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Bulls rookie coach Hoiberg settles in at NBA Summer League

Leaning up against the scorer’s table at the Thomas & Mack Center, Fred Hoiberg appeared relaxed and content.

The new Chicago Bulls head coach watched the final minutes tick down and the Bulls were comfortably ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves and the team was off to a good start in the NBA Summer League.

While it’s mostly about the players, the summer league serves as place for rookie head coaches to get settled in. And that’s what Hoiberg is trying to do. The Bulls have several players on their roster this week in Las Vegas who will be coached by Hoiberg when the NBA regular season tips off in late October. So he was anxious to get a head start working with Doug McDermott, Bobby Portis and Cameron Bairstow. Tony Snell, who is not with the Bulls in Las Vegas, practiced with the team in Chicago prior to the team’s departure for the summer league.

“The big thing is having an opportunity to put our philosophies in,” Hoiberg said after the Bulls defeated the Timberwolves 84-71 on Saturday. “It’s a a great way for those guys to get familiar with what we do and get comfortable and get better.”

On Sunday, the Bulls faced the Toronto Raptors and things didn’t go as smoothly. The Raptors jumped out to a 42-28 halftime lead and cruised to an 81-66 win. But the Bulls players are impressed with their new coach.

“He’s real calm and easy to communicate with,” said second-year forward Doug McDermott. “He has a real smart basketball mind and, as players, we can make it easier for him to adjust by executing properly and consistently.”

Hoiberg, who played 10 years in the NBA from 1996 to 2005 and had been an assistant coach in the league prior to returning to his alma mater Iowa State, may be getting out of college basketball at the right time. With the NCAA prepared to pay student-athletes and supplement their scholarships, it would have been one more headache for Hoiberg to deal with.

“That wasn’t really on my mind when I decided to leave for this job,” said Hoiberg, who went 115-56 in five years as Iowa state’s coach and took the Cyclones to the NCAA Tournament each of the last four years. “But it’s definitely going to be interesting to see how all of that plays itself out.”

Hoiberg, 42, looked healthy and said he feels fine. He had undergone surgery to his aortic valve in mid-April and made a fast and successful recovery. The Bulls apparently weren’t too concerned about Hoiberg holding up to the rigors of the 82-game NBA schedule when they hired him last month to replace Tom Thibodeau.

He clearly didn’t appear stressed in his head-coaching debut with the Bulls at the summer league.

“It was fun,” he said. “It was a little strange in the pregame because at Iowa State, there’s a pregame meal and the entire team eats together. Here, everyone’s on their own so I grabbed one of the assistants and we went and grabbed some lunch before the game.

“I think the big thing is trusting the guys and executing the system and I thought they did a great job of that.”

It’s also a chance for Hoiberg to reacquaint himself with the NBA.

“There are difference in the rules,” he said. “The advance (the ball) rule, the hand checks, the defensive 3-seconds, it’s a chance to reacclimate myself with that. We have a great staff to help me. Jim Boylen has so much experience. He’s been great. Mike Wilhelm. Randy Brown. Pete Myers. They’ve been phenomenal in helping me get comfortable. We have a great chemistry on our staff, which is really important.”

Hoiberg said he was still deciding whether he will be on the bench Tuesday when the Bulls face Brooklyn at 2 p.m. in Cox Pavilion.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “We’ll see how things go at practice (today) and we’ll go from there.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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