The old adage in NBA circles is that coaches are hired to be fired. Sure, you can point to guys like Rick Carlisle, Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra as examples of longevity around the league, but the majority of head coaches have less than five years tenure with their respective franchise.
The Carlisle, Popovich and Spoelstra trio also have something else in common: championship banners dangling from the rafters.
But for those coaches without the rings, things can get thick pretty quickly without huge winning campaigns.
Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg has compiled a 58-56 (.509) record since joining the team at the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign. Hoiberg’s first season at the helm ended with the team missing the playoffs, which snapped the franchise’s streak at seven years. Hoiberg replaced Tom Thibodeau, who compiled 255-139 record (.647) and the feeling was that a new face was needed to get the club over the hump.
But the Bulls have played .500 ball under Hoiberg and have largely remained inconsistent throughout his tenure. The team’s struggles haven’t gone unnoticed by their front office, according to a recent ESPN report.
“The latest chatter on the coaching grapevine, meanwhile, tells us that the toastiest seat on the NBA map at present belongs, rightly or wrongly, to the Chicago Bulls’ Fred Hoiberg.
“The Bulls’ largely disappointing play in December, on the heels of a non-playoff season, has put Hoiberg under earlier-than-expected pressure, according to league sources.
“Just to be clear: Hoiberg isn’t exactly alone in the crosshairs in Chicago. Thanks to a succession of underwhelming first-round draft picks and a roster construction that has been questioned from the moment it materialized over the summer, fan frustration with the front-office tag team of John Paxson and Gar Forman has never been more tangible, rising steadily since Rajon Rondo and then Dwyane Wade were signed as the marquee additions to a roster already light on proven perimeter threats to space the floor.
“Yet sources told ESPN.com this week that the Bulls have been increasingly assessing the coaching fit as well, sparked by an ongoing dip in the team’s level of play and consistency that began with an unraveling at home on Dec. 13 from 21 points up against the Minnesota Timberwolves and a certain Tom Thibodeau.”
Things don’t get much better from a schedule standpoint, for the 16-16 Bulls, either. The club rounds out 2016 with contests versus a similarly struggling Indiana squad and then faces Milwaukee, who have already beaten the Bulls twice this season.
The start of 2017 is brutal, with contests versus Charlotte, Cleveland, Toronto, Oklahoma City and Washington within the first two weeks. One silver lining is if the playoffs started today, the team would be in the field of 16 (but they only lead Washington by a half game for the final spot in the East).
The Bulls still owe Hoiberg a significant portion of the $25 million deal he signed for last year and the team’s recent slump in December could just be a blip in the radar when it’s all said and done. However, it appears the heat on Hoiberg to win more is real in Chicago for a franchise that parted ways with a coach winning at a 65 percent clip in order to head into a new direction.
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