When the Chicago Bulls hired Fred Hoiberg as their new head coach back in June 2015, the expectation was that he could help take the franchise to the next level after five fairly successful years under Tom Thibodeau.
Things haven't quite gone according to plan, however. After Tuesday night's 108-92 defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago (39-39) are two games outside the playoff positions in the Eastern Conference with four games remaining, leading some to question Hoiberg's position as head coach.
Speaking before Chicago's latest defeat, however, Bulls forward Taj Gibson went on record to support the under-fire rookie coach, telling those criticis to "shut up."
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"They need to just shut up,” Gibson told CSN Chicago's Vincent Goodwill. “Everybody tries to discredit this man, and it’s rough. He’s a rookie coach taking on a veteran group. Give him some slack, man.
"It’s hard enough as it is to come in. You’ve got the whole city of Chicago on your back. It’s tough. But I think he’s just learning. He’s learning, he’s doing a good job, he’s staying with us, and I’m riding with him no matter what.”
On the face of it, criticism directed at Hoiberg could be seen as fair.
Having made the conference semi finals in two of the past three years, the hope was that the former Iowa State HC could take the Bulls' experienced roster at least to their first conference finals since 2011. Instead, the team is facing missing the postseason for the first time since 2008.
In reality, though, there have been a lot of setbacks this season that Hoiberg could do nothing about.
While Derrick Rose has returned to full health, several other key players - see Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol - have all missed chunks of the campaign, making consistency a big issue. Even Rose has been banged up for the past few crucial games.
Nevertheless, the criticism has been there, both from in and outside the locker room. Jimmy Butler, for instance, recently said Hoberg needed to be tougher on the team.
Hearing one of the roster's veterans come out and publicly back him will, then, be a boost for Hoiberg as he nears the end of his first season in charge in Chicago. It might also help him buy time with the Bulls front office.
Because of the storied history the franchise has, there is always going to be high expectations when it comes to coaching the Chicago Bulls.
Fred Hoiberg is learning that the hard way this season but, at least for now, he still has key players on side.