasn’t always been easy to deal with. That was hard. That was difficult when your kids are getting yelled at and that type of thing, but you learn to deal with it and you grow. I’ve been proud of my kids for doing that and fighting through some tough times.’’
Hoiberg’s critics say the Bulls have underachieved in his tenure. He inherited a playoff team, then the Bulls squandered a 2-0 playoff lead against the Celtics with four consecutive losses in his second season. They finished 27-55 last season after embarking on a rebuild.
Those who see the cup as half-full say Hoiberg inherited a team in chaos with the departure of Thibodeau, then had some bad luck when Rajon Rondo went down in that playoff series against the Celtics, allowing them to come back. They also say the Bulls overachieved last season, hurting their chances of a higher lottery pick.
How does Hoiberg see it? It’s useless chatter for him. His focus is on what he has now: continuity at last.
‘‘One thing I’m really excited about is we’ve got a lot of the same personnel coming back for the first time,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘We’ve had pretty much a completely different roster through the first three years, so one thing I’m looking forward to will be having continuity with this group of players where we have a lot of the things in.’’
Just don’t call it ‘‘Hoiball.’’