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Chicago Bulls

Fred Hoiberg unplugged

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

LAS VEGAS — Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg was A featured panelist at TPG Sports Group Pro Scout School on July 10. Hoiberg spoke as part of a panel entitled, A Coaches Guide: Preparation, Adjustments, Execution. This panel could have just as easily been titled Fred Hoiberg: Unplugged, as he was candid and open about several topics. Below are some takeaways from Hoiberg’s time on the panel.

On the differences between the NBA and NCAA for a coach:

“I hated recruiting. I absolutely (expletive deleted) hated recruiting. In the NBA it is just coaching. No other stuff. Just coaching.”

Hoiberg went on to explain that coaching in college involved a large amount of time away from the game itself, as you had to recruit, meet with academic advisors and interact with parents. In the NBA, you can spend far more time on game preparations and player development. He also remarked that the NCAA has limits on the amount of time players can spend in the gym/facility, where those do not exist in the NBA.

On the relationship between the head coach and the front office:

“It is important that coaches and the front office have a good working relationship. You have to be on the same page with the direction of the franchise. If you aren’t, you can end up working in different directions.”

This was in response to how much coaches get involved in the decisions the front office makes. Hoiberg’s fellow panelists, Stephen Silas and John Welch, are assistant coaches with the Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers respectively, and had a different sort of view, as they are less involved with the front office than the head coach. Hoiberg is also qualified to speak on this topic from his time in the Minnesota Timberwolves front office.

On the coach’s role in the draft process:

“Coaches don’t have a big influence on the draft, and they shouldn’t. Scouts are out there watching and gathering info. The coach gets involved when the team has it narrowed down to a specific set of prospects.”

Hoiberg went on to explain that the number of prospects a coach may be asked about it dependent on draft position. He explained that if the team is drafting at No. 10 overall, the coach may be asked about 10-15 players versus having to be prepared for 60-100, as the front office personnel need to be. Generally, you narrow it down for the coach to 10 or so players who will be available around where the team picks.

Hoiberg also commented that in his experience, coaches have limited NCAA viewing time throughout the year. And when they do, it is generally limited to watching their alma mater and watching friends/family play or coach. Because of that, their opinions can be slanted in one direction. He also mentioned that viewings of international players is even more limited.

On the hardest thing for a coach to prepare for:

“Playmaking frontcourt players, especially those who can also spread the floor. True centers are going away. The game has changed with playmaking bigs. It is very difficult to defend offenses who have them.”

Hoiberg’s fellow panelists chimed in with agreement after this statement was made. They all explained that the days of back to the basket, post-up style centers are gone. All three agreed that they are unlikely to come back anytime soon, if ever. The consistent comments were that you have to be able to switch, and that you have to be able to defend ball and player movement, as double-teaming isn’t as effective as it once was.

On the hardest part of preparing the team:

“Not enough practice time. You have to manage the best you can with film. It is good that the film is so much better now than it used to be.”

Hoiberg explained that due to the schedule and travel, teams can only prepare so much for a specific opponent, and most of that is put in at shoot around the morning of a game. He went on to talk about the importance of getting players to see things on film, as opposed to demonstrating on the floor. All three panelists agreed that the improvements in technology (iPads prime among them) have made this far easier on all parties involved.

On coaching Rajon Rondo:

“Rajon Rondo was one of my favorites ever to coach. He was great for young players. Asked a million questions to prepare for a team. Sometimes I had to say, ‘No more questions! We have to run it!’ because he could take up a whole practice with questions on one thing. He was so smart and needed to have ownership on the floor. He knew where everyone should be on the floor for each set, but he also knew all the adjustments.”

Hoiberg went on to say that Rondo is one of the smartest players he’s ever been around and that he’ll make a great coach if he wants to go that direction. He also said that Rondo could see things on the floor that no one else could pick up on. Rondo knew the adjustments opponents would make before they even made them.

On making adjustments in today’s game:

“You have to have good switch attacks because so many teams switch everything now. Can’t just stick with the play called. It is important to be able to reset the offense quickly to take advantage of mismatches. You might have to rescreen and reload multiple times in a possession.”

Hoiberg went into full coach mode here and began to teach a mini-clinic on the importance of being able to run a versatile offense. He said that if you are insistent on running a set all the way through on every trip, it will fail because defenses are too smart and have likely seen it on film. You have to have wrinkles to attack their adjustments, and just as importantly, those wrinkles need to come quickly.

On guarding both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant:

“I was fortunate (laughter) to have guarded both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Neither of them very well. (laughter) But at least when MJ played, you could grab and hold then. That helped. (laughter) Well,  maybe a little bit.”

This humorous note came up when a question was asked about how hard it is to stop talented offensive players in today’s NBA with rule changes geared towards helping the offense. Hoiberg made note of the fact that it wasn’t easy before, but that you could get away with more in the early part of his career.

Overall, Hoiberg was engaging, funny and informative throughout the panel. He was very candid and spoke without hesitation on a number of different topics. He spoke at length at the beginning of the panel on how being a coach wasn’t in his mind until his playing career ended earlier than hoped for, due to his heart condition. He said he believes his time in the Minnesota front office helped prepare him for a future in coaching, and how to work with his general manager. Finally, despite him saying he hated recruiting, you can tell he has a great appreciation for his time at Iowa State. The takeaway was that his personality is better suited for the NBA game vs the NCAA.

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