Jimmy Butler Criticizes Fred Hoiberg After Bulls' Loss vs. Knicks

Daniel Kramer@dkramer_Featured Columnist

Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg, left, talks with Jimmy Butler (21)  during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Boston, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. The Celtics won 105-100. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Jimmy Butler is frustrated. 

On the heels of a four-overtime loss to the Detroit Pistons in which he missed a would-be game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer on Dec. 18, Butler and the Chicago Bulls lost their second straight game on Saturday to the New York Knicks107-91.

He elaborated on his angst after the contest and criticized first-year head coach Fred Hoiberg for a lack of aggression and player accountability, per Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune:

This isn’t the first time Butler has publicly called out Hoiberg. Earlier this month, he did so after the coach sat him for the beginning of the fourth quarter against the Boston Celticsper Nick Friedell of ESPN. The game was tied at 75-75, but the Celtics opened the fourth on a 12-2 run and went on to win 105-100. 

Last offseason, Hoiberg replaced five-year coach Tom Thibodeau, who occasionally clashed with the oft-vocal Butler but maintained a mutual respect. 

Butler didn’t directly compare the two coaches Saturday, but he loosely alluded to Hoiberg’s proverbial lack of intensity—per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times—a trait Thibodeau was never short of:

It’s not even about being coached a certain way for five years. 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.

Earlier this month, Butler called the coaching styles of Thibodeau and Hoiberg “totally different,” per Scoop Jackson of ESPN, and rightfully so. 

On Monday, Hoiberg told reporters he met with Butler and that it was a "mutual decision." Hoiberg added he wasn't hurt by Butler's comments and hoped the team would learn from the incident.

Butler also spoke to reporters, saying he didn't regret his comments, adding he "must lead better." Butler expanded on the meeting, saying he and Hoiberg had a "good talk" and he "wasn't calling out" his head coach.

Thibodeau is considered one of the most intense coaches out there, which created a clash with Bulls brass that eventually led to his firing for the more laid-back Hoiberg.

Butler was the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2014-15 and has emerged as the team’s most dependable threat on offense—ahead of former MVP Derrick Rose—as the Bulls’ leading scorer (21.5 points per game). 

It’s hard to fault Butler for wanting to win and contend—the Bulls are 15-11 and seventh in the Eastern Conference—but rather than taking his rifts public, he would probably be better served by addressing such issues behind closed doors.

Joakim Noah recommended that course of action on Wednesday, telling reporters "that would've probably been better."

Chicago Tribune columnist David Haugh offered a similar sentiment and went on to say Butler's comments probably look even worse to Bulls executives Gar Forman and John Paxson:

Butler is becoming one of Chicago’s great on-court leaders, but he may risk the respect of his teammates if he continues to vent his frustrations to the media.

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