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Fred Hoiberg opens up about job security, team analytics, and his heart

You’ll like Hoiberg 10 times better after reading this interview at The Athletic

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NBA: Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In a journalistic miracle (or maybe he’s just better at interviewing than me), The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry elicited about 5 billion words from an exceedingly chatty Fred Hoiberg in a two-part interview.

Part one is basically Hoiberg’s evaluation of the season, his thoughts on player development, and how the Bulls have handled the losing. I gained a newfound sense of respect for Hoiberg after reading part two especially.

We kind of already knew about Hoiberg’s heart condition that ended his playing career, but this interview provided a much more detailed context about all of it. The whole interview really humanized Hoiberg and that’s credit to Mayberry who did an outstanding job as the interviewer.

To see what other coaches have gone through, this is a very stressful position. There’s a lot of sleepless nights when you lose a game and you think there’s something you could have done. It just eats away at you. And the stress is a hard thing to deal with. You have to rely on your family to get you through the tough times and also your staff and your friends that are in the same position around the league, which you develop a good support system with that.

But the stress, you have to manage it as well as you can. And I have tried to improve at that. I know I’ve stressed out about so many things, and then a week later you say to yourself, “My God, I wish I wouldn’t have lost sleep over that.” I do have to be careful because of my history. But at the same time, you put so much time and effort into this job to try to prepare your team and get them playing to the best of their abilities, sometimes you take that stuff for granted.

One thing that isn’t stressing Hoiberg out is his job security. He told Mayberry he doesn’t think about his future with the Bulls and focuses instead on getting his players to play hard and help them improve. He also said he feels that the higher ups support him and that also allows him to sleep at night without worrying about whether he’ll have a job the next morning.

The most amusing section was when Mayberry asked Hoiberg to use one word to describe the season and Hoiberg launched into a 500 word narrative for his answer. Hoiberg cited the Bulls hot stretch in December and January as a reason for optimism and had a very glass-half-full attitude towards the entire season. I have found Hoiberg as an improved coach this season, as equipping him with young, less established personnel that fit his preferred playing style has made a huge difference.

Hoiberg also talked about how much the game has changed even since he played in the early 2000s, from the 3-point attempt explosion to how changes in the illegal defense rule have impacted the game. And the most interesting section was Hoiberg’s revelation that the Bulls are using analytics to study the game and may actually become a modern NBA team in that department.

Well, we actually did the study before we did the trade. So then we kind of had to do it over again and just look back at our notes. The big thing was how do these teams that have great efficiency, what are their pace numbers? The passes per game? Their assist numbers? How do they win? When they lose, what’s the trend of why that happens? The switch attacks for certain teams, how does it work? If you have isolation players, you need to continue to keep the ball moving against switches.

Finally, not only did this interview humanize Fred Hoiberg, but it gave Hoiberg an opportunity to do the same for notorious villain Kevin Garnett. They were teammates for two years in Minnesota and Garnett was exceedingly supportive of him while he dealt with his open heart surgery. However, that didn’t stop Kevin Garnett from being Kevin Garnett.

He was good with me. I had a really good relationship with Kevin. After I had my first heart surgery he came over to my house and played video games with my kids. I’ll never forget that. I mean, that was such a cool thing. My son was in kindergarten and Kevin was kind of his idol. I’m laid up, could hardly move after my chest was recently cracked open. And here’s Kevin Garnett playing a baseball video game with my son and beating the hell out of him. Gave him no chance to win. It was cool.