It’s funny the way these things turn around.
For the past few years, Chicago Bulls fans and media have been ripping Fred Hoiberg for his inadequacies as a head coach. Now, their big complaint about him is that he’s doing a little too good a job of coaching the team.
This was the season the Bulls were supposed to tank. They wanted to lose as many games as possible in order to get a very early pick in the next NBA draft.
Hoiberg is screwing that up.
The Bulls got rid of the few quality veterans they had but the three guys they got out of their trade of Jimmy Butler to Minnesota — Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn — are helping them win games. It’s making it almost impossible for them to get someone like Marvin Bagley, DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic or Michael Porter in the draft.
My theory: Hoiberg was a very good college basketball coach at Iowa State who was perhaps miscast as a pro coach. Now he’s coaching a team built around guys young enough that they could still be in college. Markkanen is 20, LaVine 22, Dunn 23. There are three other players on the roster 22 or younger. The oldest guy on the team, Robin Lopez, is only 29.
They’re obviously responding to Fred’s coaching style.
Hopefully, he can still coach these guys as they get older. If so, the Bulls have a chance to be a contender in seasons to come.
The most recent NBA mock drafts we’ve seen — and admittedly the draft is five months away — have the Bulls picking ninth and taking Villanova small forward Mikal Bridges.
It seems like they could do better than that at No. 9. If it’s a small forward they want, they may not need to look any further than the Big Ten. Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop or Michigan State’s Miles Bridges would look good in a Bulls uniform.
Our friend Ed Zipper figures the Tennessee Titans made a mistake in parting with their head coach after he got the team into the playoffs and even won a first-round game. He remains appalled that no newspaper used a headline declaring that the move was “a lot of Mularkey.’’
One of our favorite players ever to suit up for the Quad-Cities River Bandits officially retired from baseball this week.
You could tell when Justin Morneau spent a couple of months here in the summer of 2001 that we were going to see him in the major leagues someday.
In 64 games with the Bandits in 2001, he batted .356 with 12 home runs, 53 RBI and a 1.018 ops. Perhaps most impressively, he struck out once every seven plate appearances. You don’t see power hitters make that kind of contact very often these days.
Morneau hit .281 during his big league career, most of it with the Twins, and over a four-year period in which he managed to stay healthy (2006-09), he drove in 470 runs.
Unfortunately, repeated injuries shortened his career. He’s still only 36, but he hasn’t been able to play full-time since he won the National League batting title with Colorado in 2014 and he hasn’t played at all since 2016.
The prevailing thought is that you need to have a great quarterback to get to the Super Bowl, but I’d much rather have a great defense. Either Case Keenum or Nick Foles is going to be quarterbacking a team in the Super Bowl this year and it’s possible they could be going up against Blake Bortles.
Former Moline High School and University of Iowa star Acie Earl now has four children and the oldest of them is following in his footsteps as a dominating center.
Kenya Earl, who played at Iowa City High School, leads the Lawrence University basketball team in minutes played (31.9 per game), scoring (16.6), rebounding (8.1) and blocked shots (1.1).
Among other things, the 5-foot-11 freshman is shooting 83.5 percent from the free throw line. Wonder if she knows her father only shot 68.0 percent at Iowa and 66.7 percent during four seasons in the NBA.
Matt Miller, an NFL draft expert for Bleacher Report, tweeted this recently after Iowa’s Josh Jackson filed for early entry into the draft: “You know what I love about Iowa prospects? They don’t bust. Well coached, tough, hard-working players who live up to draft slot time and time again. There’s a lot of value in that.’’
Miller also apparently likes Iowa State players. He raved about Cyclones wide receiver Allen Lazard as a pro prospect during a recent segment on WSCR radio, Chicago.