You only have one chance to make a first impression.
Unfortunately for Fred Hoiberg that grace period is now over. It seems like forever ago--Fred Hoiberg was brought on to coach the Bulls after an Eastern Conference Semifinal playoff exit. The process of hiring Hoiberg was a quick one, in fact their wasn't much of a chance for other candidates to even make an impact. The job was Fred's from the beginning, and Gar Forman wouldn't want it any other way. The Bulls General Manager had the puppet strings ready to go, a fresh wad of cash in his hand, and had moved his pawn to signal a checkmate. Forman and company would proceed to sign Hoiberg to a 5 year/$25 million dollar deal. The fit made enough sense, Chicago was looking for a identity under a new coach, Hoiberg was known for having good relationships with his players, and the former Iowa State coach was some sort of an offensive savant.
About all that..
As Hoiberg finishes up his second full season with the Bulls, none of those impressions have stuck. Actually, players and fans alike have felt like the opposite is true about Hoiberg. The identity of this team has yet to be realized, there have been multiple reports of players not respecting Hoiberg, and his offensive system has yet to come to fruition. This proves to be another situation in which the Bulls' front office couldn't evaluate talent properly. Sure, it's still very early into his NBA coaching career, but nothing suggests that Hoiberg will be an outstanding head coach when the it's all said and done. I'm not sold on his long-term future coaching in the association. The lack of character and calling card for this current group is concerning, this season has consisted of inconsistency, young players not taking major strides, and Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade bailing them out down the stretch. This season Butler has averaged 6.9 points in the fourth quarter, and Wade is second on the team with 6.1. No other player is averaging more than 4 points in the final frame.
The offensive numbers haven't been promising either, this season the Bulls rank 16th in offensive rating with a rating of 107.8, rank 30th in effective field goal percentage shooting 48% and 24th in pace--something that was supposed to improve under a new regime. Hoiberg doesn't have the personnel to make his system work, and that's because of the inability to surround Jimmy Butler with capable shooters. It's not fair to generalize Hoiberg's system when he doesn't have the players to make it work, however, it remains to be seen whether or not "Hoiball" will work.
Accountability and the ability to manage personalities have turned out to be two of Hoiberg's most glaring weaknesses. I am not in the locker room everyday, not do I have personal relationships with the players on the team, but the report from ESPN's Nick Friedell on Monday struck a chord with me. Friedell asked new Bull Cameron Payne about his role, and Payne responded with the following. "He hasn't said much about it. I'm pretty sure that it's all going to come out here, coming through practice. That's all I can really control. That's all I know." This isn't the first time that younger players have voiced their concerns with Fred's inability to communicate. Michael Carter-Williams told reporters that he was surprised by his benching in January. Two glaring problems stick out here--the inability to be honest with players, and the lack of communication on all fronts. Coming into this job, Gar Forman made it very well known that one of Hoiberg's biggest strengths was his ability to relate to players. Trust is a two way street, but the coach has to set the tone.
For now Chicago continues to push for a postseason birth, trying to find their identity and learn how to trust each other throughout the process. A slippery slope that is certain to lead to more questions than answers, but we're used to this at this point.