Thibodeau’s Defensive Past, a Positive for Hoiberg’s Weakeness

Fred Hoiberg is an offensive aficionado, this much we are well aware of at this juncture. It is one of the main reasons the Chicago Bulls were so keen on appointing him their new head coach last week. Through his five seasons as Iowa State’s head coach, Hoiberg’s teams put up one of the nation’s top offenses on a consistent basis. They were known for their up-tempo, fast-paced offense in addition to becoming three-point marksmen. From the previous regime, this is a welcomed change of scenery.

However, there is one aspect of Hoiberg as a coach that many are quick to point out. While his offenses at Iowa State were some of the most potent in the nation, the other end of the floor seemed to flutter. For an organization who’s staple the past five seasons has been every aspect of defense, having a coach who’s reputation has hindered on that end, leaves just a tad bit of an uneasy feeling.

Below are the offensive and defensive adjusted efficiencies per 100 possessions for Hoiberg during his stint with the Cyclones (per KenPom).


AdjO (rank)

AdjD (rank)


106.4 (83)

100.00 (120)


111.5 (24)

95.5 (54)


116.6 (6)

99.2 (133)


119.8 (5)

99.9 (72)


116.3 (11)

97.5 (71)

It’s well known that defense has been a weak point in Hoiberg’s coaching arsenal. But for all that being said, all is not lost on that end for Hoiberg as he begins his first season as Bulls coach. He’ll be inheriting a team coached for the past five years by defensive guru Tom Thibodeau.

The former head ball coach revolutionized the way teams play defense in the NBA today. His strong-side, zone-esque defensive scheme is now the norm amongst the league. Under the tutelage of Thibs, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah developed into All-Defensive, Defensive Player of the Year performers, and Taj Gibson is well-regarded as one of the better defensive frontcourt players in the league. It’s presumed that there will be little turnover from this season’s roster to next, which means the team Hoiberg has inherited is more than capable of playing defense at a high, elite level, although it’s up to him to sustain.

The task of maintaining the Bulls elite level defensive status isn’t impossible by any means. It hasn’t been decided yet whether previous assistants Adrian Griffin, Ed Pinckney, or Mike Wilhelm will remain on staff. Hoiberg keeping one, or all three on staff is one way in which he can move towards maintaining that defensive reputation. In an ideal world, Hoiberg keeps Griffin on as an assistant, while also acting as the defensive coordinator for the Bulls. If not Griffin, than hopefully Hoiberg elects to bring on a veteran coach with a reputable background. Hoiberg expressed during his introduction presser an interest in possibly bringing in a coach as such to assist, assuming on the defensive side of the ball. Nevertheless, the foundation is in place, and Hoiberg has the resources to maintain it.

For five years the Chicago Bulls under Thibs became synonymous with the word defense, his teams consistently at or near the top of the league in that spectrum. And because of the foundation that Thibs laid down, the implementation of a competent defense “should” not be as daunting a task as some might expect for Hoiberg.

Twitter – @Tyler_Pleiss


Posted on June 11, 2015, in Articles, NBA Basketball and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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