Chicago Bulls Coach, Fred Hoiberg, Opens Up About His Heart Valve Surgery

By Adam Pick on January 13, 2016

Imagine your childhood dream of becoming a professional basketball player has come true. Imagine you are leading the NBA in 3-point shooting. Imagine you are in the prime of your career. Then… Imagine you are unexpectedly diagnosed with a life-threatening aortic aneurysm due to a bicuspid aortic valve.

What would you do? How would you handle it? What would you tell your family? What would you tell your team? Which valve replacement would you chose? This is the story of Fred Hoiberg…



I would like to extend an extraordinary thanks to Coach Hoiberg for taking the time to share his inspirational story with our patient and caregiver community. He’s not only a great coach but a super nice guy.

I would also like to thank Dr. Marc Gerdisch for sharing his clinical expertise and research throughout this educational video. As always, Dr. Gerdisch continues to be a wonderful supporter of our educational initiatives.


Coach Hoiberg’s On-X Mechanical Valve


Lastly, I would like to extend a humongous thank you to Clyde Baker, Donna Fellers and the entire team at On-X Life Technologies for developing a unique and innovative mechanical valve replacement. As you might know, the On-X valve just received the first FDA-approval for lower warfarin dosages. Great job On-X!!!

Keep on tickin’ Coach Hoiberg!

P.S. For the hearing impaired members of our community, I have provided a transcript of my interview with Coach Fred Hoiberg below.

Fred Hoiberg:  I dreamed of being a professional athlete. Basketball was my love and my passion. It was just the sport out of all the ones that I played that I liked the best.

My name is Fred Hoiberg. I’m from Chicago, Illinois, I’m the Head Coach for the Chicago Bulls. I’ve spent most of my life in Ames, Iowa. I went off and played ten years in the NBA. I spent four years as a front office executive. I was with the Minnesota Timberwolves; went back to Ames for five years, and this is my first year here in Chicago.




I was really lucky. I had no symptoms at all. I knew I had an abnormal valve. I knew I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve. I found out about that in college. I’m in Minnesota and our team doctor, when the season was over, recommended that I go down to the Mayo Clinic, just to be sure that everything was okay.

I was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm back in 2005. That was due to the bicuspid aortic valve. Talk about a kick in the gut. I was 32 years old. I was in the prime of my career. I’d just led the NBA in three-point shooting. I basically was playing on the court with a ticking time bomb in my chest. It was very emotional. I guess the first thing you go through is denial. I’ve got to get a second opinion here; it can’t be true. I don’t feel anything, but once we talked to other doctors, yeah, I needed that surgery.

Dr. Gerdisch: In the general population, about 1.5% of the people have a bicuspid aortic valve, and many of them will go on to require some treatment for it. Coach Hoiberg had a couple of complications in his first operation.

Fred Hoiberg: I still thought about playing. I wanted to go out on my own terms. I did everything possible to get myself back in great shape, but I had four young kids and I just decided that it was time to move on to the next phase of my life. This last year, it really took a turn for the worse and the doctor recommended in December I should really consider having the valve replacement surgery.

Dr. Gerdisch: In his first operation, they tried to spare the valve. Keep the valve leaflets and just replace the aorta around it, then after several years the valve failed, and he were not to require another operation..

Coach Fred Hoiberg: I tried to talk to as many people as I could that had been through that operation. People that had had porcine valve, also people that had gone with the mechanical route. The thing that was most encouraging to me about the mechanical valve was that it was hopefully going to be my last surgery.

Dr. Gerdisch:  Even if this was his first operation at 42, he still would be looking at re-operation, potentially another after that, and maybe even another after that. Tissue valves last longer in older people and less in younger people, so that next operation could be coming quite soon.

Coach Fred Hoiberg:  I didn’t want to put my family through the worry and the concern. It’s tough on the family when you’re in the operating room with surgery that complicated.




Dr. Gerdisch: The On-X valve is a genuine innovation, although it’s been around for 16 years, and it’s the only mechanical valve that I’ve implanted during the last 14. We demonstrated in a multiyear study that the valve could be managed at a much lower dose of blood thinner, of Warfarin. As a result, there’s a dramatic significant reduction in the complications related to the valve compared to any other valve, any other mechanical valve and any tissue valve.

Coach Fred Hoiberg: I couldn’t be happier with everything involved. First of all, getting the mechanical valve and second getting the On-X valve. The way I feel now, after the valve replacement, I feel like I did when I was playing. I feel great, and I’m thankful I got the valve that I did.

Dr. Gerdisch: The innovations of the On-X valve, its performance characteristics, its low risks, are very, very impactful because he’s an athlete. He needs to be able to call upon his cardiovascular system to function optimally. Characteristics of the valve allow for that, and it allows for that permanently. That won’t change.

Coach Fred Hoiberg:  The big thing going into the surgery with the tissue versus the mechanical valve was I didn’t want the re-operation. Having to go through and be on the Warfarin. Now I’ve been on it for, I guess going on four months, it’s really not that big a deal.

Dr. Gerdisch: The On-X valve really represents our finest convergence of technologies. The On-X valve provides us the opportunity to avoid re-operation. It gives us the opportunity to manage the patient at a much lower dose of blood thinner, which dramatically lowers the complications. That is following an FDA-approved trial that demonstrated that we could do that and do that well.

Coach Fred Hoiberg: I think the only limitations really that I have is they don’t want me out playing football, things like that. I can still go out and shoot with our guys. I’m able to do any cardio that I want. My three boys, one in high school, two in middle school, I can continue to be very active with them, and really that’s what it’s all about.

Dr. Gerdisch:  Coach Hoiberg is doing exceptionally well, as he goes into his first season as Head Coach for the Chicago Bulls. He’s going to be able to keep up with his team and keep up with his players and enjoy himself. I wish him the best of luck!

Fred Hoiberg: People that are about to go into a surgery, the big thing is being prepared. Become an expert on the heart.

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Larry Abramson says on January 15th, 2016 at 9:12 pm

I was diagnosed with BAV in 1959, had my first surgery in 1967, had e valve replace in 1975 and then was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm in 2008 and and the valve replaced and the aorta repaired.

Roseanne Kaseforth says on January 18th, 2016 at 6:48 pm

Our 19 year old son, Johnny, had this same surgery @ 6mo. ago at the same hospital as Mr. Hoibergs’ surgery. I was able to reach out to Mr. Hoiberg and he was so kind to text our son, Johnny and answer his questions and be supportive both before and after surgery! What a great guy! It really helped Johnny, who is also an athelite, through this time having someone he admired reach out to him and give him encouragement. Thanks Fred!

Leave a Reply

Newest Community Post

Richard says, "Here is a technical question for my hvs"
Read more

Valerie says, "Tomorrow we head out. Like DeWayne"
Read more

Brian says, "OHS+10. Hard to believe that it has been"
Read more

Find Heart Valve Surgeons

Search 1,500 patient-recommended surgeons