The Iowa State Triangle

The Iowa State Triangle

The Chicago Bulls and their front office are often criticized for being too conservative; frugal with their total player payments, an unwillingness to make significant trades, and zero interest to go after malcontents or 'bad citizens', these are just some of the critical comments associated with General Manager Gar Forman and his predecessor, John Paxson.

Adamant in building through the draft, holding onto team friendly contracts and making plays at free agents every four years as if they were competing in their own Olympics, we know what the mission statement is for this organization.

Though, fair and objective assessments can be made about the lack of creative flare in roster construction, the current model has largely worked. Putting together winning teams in 10 of the last 11 NBA regular seasons, the franchise has experienced a moderate level of sustained success. That, in itself, is an achievement.

With many competitors - particularly in the Eastern conference - consistently forcing the issue and constantly making disastrous decisions that end up costing the team and its fans years of heartache, the Bulls have maintained a winning culture due to the steady and unadventurous style of their leadership.

Interestingly enough, could one argue that this model is changing, or at least being challenged?

Fresh off his internal victory against Tom Thibodeau, Gar Forman, the typically reticent figurehead of the organization, now has full control. He made his bold play, and now he is banking on the state of Iowa to help create and fulfill his vision.

I'm not from the United States. I've never been to Iowa. Such is the hold that a singular state can have over an NBA franchise, I will assume their beer is great and that their Iron Maiden records play and sound much better than what the rest of us commoners are used to.

Forman, a former member of staff at Iowa State University from 1994-98 under the infamous Tim Floyd, would rely heavily on his history and existing connections within the Cyclones program in order to forge the direction of the franchise going forward.

In two successive off-seasons, Forman would make moves that would be perceived as very ‘Bulls-like’. He would draft a high character, hard working player who many hope can become a potential franchise building block, as well as hiring a head coach with zero NBA experience within that role. In a sense, those are typical Chicago moves that have been part of the playbook for years. So, why now would these moves be perceived as risky?

The danger now becomes prevalent because no more excuses can be afforded to Gar and his management team. Before, defenses could be argued that Thibodeau was to blame. His stubborn attitude, poor rotations, archaic allocation of minutes and grating personality wore down the players. The basis for those positions could somewhat be justified. Not anymore. He is gone now.

Enter Fred Hoiberg.

The basketball world knows about Hoiberg. Touted as an NBA caliber coach for several seasons and chased by many NBA teams, including current world champions, the Golden State Warriors, Hoiberg is universally praised for his achievements as coach of ISU. Taking over the reins from Greg McDermott (yes, Doug's dad), he would turn the fortunes of the program around, quickly instilling advanced offensive schemes and leading his young players to the NCAA tournament on four occasions.

It has been reported that Thibodeau wasn’t Forman’s selection as coach. Instead, owner Jerry Reinsdorf overruled his colleagues and made the call that would ultimately see the former Boston assistant  join the team as head coach.

No disputes can be made about who made the decision to hire Hoiberg. This time around, Gar got his man.

Moving on from the hugely successful and revered Thibodeau was always going to be a difficult PR situation to maneuver through. The Bulls couldn't have played it any worse. Keen to emphasize the dismissal and prove to the NBA world that it was Thibodeau's fault all along, the decision to do so was conceived with little tact and zero logic. Ironically, the handling of this situation may have placed an unnecessary spot light and high level of pressure on the rookie Hoiberg. Had management indirectly made life more difficult to the coaching heir?

Completing the modern-day-Iowa-influenced love triangle is Doug McDermott. Though not a Cyclone himself, he did attend high school in Ames, Iowa. Playing four years under the guise of his father, Greg, at Creighton University, the 2014 first round draft pick, who was selected 11th overall by the Denver Nuggets, would later be acquired by the Bulls on a draft day deal that included moving several pieces, namely picks #16 and #19. Hailed as a ready-made option, the small forward, with his incredible shooting, scoring and decision making abilities brought with him expectations of filling a need - instant offense. It didn't happen.

With rotational minutes scarce and suffering a knee injury that would see him miss 26 games, McDermott would only log 321 minutes in his debut season. Because of this, no one can possibly justify what McDermott will become as a professional hooper in the NBA. A meaningful sample size simply doesn't exist to make an objective call either way, which in itself creates a level of uncertainty.

The challenge now exists for Fred Hoiberg to get the most out of the sophomore wing, and all indications suggest that McDermott will be given many opportunities to prove himself. With an existing bond and a relationship forged several years earlier, Hoiberg may be exactly what Doug requires to kick start his professional career. In terms of skill sets and coaching style, as Doug himself noted to K.C. Johnson, the fit could be a match made in basketball heaven:

I have a good sense of his style. I think I'll fit in great. He has a great offensive mind. His team shot a lot of 3s. They ran a lot of pick-and-rolls and I assume Derrick (Rose) will be in a lot more pick-and-rolls.

The Chicago Bulls are embarking on a new era of basketball, one that will undeniably be dominated with Iowa State references and undertones. It remains to be seen if Doug McDermott will be a success. It is also unknown how Fred Hoiberg will transition from the college game to the professional ranks.

What we do know is that Gar Forman has boldly invested in these relationships. His tenure will largely rely on the success of these additions, and ironically, that may be the biggest risk anyone in the franchise has taken in some time.


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  • Life is a gamble, including getting out of bed each morning!

    Sure, the coaching changes are a risk, but Thibs wasn't working, so keeping him was actually a bigger risk. That one was on JR.

    Drafting is also a risk - over and over again. Grabbing Portis this year was a really great risk, of course - low cost, high upside. Most of us feel it was the best choice.

    Signing FAs also involves risk. Wallace and Boozer were poor signings; Hamilton and Hinrich were not so awful, but they still hurt the franchise. It was not only who they got, but also who they didn't get.

    Trading is another risk. When the likely trade of a big for a wing takes place in a few months, it will impact the future of the team for a while to come. I hope it's a great trade! So does the FO!

  • True dat 'rustyw'! So many times I hear about many other Bulls fans rip the FO specifically for only those moves they 'didn't make', comparing the Bulls' FO to say GSW's, SA's, or CLE's. Well hopefully we got another 'Steve Kerr', we don't have Pop's system or Pop himself, we don't have LeBron. We all easily forget that all of the great moves organizations like those took also involved some luck as far as health, player wanting to come to their city, or a former disruptive personality now straightening out and becoming a star.

    Bottom line is that yes, those Wallace, Boozer, even Hamilton signings sucked! Let's also not forget the pick of TThomas after trading LaMarcus Aldridge to Portland (although Aldridge may be leaving the Bulls this years instead of Portland for SA). However I challenge anyone to naming more than 2 or 3 other organizations that have consistently found talent in later picks (Butler, Mirotic, Asik, Gibson w/ jury still out on McDermott, Snell, and Portis), found min signing FA's (Augustin, Robinson, Brooks), etc. Our Bulls FO is by no means perfect...but perhaps they only need 1 fully 'healthy' season and through the playoffs to finally be considered one of the top FO's in the league.

  • If the championship aspirations of the Chicago Bulls depend on the triumvirate of Forman-Hoiberg-McDermott, then the Cubs are screwed.

    Forman has proven himself as an average GM - one that drafts safe, high floor, high character, college veteran players in order to field a team that will win a lot of regular season games through grit and hard work. This is an old-school, outdated, very college program type philosophy. If I wanted long-term NBA GM security, I would do the same thing Forman does... draft safe, high floor guys who will "win" but not amount to ever challenge for a championship. Forman's biggest free agent signings were Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, and an aging Pau Gasol. Formans best trade is probably the trade that yielded them Nikola Mirotic (since the Charlotte pick ended up being a dud). There is nothing in Formans history, track record, accomplishments that show of someone who is a visionary, someone who thinks outside the box, someone who takes calculated risks, someone who makes shrewd, ahead of the curve moves, someone who can get in a room with a FA or with a player and close the deal, someone who tries to exploit market inefficiencies or even someone who understands the modern NBA. Even the current Bulls roster is filled with a lot of ill fitting pieces and positional redundancy. I can definitively declare that the Chicago Bulls will not win a championship with Forman as GM. I'm not even going to make any exceptions or caveats to that statement. I'm that confident.

    McDermott's ceiling is Mike Dunleavy Jr. A tough, hardworking, do-it-all type player who can space the floor in either a starting or bench capacity. The floor is an NBDL player. He cannot be part of a core that is trusted to win a championship.

    Hoiberg is the wildcard and great unknown. He plays an NBA style of ball which is encouraging but he comes off very college coachy. Hoiberg's ceiling is Steve Kerr and his floor is Tim Floyd. While Kerr won a championship, I would not call him an elite coach... just a very good one.

    As I stated earlier, if we are all depending on this trio to lead us to championships, we should all just close up shop and move along... looks like it will be another 3 years till we can even consider a new GM...

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