On Thursday morning, the Chicago Bulls announced that had fired head coach Tom Thibodeau in a statement that was a scathing indictment on just how fractured the relationship between the two sides had become.
“When everyone is on the same page, trust develops and teams can grow and succeed together,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, there has been a departure from this culture.”
That lack of a relationship between Thibs and the Chicago front office is the only way to justify why the Bulls would be willing to part with a coach that had gone 255-139 in five seasons as a head coach, reaching the postseason in each of those five seasons despite playing without MVP point guard Derrick Rose for roughly half of his tenure. In other words, the Bulls are a good basketball team, one that is capable of winning in the NBA immediately. A healthy Rose plus all-star caliber players in Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah is enough to make them a contender to win the East, which is why the job is so appealing.
And it’s the biggest reason why so many in the basketball community believe that Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg will be the man to replace Thibs.
Hoiberg has always envisioned himself as an “NBA guy”, which makes sense seeing as he played in the league for a decade and went straight into a job in the front office when his heart issues ended his career. He understands how to manage talent — there’s a reason that so many transfers thrived under Hoiberg — and is as brilliant of an offensive mind as there is in the collegiate ranks.
The Bulls know this, which is why they want him. And if Hoiberg is ever going to make the jump to the next level, he’ll likely never find himself in a better position that this. It’s the same reason Billy Donovan left the friendly confines of Florida for a gig with Oklahoma City.
When a chance to win immediately in the NBA presents itself, you take that chance.
The people of Ames know this. It’s why they’ve been dreading this moment since the first reports of turmoil in Chicago’s front office.
They’re all waiting to see whether or not Hoiberg says yes.
And if he does say yes, which is what everyone that I’ve spoken to thinks he will do, it will create the most enticing job opening of college basketball’s coaching carousel.
Because the Cyclones are built to win immediately.They’re going to be a consensus top ten team when the preseason polls are officially released. They’re currently the No. 4 team in the NBCSports.com preseason top 25, and in a year where there is no consensus favorite, they’re very much a contender to end Kansas’ reign atop the Big 12, to make a Final Four and to win a national title.
And they’ll be looking to hire a coach.
That rarely happens.
Bill Self took over a top ten team when he replaced Roy Williams at Kansas. Bill Guthridge took over a top ten team when he replaced Dean Smith at North Carolina. Tubby Smith took over a top ten team when he replaced Rick Pitino at Kentucky.
In other words, it happens when you replace a Hall of Famer at a blueblood program.
Hoiberg is not a Hall of Famer (yet, he’s still young). Iowa State is not a blueblood program. But assuming The Mayor does bolt for Chicago, that’s how good the situation is that his replacement will be walking into.
That replacement — the early favorite is current Iowa State assistant coach T.J. Otzelbeger, who returned to the program from Washington earlier this spring — will have more than just a good roster to work with. Iowa State’s got a huge, passionate fan base and a home court in Hilton Coliseum that needs to be on the bucket list with venues like Cameron Indoor, Hinkle and The Phog for every college basketball aficionado.
Those fans, and that home court, are just as rowdy as ever now that they’ve had a taste success.
Hoiberg would be leaving just as the program hits its peak, but he’s leaving it in a place where success, both in the short term and the long term, should follow.