Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler wants to be coached harder. After a 107-91 loss to the New York Knicks, he called out head coach Fred Hoiberg publicly, telling reporters that he needs to "get on guys" more often. You'll undoubtedly recall that the man Hoiberg replaced this season, Tom Thibodeau, had no problem being tough with his players, which makes these comments pretty significant.
“I believe in the guys in this locker room, yeah,’’ Butler said, when asked if this team needed a change in personnel as a shake-up. “But I also believe that we probably have to be coached a lot harder at times. I’m sorry, I know that Fred’s a laid-back guy, and I really respect him for that. But when guys aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, you gotta get on guys, myself included. You gotta do what you’re supposed to do when you’re out there playing basketball.
“It’s on everybody. But I just think when it’s coming from [Hoiberg] it’s a lot different. It’s different when a player is telling another player, and a coach is telling a player. I know it’s really not in him like that, but I think at times that’s what we need.’’
“It’s not even about being coached a certain way for five years,’’ Butler continued, when the name of former coach Tom Thibodeau was brought up. “It’s about making everybody do their job. We weren’t doing what we were supposed to be doing, what we wrote up on that [locker room] board before the game, and nobody spoke up about it. I did, probably not enough times, but I think [Hoiberg] has to hold everybody accountable, from the number one player to however many guys we got. Everyone has to do their job.’’
“Basketball is basketball,’’ Butler said, when asked about the transition from Thibodeau to Hoiberg being a difficult one. “Players are going to play the game. But it’s different. I’m not going to say it’s not.’’
It's important to note that Butler said this in a state of frustration after a loss. It was a predictable loss, as Chicago was on a back-to-back after playing a four-overtime game on Friday, but it was disappointing nonetheless. In different circumstances, here's what he said about the transition to playing under Hoiberg recently, via ESPN's Scoop Jackson:
The frustrating moments last year was kinda like, Thibs just being a hard-nosed guy. He's gonna yell, he's gonna say some curse words, he's going to let you know. With right here, [Hoiberg] is going to be like, "Hey, guys, you gotta do this, you gotta do that," and then that's the end of it.
It's two totally different coaching styles. Some works for some guys, some works for others. Some guys on this roster can't take getting yelled at, some guys on this roster getting yelled at gets them going, you know what I mean? And there's nothing wrong with that. But at the end of the day, we as players know what we are capable of and what we have to do. We're all grown men, and we've been playing this game for so long a coach shouldn't have to tell us, "Hey, this is what you have to do to win this game."
Thibodeau is known as being one of the most intense coaches around -- hard practices, huge minutes, incredible attention to detail. The organization chose essentially his polar opposite in Hoiberg, so there was always going to be an adjustment period, especially considering many of the core members of the team had been around Thibodeau for years.
The contrast between Butler's comments to ESPN and what he said Saturday is important. At first, he said professional players shouldn't need a ton of rah-rah stuff. Then he said in no uncertain terms that, when things are going poorly, they do. More than that, Butler directly criticized Hoiberg and essentially said he needs to be more like Thibodeau.
Butler might be right and the sentiment might be shared in the locker room, but players usually keep their critical thoughts on coaching styles private. I wonder if Hoiberg was "laid-back" when he heard about all of this.